Acupuncture and Washing Fleece (AKA “What did you do today, honey?”)

OK, it’s not often that I can say that I’ve been stabbed on purpose and prepared fiber for spinning in one day. But today was one of those days.

Sunday, I was hanging a new bee trap (to catch yellow jackets, not honey bees) and, wouldn’t you know it, I had a stowaway. When I came inside to wash my hands, I felt a sharp prick on one finger, and looked down to see a bee clinging on and trying not to get drown. I jumped a mile and then tried to push it away. Once off my hand, I realized that I had been stung.

The last time I was stung, maybe 15+ years ago, my hand swelled up like a small balloon and was very hot and painful. I have no idea how I happened to see an acupuncturist, but I think I was seeing a doctor at the time who embraced many treatment modalities. I went for an appointment, sat in a chair and watched as the person stuck a needle or two near the site of the sting. Within a few minutes, I could feel the heat that was inside the skin begin to radiate outward. I could hold my other hand over the area, and feel heat rising into the air. The swelling had gone down after that, and everything healed just fine. I decided that if I was stung again, I’d have another treatment, as it seemed to me that I might have a mild allergy to bee stings and this worked so well.

This time, I watched the site of the sting, and sure enough, it swelled and got hot, albeit not as badly as before. I found a local acupuncturist and made an appointment. This was not as severe a reaction, and frankly, it’s OK with me if it doesn’t produce such dramatic effect. I had a relaxing time and feel as though I’ve pampered myself a little for an hour.

Now for the fleece. I realized that I have a couple of fleeces that I haven’t washed yet from the Springtime shearings. One is from a Shetland sheep named “Nightshade”. IMG_1881IMG_2006You guessed it, she’s jet black. I bought it at Twin Springs Farm this March when I helped the Truckners with their annual shearing. I was most interested to get a black fleece to use in a project I’ve been working on for a little while. It’s a Shetland tartan lap blanket.

After being mesmerized by the TV series “Outlander” and reading the books (I’m listening to them as audiobooks and am on book 8) and remembering that my mother’s adopted parents were of Scottish descent, I wanted to pay homage to all that by weaving a tartan. But, since I don’t think I’ll be donning an arisaid (what women wore instead of “kilts”), I decided on a lap blanket. I’ll write more about the project at another time. For now, though, I needed some black and didn’t have enough, so I bought this fleece to use.

The process, for me, of cleaning a raw fleece starts with a laundry tub of very hot tap water. Into it I pour 1 cup of washing soda (Borax) and 1/2 cup of laundry detergent (Arm and Hammer). Then I put the fleece in. If it’s a big fleece, I’ll do multiple batches, but this one seems OK to do in one batch. I gently push the fleece under the water with a toilet plunger I use just for this job. The water turns instantly muddy brown. IMG_1289I let that sit for 30-45 minutes.

Then I put rubber gloves on and pull the fiber out of the tub, and gently sneeze. I drop it into a bucket as I go and then empty the tub. I’m always amazed at how much dirt these little girls can attract. I fill the tub up again (no soap this time). Submerge the fleece again. Wait 30 minutes and repeat until the water is clear. It usually takes 2 rinses. This one was particularly dirty so it might take one more.

Then it’s into mesh laundry bags and into the washing machine (top-loading) on the spin cycle only. It’s really important that no new water get added in the cycle because I want fleece, not felt. Once the bulk of the water has been spun out by the machine, I lay out the fleece in a thin single layer on sweater drying racks to dry over night. I try to flip the fleece in the morning to see if it needs more drying time.

That’s it. A clean fleece ready to card or comb and then spin…and then weave…Whew! I’m tired just writing about it. Think I’ll have a cup of tea.


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