New Home Forums Sales & Marketing Connection letter for short course on washing wool

8 replies, 4 voices Last updated by  Bradley Morris 7 years, 8 months ago
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  • #25549

    Deb Robson
    Adventurer
    @robson

    Well, I outlined a big course back at the beginning. Then I encountered several health complications. I decided to play around with a “tiny” topic–one way to wash wool–that has, of course, turned out not to be as small as I envisioned. However, I am forging on, and here’s my connection letter for that project:

    ___

    A Spinner’s First Guide to Washing Wool:
    A Simple, Low-Stress Technique for Cleaning Samples or Whole Fleeces

    The biggest challenge in moving from working with prepared fiber for spinning to starting with raw fleece is this: how in the world do you wash the stuff?

    It’s true that things can go wrong in the washing process. I think the biggest fear is that what you’ll get at the other end is an unusable lump of felt. The hardest stories I’ve heard are about how the wool ends up sticky afterwards and the stickiness won’t budge even with additional washing. Nobody wants to have bought an exciting ounce or pound of wool, or a whole fleece, and end up having to compost it. That can be scary, frustrating and discouraging.

    It certainly doesn’t have to be! I’m Deb Robson, and I’ve been spinning for more than four decades. I’ve washed a lot of wool (using many different techniques). I washed several hundred samples while writing The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, and in a normal year I may wash between thirty and fifty whole fleeces to supply the participants in my workshops. I do this all with a simple routine and tools.

    “A Spinner’s First Guide to Washing Wool: Simple, Low-Stress Techniques for Cleaning Samples or Whole Fleeces” covers the basic principles of washing wool, demonstrates the easy process that I use on a regular basis, discusses the variables that you may need to adapt for your situation, and gives enough scientific background to ensure success.

    People ask all the time how to wash wool. While I’ve written a series of blog posts about how I do this, I’ve also been asked for hands-on demonstrations—for the action sequence. I can’t do this in person for everyone, but I can make the information available through a short course.

    Among the topics I cover are:

    • the advantages of washing your own wool;
    • using the washing process as a way to get to know your wool and plan your spinning approach;
    • grease and suint—why they’re on wool and how to remove them, and why wool might end up sticky;
    • fresh wool and stored wool;
    • vegetable matter—types and amounts;
    • dirt, mud, and other earthy additions;
    • color shifts;
    • tips on which breeds’ fleeces are easier, and which are harder, to wash;
    • washing aids;
    • easy tools; and
    • drying the wool.

    At the end of this short course, you will be able to take that fleece you bought last weekend at a fiber festival—or the wool sample in a bag on your shelf from a few years ago—and get it ready to card, comb, or directly spin. You’ll feel confident that you can handle whatever the fiber needs, using methods that aren’t fussy but are effective.

    There doesn’t happen to be a charge for this course. I’ve been asked for this information, and I want to learn how to present material online through video and other media. If I were charging for it, I’d tell you the cost could be recouped in a single fleece that simply gets out of storage and into your spinning queue or isn’t ruined by a misstep in processing. I want you to be able to work comfortably with raw wool—because it’s one of the great pleasures and a huge horizon-widener in spinning—and this is my gift to you to facilitate that.

    When I began learning to spin, I was thrown head-first into needing to wash raw wool, because back in those “Dark Ages” (the 1970s) very little prepared fiber was available. Nonetheless, concerns about felting or otherwise ruining a fleece haunted my initial efforts. There were, and are, a confusing number of ways to go about effectively cleaning wool: loose in a tub, carefully wrapped lock-by-lock in rolls of nylon netting, in a washing machine, in five-gallon plastic buckets, in big plastic containers from the farm supply store, in lingerie bags, left to ferment in a closed garbage can, and more. Some of these methods work better for one type of wool than another. Some of them work better for one type of person than another. I’ve tried most of them. (I admit to having skipped the fermentation. It smells.)

    What I have now is a method that uses simple equipment, adapts easily to any type of wool that I encounter, and walks a comfortable line between preserving lock structure and conserving time and effort. I’ve used it to wash literally hundreds of pounds of wool for both teaching and my personal use. It moved my wool-washing process from effort to simple routine.

