Keeping the wools organized, part 2

[part 1 is adjacent but following; I managed to post these out of order]

All the labeling and packaging preparation happens as soon as the fiber enters the house. Then the system starts being put to work.

When I pull wools for washing, the materials related to them go into holding containers. The wools that are next in line to be washed go into a special file box. The bags for the wools that are either being washed or are drying go into another container (here I'm using a white plastic waste basket).


The fibers come in different quantities, and I have several sizes of washing containers. I have four sets of colander-plus-bowl (two larger, two smaller), gleaned from secondhand stores and a friend's kitchen, and two rectangular washing sets, which were manufactured as cat litter boxes (in each set, one tray has a perforated bottom and the other has a solid bottom).



The business-card labels follow the wools through the washing sequence. They just sit on the floor next to the working area, because I combine wools that are not too similar in each batch. I pick by color and texture, mostly, because apparent staple length frequently changes in washing. The more dramatic the differences the better, of course. The perfect set is a white longwool, a brown double-coated, a gray medium wool, and a dark Soay. It doesn't always work that way.

I wash the wools loose, rather than in mesh or net bags, because I like to be able to see what's happening, especially if I need to give extra attention to getting dirt out of the tips of the locks. Once they're clean, I do put the wools into mesh bags so I can run them through the spin-only cycle of the washing machine and get the extra water out so they'll dry faster. Fast drying matters when you're doing, say, 25 batches in three days, as I did this past week.

I carry the cards to the basement along with the dripping mesh bags (kept under control in one of the larger washing containers). If I have two wools that I may confuse, one goes into a marked mesh bag and I set its card in a special place while the washer does its thing. One of the bags below has a red string tied to it.


As soon as the water has been spun out, I spread out each wool on a drying rack next to its card. In the photo below it's easiest to see the cards on the lower two levels, but every one of these piles of fluff has a card.


I usually flip the masses of wool over at least once while they're drying. When I clear the racks, I use a strip of package-sealing tape to pick up any stray fibers, so they won't mix into the next wools that come along (this is most crucial with the coarse black fleeces, which tend to stick to the nylon of the racks and become a nuisance when the next wool to use the space is, say, a nice white Polwarth).

Clean wools go back into the organizing bags. Then I spin samples, working on the fibers in related groups, whenever possible. Sample skeins, after being washed, get hung over doorknobs upstairs to dry. Again, I work on samples that will be easy to distinguish from each other or I bring the cards upstairs and set them by the appropriate doors. Descriptions within the Scrivener files also help me keep the skeins correctly identified, if I need a backup technique, although they are mostly intended to make it easy to write captions later.

Here's a set of finished samples: raw locks, clean locks, labeled skein, and photo identifier. All of this gets tucked into the SAMPLES bag.


I squish out as much air as possible from all the bags, which can then usually be folded over:


This bag goes into a labeled file folder in a green file box, which will travel to photography (any extra fiber and labels stay in the white working boxes).


When I have too many samples to fit into a single file folder (often), the breed gets a larger box-end jacket, like the one with the black clip on it.

And that's how on earth I keep the samples from getting mixed up.


4 thoughts on “Keeping the wools organized, part 2”

  1. This is really a remarkable system…and absolutely necessary when washing 25 samples in 3 days. Wow! Good luck, and can’t wait for the book to come out… 🙂

  2. Oh, my! My eyes just glaze over. I can be organized and detailed to a point, but this system is over the top beyond what I could do and stay sane.

    I am so thankful, that folks like you have the passion and focus to do research of this sort. I pray that some day I will have that same sort of focus for some sort of historical knitting. Meanwhile I am grateful for those who went before me and wrote about my passions.

  3. I have my disorganized moments. But I can bring all my tracking skills into play when I know the alternative is disaster . . . and/or a waste of a whole lot of work! And that's the case here. . . .

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