This is a lovely variegated Shropshire fleece that comes from Shropshire Woollies, a sheep farm in the Strathbogie Ranges of Victoria. You can see there are three separate colours here, a dark brown, a light silver grey and a mid grey.
I purchased a kilo of this as part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project which explores alternatives to superwash merino and nylon blends for sock knitting. Like many downs fleeces, Shropshire resists felting so may be machine washable, making it a good candidate for sock spinning. I will talk more about Shropshire fleeces in a subsequent post but right now I want to chat about washing it.
Recently, I have become a lock washing convert but I wasn’t sure if that would be a useful method in the case of a downs fleece where the staples are blocky and sit firmly together in bricks. I tried washing the dark brown by the lock, row upon row laid out in a laundry bag and secured with safety pins. To compare, I packed another laundry bag loosely with fleece and then scoured both in the same way.
I use the hottest water I can get out of the hot tap and Handy Andy, an Australian and New Zealand floor cleaner (basically detergent with a little ammonia added). This is followed by a hot rinse and then a spin in washing machine.
Unlike, longer stapled locks like Merino, Corriedale and Gotland, I found there was no advantage in washing the Shropshire by lock. The lock structure of the loose fleece in the bags was perfectly preserved in big clumps with no fluffing or lock separation. In the photo above, the top locks were washed separately and the bottom locks were washed loose as in the laundry bag. You can see there is very little difference.
Like the complete nerd I am, I have begun recording fleece weight loss during scouring (just because it’s interesting). The Shropshire lost 30% of weight during scouring compared with 20% of a Border Leicester x Merino fleece I washed recently.