We have been busy prepping fleeces from our Border Cheviots to be sent out for processing here. They had been sitting since the spring (whoops!) and finally got around to trying our hand at them. We had the difficult decision of figuring out what was best for our operation. Sarah and I could either do everything ourselves, investing in expensive equipment and putting a lot of time in, or do some of the work ourselves and sending the fleeces out to be picked, carded and made into roving at a better equipped facility. After watching the process on a Dirty Jobs episode, I decided the facility made more sense. I mean, here we are in Novmeber just now getting to washing the things. So, my basement floor is currently covered in sheep fleece drying. I found with this first time around a few things:
*Hand washing is far superior. Some people use the tub of the washing machine to fill and soak the fleeces. I have a front loader, so this doesn't work as well. Even so, I liked working with my hands in the sink in smaller batches so I could do more picking of the bigger pieces. I also noticed the fleece got cleaner this way, as I could add more soap as needed and do more rinsing without wasting as much water.
*Hand washing is far superior. My machine washed stuff (you don't actually run the machine, but just use it as a means to hold the fleece) felted more. Not a good thing. Still totally useable, but I think the hand done stuff will turn out nicer. I am sending them in different batches, I think so I can tell if it made a lot of difference.
*Hand washing is far superior. Hee hee.
So, we plan on sending out two different boxes to two different processors to see whose work we like better. We are both very excited to finally be able to offer some fiber products soon!