    Here’s what the course involves:

    • Introduction: start small (even if you have a full fleece), how (not) to make felt, and the goals of washing wool. You’ll know exactly what you want to accomplish.
    • Set-up: planning where to wash and finding the few tools you’ll want, deciding what to use to assist the cleaning, and determining the capacity of your containers. You’ll know where you’ll work, with what.
    • Soaking and washing: the basic sequence. You’ll understand the four steps that are repeated in each phase of washing.
    • Drying: different ways to get the fiber dry. You’ll have options for finishing the washing cycle that will leave you with clean, fluffy wool, ready for the next preparation step—or, if you like, to go straight to the spinning process.

    This technique works for quantities small and large—from a few locks to a whole big fleece, like a Columbia (in sections—Columbias grow huge fleeces). Once you have the basic principles down, you can improvise even without your favorite at-home equipment. I’ve adapted the method when I’ve been traveling and needed to work in other people’s laundry rooms or pantries or in hotel sinks.

    My ultimate goal for this course is for you to feel completely comfortable washing any raw fleece in preparation for spinning. Come discover how easy and rewarding it is to begin your spinning adventures with raw wool.

    • This topic was modified 7 years, 8 months ago by  Deb Robson.
    • This topic was modified 7 years, 8 months ago by  Deb Robson.
    #25575

    Dr.Wayne Buckhanan
    Adventurer
    @waynebuckhanan

    I like it, Deb!

    I doubt I’ll be spinning, let alone washing, any wool in the near future, but it totally got me wondering how our neighbors washed and handled those fleece I helped shear off their sheep as a teenager.

    And I’m reminded of the advice I most need to hear at the moment: Keep It Simple, Skeeter!
    (Or Keep It Simple to Start as I tell my students…the complexity will show up soon enough…)

    #25601

    Lisa R
    Adventurer
    @lisa.russell

    Deb – great work!

    I especially like this bit:

    “It certainly doesn’t have to be! I’m Deb Robson, and I’ve been spinning for more than four decades. I’ve washed a lot of wool (using many different techniques). I washed several hundred samples while writing The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, and in a normal year I may wash between thirty and fifty whole fleeces to supply the participants in my workshops. I do this all with a simple routine and tools.”

    You just sound so authoritative and reassuring.

    As an editor, I’m wondering if it might help to break up some of the larger paragraphs, and add line spaces around the bulleted lists? Especially as it’s persuasive copy. This might help readers, particularly those who are skim reading, to ‘consume’ your main points. Just an idea.

    🙂

    #25603

    Deb Robson
    Adventurer
    @robson

    Thanks, @lisa.russell.

    I’m an editor, publisher, and book designer, and I get your points! No layout done on this–and there are more paragraphs in the original {grin}. I collapsed some so it didn’t feel like a series of fragments. There’s a balance to be found, but not in this medium. . . . (Actually, I keep *trying* to do layout and formatting on this platform and being stymied, so I’ve given up. . . . )

    #25642

    Lisa R
    Adventurer
    @lisa.russell

    Haha! No problem Deb! Happy to be another editorial pair of eyes on your final formatted version, if that would be helpful!

    🙂

     

    #25644

    Deb Robson
    Adventurer
    @robson

    Thanks, @lisa.russell. Extra eyes are always a good idea! It will be a while. I’m working on getting a simple intro filmed. Slow!

    #25707

    Bradley Morris
    Mountain Guide
    @bradleytmorris

    Deb @robson you had my attention every single word there. I could feel your passion and decades of experience coming through. If I were wanting to learn this skill, I would definitely come to you because it felt like an experienced teacher taking my hand and guiding me through what I’d imagine could be a challenging, stressful experience.

    I love where you’re going, I love how you pitched it as a free offering.

    I’m excited to see this come to life!

    #25711

    Deb Robson
    Adventurer
    @robson

    Thanks, Bradley @bradleytmorris! Much appreciated. It’s going to be a fairly large amount of work for a free offering, but I’m looking at it as a learning process–the theory being that they will come out of it with “if this is the free stuff, I’ll bet the paid offerings are terrific.”

    I’m slowly working on an introductory video for *here.*

    #25802

    Bradley Morris
    Mountain Guide
    @bradleytmorris

    FUN Deb. I can’t wait to see it! And if things turn out great, you can always charge for the course later. Learning is the key here!

     

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