I’m all about fermentation or many things, sugar – corn – berries – GRAPES – anything really…. but fermenting wool?
With washing the volume of raw wool that I work with on a yearly basis, I do not understand how I have no been doing this. In case you’re blisfully un aware of the tedious process of washing a raw fleece – it takes forever. Takes up all the hot water in the house and did I say forever? To wash a fleece, it must be skirted and as much of the vegitable matter removed. This takes time. Then it’s divided and I put mine is laundry bags – then fill the wash basin with scalding hot water, some of my hand made wool wash and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then it drains, fill the sink and let it sit. Then drain, fill, sit. Then drain, fill, sit, thendrainfillsit, thendrainfillsit… you get the idea. It can take and exceed 10 rinses before the water runs clear.
In skirting the fleece, everything that is caked, really icky, full of poo or choked with VM is discarded. A LOT can go to waste. When you’re paying per lb or even per fleece, it can be a bummer seeing it go to waste. With a lot more work, this stuff can be used for stuffing or other fun projects – or into the compost bin.
With the suent method, a large tub is filled with rainwater, the fleece deposited and….. it sits on it’s own for a while. no drain, fill, sit x a million. The natural enzymes on the fleece mix with the water to make a primitive soap and cleans the gunk, grime and grease off the fleece. easy, peasy and not too much work!! The greater thing about this, is once the initial fleece is cleaned, the same water can be used (with less of a sitting period) to clean more fleece. Similar to a sour dough starter, once the soap is started it’s ready to use on other batches.
From all the reading I’ve done here are the simple steps –
1. Fill bucket with rain water (or tap water that’s chlorine free)
2. place fleece in bucket of water. Poopy bits, greasy bits whatever.
3. ensure the bucket either has one or two holes to relieve the pressure of the gas build up or cover with a blanket and garbage bag.
4. The initial sitting is approximately 2-3 weeks. Do not allow to freeze.
5. Remove fleece, let drain over bucket and put drained suent water back in original container
6. Rinse fleece in water that is same temp as suent fluid. Do not shock your fleece with drastic water temp changes or it may cause felting or damage
7. Let fleece dry and put another fleece into the suent bath.
8. cover and repeat steps 2-8 as many times as necessary.
I’ve started my suent bath this evening (April 10th 2014) with 2 North County Chevoit fleeces. I’ve had them for a year. They came from a herd which was used for meat so the fleeces are not prime spinning fleece, lots of vm, unskirted and TONS of grease. I’ll be posting once in a while to show how things are progressing and to monitor if it works or not. If it does, whoo mama!! It will drastically cut back on my hot water bill and time it takes to clean! I’ve got lots of this fleece too, so less waste, less energy and more time to drinking yummy fermented things!
Here are a couple pics for visualization
A portion of the fleece before it went in. Notice the earwax yellow greece and general ickyness of this fleece. Much of it would be garbage if not for this method.
The fleeces in the bath. There is room for them to move a little, don’t pack it too tight.
You can see some of the grease and bubbles starting already. This is one icky bath.
to prove the ick factor, my hand is just under the water, and completely covered in the gross water. It’s been in there for 5 minutes. gross.
It’s not covered and sitting in the basement. I”ll update in a few days!