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Every year Manitoba sheep producers ship in excess of 80,000 lbs. of wool to the Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers. The wool varies in quality and quantity depending on the breed. On most farms wool is considered a minor by-product of the flock, but is overall value should never be overlooked. Timely shearing and proper handling will help to increase the value of wool clip.
As an international commodity the value of the wool is determined on the world market. Current prices for wool are at all time lows and do not represent a major income consideration for most producers. When prices recover producers can expect the value of the wool to contribute to the profitability of their operation. Some operations are able to maximize wool values by niche marketing and value added processing.
For any wool project remember to select your fleece with the project in mind. Different breeds of sheep have wool with different characteristics, take time to find out what type of fleece will best suit your project.
Once you have made your fleece selection you will need to sew up two large mesh bags. You will wash the wool in these bags. You want them to be large enough to fit half the fleece easily and the mesh should be quite wide.
Run hot water into your automatic washing machine, agitate and add soap until the water feels slippery, stop the machine. "Dawn" is said to be the best chemically. Some prefer Orvus but most soaps will work, even powdered detergent so long as it is fully dissolved.
Divide your fleece into two equal parts. Put each half into a mesh bag. Add the bags to the machine, completely covering them in water, one on each side of the machine. Close the machine and let it sit for several hours, until the water is cool.
DO NOT LET THE MACHINE RUN THROUGH THE CYCLES!
You are only using the washing machine as a container for this job and to spin the water out. If you try to wash the fleece like a load of clothes you will end up with a half felted mess.
When the water is cool, put the washer on its spin cycle. Once the water has spun out remove the fleece. Fill the machine with water that is the same temperature as the water that you just spun out of the machine. Add the fleece, pushing it down into the water. Again spin out the water. Repeat this process until the fleece is well rinsed. If necessary, the soap cycle can be repeated. Adding white vinegar to the rinse cycle is nice. The wool likes the acid and it helps rinse out the soap.
After the final rinse open the bags and spread the washed fleece out on the floor, a table or a screen to dry. If you are using a screen make sure it is not going to rust your nice white fleece. Wet wool is best kept out of the sun.
Once your wool is dry you are ready to start your wool project.