You will get the best results from your fiber processing experience if you send us carefully skirted fiber that is as clean as possible.
Once your fiber is skirted and (if you choose) washed, pack it into plastic bags (1 fleece per bag is required if you wish the fleeces to be processed separately; if your fiber will be processed as one big batch, you may send multiple fleeces per bag if the staple length is consistent. Please provide an identifier in each bag with your name and the name and/or breed of the animal(s) so we know which bags go with each job.
Include one of our handy dandy printable forms (which will be emailed to you with your confirmation) for each job to be processed separately, providing precise information on how you would like your fiber to be processed.
Not sure what processing options are best for your fiber? Feel free to email or call. We'd be happy to discuss options with you!
As you probably know, shipping is charged not only by weight but also by dimensions. To get the best shipping deal, you can decrease the size of your package if you remove some of the air. One way to do this is to use a vacuum hose. Being careful not to suck up your fiber, place the vacuum hose into the bag of fiber (a sock held around the vacuum hose with a rubber band will help protect your fiber), and remove some of the air until the pack is compressed and smaller. Seal it with a rubber band or twist tie, and place it into a mailing box. Be sure to tape the package securely, in case your fiber expands during shipping! Many customers also choose to use commercial vacuum sealable bags for their fiber. When the fiber is packed, address the box and send it to us. We look forward to receiving your fiber, and will let you know when it arrives!
One of the best indicators as to how your final roving and yarn will look in the end, is the condition of the fleece you begin with. Many farmers choose to coat their animals for the best quality fleece available. However, this is not an option for all farmers. Even if your fleece came from coated animals, take a some time to skirt the fleece. If your fleece came from uncoated animals, it's going to have some amount of manure, dirt, dust, hay, straw, grass, seeds, burrs, stickers, etc. Occasionally there will be some foreign object in the fleece, as well (like a piece of wire, a stick, etc.) "Skirting" is a fancy name for getting as much of this stuff out of your fleece as possible Maybe you're an old pro at skirting, or maybe this is your first experience. Either way, here are some guidelines to help in this task:
NOTE: It's good to do this somewhere like outside or in a garage--somewhere that can get really dirty! Also--IF YOU FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF MOTHS OR LICE IN YOUR FIBER, WE CANNOT ACCEPT IT FOR PROCESSING!
1. Take the fleece and unroll/open it, and give it a good shake. Then lay it flat on a large table, or even a piece of wood or screen on sawhorses. Once it's laid out like this, you should be able to tell where the front and back of the animal was. The first step is to go around the edge and remove the dirty, nasty edges. This part of the fleece will have a lot dirt, dust, and manure tags.
2. Next, make a decision about whether you want to remove the coarser fiber around the legs (the "britch" wool) or whether you want it processed along with the rest. If you want to remove it, do so now. (Some of our customers save the britch as they skirt fleeces, and once they have enough, submit it to us for processing into Corepun Rug Yarn!
3. Make the first "pass" in skirting by removing large, obvious pieces of vegetation and any foreign objects that might have found their way into the fleece.
4. Carefully go over the entire fleece and remove as much vegetation as you can. Here is a difference from how you may have skirted for home processing: IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO KEEP THE FLEECE IN "LOCK FORMATION" FOR PROCESSING AT OUR MILL! Feel free to take it apart in handfuls, shake the handfuls out and really get in there and get the vegetation and dirt out. Squeeze each handful (carefully!) to see if there are burrs or stickers hiding in there, and if so, remove them! You may come across areas that are completely filled with vegetation. When you start to reach 50% vegetation/50% fiber, please REMOVE IT! This part of your fleece could be reclaimed as garden mulch or can add an interesting dimension to your compost heap, etc., but it doesn't belong in your roving or yarn!
5. Next, if you're not washing the fleece at home, pack it up and ship it to us to transform into beautiful products! If you would like to wash it yourself, see the section below for some hints.
NOTE: We reserve the right to do as much skirting as we feel is necessary for the fiber to run through our equipment without damaging it. We also reserve the right to return fiber to you that we feel has too much vegetation and other foreign matter to process successfully. But if you follow these guidelines, you're much more likely to end up with a product you're thrilled with! Our skirting fees are $30 per an hour.
You may prefer to wash your own fleece before sending it to us for further processing.
Normally, fleeces come to us skirted and unwashed. Here at Twisted Oak Farm and Woolen Mill we feel it is one of the most important keys to an excellent final product. If you wish to wash your own fleece anyway, we offer a few tips for you here. However, keep in mind that even if you send us washed fiber, we need to reserve the right to re-wash any fiber we feel is not clean enough for running through our equipment. That said, here are some guidelines for washing your fleece so it's ready for further processing:
1. Feel free to break your fleece apart before washing it. This helps break up the locks. By doing so, you are exposing more of the fiber to the water and scour to ensure a cleaner product.
2. Fill a sink or bucket with water that's as hot as you can get it. At our mill, we wash our wool in water that is 140 degrees F. That's probably hotter than you would normally set your water heater at home. If you do not, the lanolin or wax in your fiber (if it is sheep's wool) won't be able to melt, and you'll end up with sticky, dirty fleece instead of soft, clean, lovely fleece! Use a thermometer to check the heat, and add some boiling water if necessary to raise the temperature. If you're still not able to get the water hot enough--no problem. Just pack up the fleece and send it to us. We would be happy to wash it for you!
3. Add some detergent to your water. Please try to source a wool scour product. You can purchase smaller bottles from us through our website or we can direct you to another site that offers the same product. When using dish soap or laundry detergent, it can sometimes "stick" to your wool. Over time, these products can deteriorate your beautiful wool.
4. Submerge the fiber into the sink or bucket, making sure not to agitate (otherwise, you'll end up with felt, not fleece, and felting is forever!) Let it soak for about 20 minutes. You don't want to leave it too long, because once the water starts to cool, the lanolin (if you'r'e processing sheep's wool) solidifies again and can re-deposit on the fiber.
5. When the time is up, lift the fiber out of the sink or bucket, being careful not to burn yourself (we suggest using tongs or heavy duty dish washing gloves for this). Carefully push on the fiber with the tongs to drain out the dirty water. If the fiber is still really dirty, try a second wash, but you could use less scour this time.
6. Once the fiber is strained out of the water, you'll want to re-fill your sink or bucket with hot water again, but this time add no cleaning agent. We recommend at least two rinses. It is important to rinse thoroughly, as detergent can leave residue in your fiber which may interfere with processing. You will want your water to be clear, not murky after your final rinse. This will tell you that all the lanolin and yuck has been washed out.
8. Spread the fiber out on a towel to dry, or if you have screens or a breathable shelf would work as well. You could put a fan set on low next to the fiber to speed up the drying process. The fiber should be dry in a day or so, depending on weather/humidity/etc.
9. Once the fiber is completely dry, pack it up and send it to us to be processed into gorgeous roving, batts, cloud, or core spun rug yarn.
Please note that we reserve the right to deem your fleece dirty or clean. If we have to skirt or rewash your fleeces we will first contact you and explain any additional charges that you will have to pay. We know our machines best and if you disagree with our decision you will pay to have the fleece shipped back to you or you may come and pick it up.