My love/hate relationship with merino wool

I love merino wool. It’s so soft. So squooshy. (It is too a word. Shut up.) Merino is wonderful.

Except when you’re trying to wash a merino fleece. How on earth can a sheep be so greasy?

I’ve mentioned the estate sale I went to in January. The one where I got my knitting machine, lots of books, and a huge amount of yarn and fiber. Some of the fiber was wool fleece, still in the grease. One of the things I discovered when going through the fiber was a lot of it still had dated receipts, or dates written on the paper bags the fiber was in. Some of it was over 30 years old. My.

I decided I did not want to die in 30 years and have unused fiber in my stash that had been there for 30 years. So I washed the fiber right away. Some of it was easy to wash. And some of it was merino.

I washed it. And washed it. And washed it. And the grease still kept coming out. Oy vey.

Finally I decided it was clean enough. (Ok, I may have just decided that I was tired of washing it.) And I decided that rather than let the wool dry and then pack it away to sit for decades, I would go ahead and dye it while it was still wet. Felt pretty clever about that. So I dyed it and then let the colorful locks sit around and dry on a towel on the floor of my studio. After a few months I decided that I really needed to clean my studio, so it was time to actually deal with the wool on the floor. To the drum carder!

Some of it was light and fluffy and easy to card.

And some of it was merino. Colorful pink and orange greasy globs of merino. So pretty. And such a pain in the ass to pick apart and card.

But I did it. Because I am stubborn. I carded all the wool into batts, and then divided the batts up and ran them through the drum carder again, layering colors and adding in some dyed mohair locks and some dyed angora from my dear, sweet departed Frida. (Sigh. I still miss her. She was the best bunny ever.)

Then I tore the batts into strips, mixed them up, and spun them into a thick and thin singles. Gorgeous.

And then I washed the yarn in hot water, as hot as I can get out of my faucet. Ew. The water turned brown. I washed it again. The water turned brown again. I washed it a third time.

This is the yarn sitting on top of my washer, still wet.

wet merino yarn


And this is the water after washing the yarn a third time.

dirty merino water


I just can’t get my water hot enough. I think it’s time to try cooking it.


  1. Robert

    Nice colors!

  2. Gail

    Thank you so much for sharing that. I haven’t tried preparing my own fleece. I have a septic system and you made me realize that I will have to do it outside and maybe boil the water on a wood fire. I think it would be a bad idea to put that much grease in the septic system. The yarn looks beautiful.

  3. Cheryl

    Beautiful yarn and colors!! Nice work!!! I have a question for you….I have a stash of sock yarn that I mistakingly left in a container in our basement. Now the unused balls of yarn have little bits of dirt and debris on them 🙁 How do you wash your yarn before you use it? I’ve never done this before and don’t want to ruin the yarn. Any advice you have would be great!! Thank you sooooo much!!!

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