Fiber Preparation & Skirting

Take time to prepare your fiber … you won’t regret it. The overarching guide is that if you don’t want it in your final product, don’t send it to us! Although you won’t be able to get everything out of your fiber and our equipment does remove some, it is still in your best interest to send the cleanest possible fiber.

If you have wool, here is a link to Fleece Preparation – Skirting Wool provided by Donna Herrick and Kat Smith.

Definitely remove all large vegetable matter, twigs, burrs, seed heads, dung tags, bedding, second cuts and any felted areas. Skirt both sides of your fiber … you’ll find very different things.

Separate out any color differences and fiber differences, i.e. shorter, coarser. Unless you are going for a particular effect, you want your fiber to be as uniform as possible. You can save your skirtings and use them to make felt!  However, while some skirtings can be processed, waste should not be sent to the mill, i.e. fiber with dung, heavily soiled, excessive vm, etc.

Bounce or shake your fleece to remove excess dust and debris.

Check your fiber for tenderness. Hold a sample of fiber at the ends and pull. If it breaks, there may be problems processing it and this will affect what product you want.

You are not skirting for show. Therefore you can go through the fiber as aggressively as you need to and not worry about keeping the general shape and structure of the fleece in tact.

If your fiber is longer than 6”, you need to cut the fiber to a shorter length. VFM&S can also do that for you, and will advise you of the cost.

Consider grouping similar fleeces (length, grade, etc) together into batches for processing. This will help manage your costs.

Place each batch into its own plastic bag (sturdy, clear are preferred), and be sure to include your Work Order form for that batch in the bag. Mark your farm name on the outside of the bag with a permanent marker.  Do not put things like moth balls or anything with a fragrance in with your fiber.  These smells stay with the fiber and can cause respiratory issues for some folks.

Please do not knot your bags shut or use tape to close them.  This often means we have to cut them open and replace the bag with a new one.  Twist ties are fine.  Usually just twirling the bags shut is sufficient to hold your fiber in.

VFM&S reserves the right to refuse any fiber that could potentially contaminate other fiber at the mill for processing (no moths, mold, etc) or that does not meet standards for processing through our equipment.

Washing Instructions

For those who want to wash their own fiber, here are some instructions.  VFM&S reserves the right to use a “short wash” on the fiber if it is not sufficiently clean.

Use a slightly acidic soap with some grease cutting properties. Dawn dish washing liquid works well. Other products specifically marketed for natural fibers, such as Unicorn, work as well.

Hand Washing Instructions:

  1. Fill sink or bathtub with warm water. Add soap of choice.
  2. Untwist skeins and place in water, gently pressing down to help soak skeins more quickly.
  3. Allow skeins to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Lift skeins from water gently.
  5. Gently squeeze to release excess moisture. DO NOT WRING.
  6. Lay skeins aside.
  7. Drain sink and refill with same temperature water as the wash.
  8. Allow to soak 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove skeins onto a towel and wrap/squeeze to remove excess water.
  10. Lay out on drying rack to dry.

Washing Machine Method:
This method only works with machines that can be stopped in between cycles.

  1. Fill washing machine with warm water. Add soap of choice.
  2. Untwist skeins and gently lay skeins in water in washing machine tub; gently push down several times.
  4. Allow skeins to soak for 15 or 20 minutes.
  5. Turn washing machine cycle to spin only.
  6. Use spin cycle to empty tub and spin out excess water.
  7. Gently remove skeins from washing machine and set aside.
  8. Refill washer with same temperature water as the wash.
  9. Use rinse product if desired.
  10. Once washer is full, return skeins to water and push down repeatedly.
  11. Allow to soak 15 to 20 minutes.
  12. Again turn washer to spin only cycle. DO NOT AGITATE.
  13. Allow tub to drain and excess water to spin out.
  14. Carefully remove skeins and lay out on drying rack to dry.