So what is the experiments?
Firstly I have been given a fleece to experiment with, by fleece I mean smelly, taken off a sheep a couple of years ago. Its not quite as smelly now, although there is a little bit, back in its bag, that I'm never touching again. The washing process was fairly simple, luke warm water with a squirt of washing up liquid. The most hazardous bit was the eight legged beasties that kept ambushing me ugh! (shudder) When dried I decided to card it before trying out dyes, as it was still super knotty from being left so long. This is where I have come up against my first problem. My carding brushes do the job admirably, and I can't complain as they were a prezie, from a fantastic friend, and were given to my to blend small amount of wool to needle felt with, which they do no problem. However they are quite small, and the quantity of fleece I have hanging in my conservatory/ wash room, waiting to meet the carding brushes is substantial.
I have been offered a loan of some full sized carding brushes, and will be looking for my own set at 'Woolfest' in June.
The next exciting bit was to play with plant dyes, I want to be producing and using fleece, that is from local sheep, and using local plants, this is a little tricky at the moment as there are not many flowers available at this time of year, hopefully come June when I'll get more fleece there will be a larger variety available to me in my garden.
So due to the lack of flowers in my own garden, I had a back up of red cabbage (from the supermarket), and ground turmeric also from a similar source. The cabbage was the most fun. I made the dye, and dipped the fleece in, it was a disaster, none was sticking, and obviously I just hadn't washed the lanolin off enough. So I dumped my soggy samples on the side and set off on a second wash of all the fleece I'd carded. Later I went back to the fleece to find it had worked, it has been left a pale blue, not purple that the dye originally suggested.
So now I know that I am dong approximately the right thing, I just have to work on increasing the rate of production, finding new plants, and creating longer lengths of wool.