That phone photo turned out better than I thought, I guess, but it still wasn’t great. So here’s another!
This is raw fleece, if you’ve never seen some before. You can just see it thick with natural oils. Well, that and all kinds of grasses and sticks and stuff. Most of it is already washed at this point, but this is some of what I pulled out prior to. Here’s the after:
A little better, no? And believe it or not, when I took that second picture I was still several rinses away from it being really clean. I think at another time in my life, maybe even a few months ago, I’d be the type to say “well, this is probably clean enough.” But friends, I have run some dirty fiber through the machines; the half hour you might save by skipping the last rinse follows you the whole way through the process, and will probably cost you more than it saves when you have to stop and clean things off. I’m not about to put myself through that aggravation willingly.
It’s surprising how deep you can delve into the process of how fiber goes from sheep to sweater, and how much respect you gain for your materials the further you go. It’s not as if washing fleece is technical, but it is time-consuming, and the more you put into skirting and washing properly, the more that’s going to show in the finished product. So now when I run a nice, clean fiber with minimal sticks and burrs, I’ll have an idea of the time that made it so. And something tells me if I ever witness or help with a shearing or raise my own fiber animals, I’ll have something to say about that, and another layer of respect for the series of interlocking loops I call a hobby.
Bonus picture: rambunctious young alpacas. They’re getting really big (or maybe it’s just time for a trim), but it’s nice to see that they’re still young enough for horsing around.