At some point, when I have my own land with enough space, I want to be able to raise sheep or alpacas for wool. Before taking on any project, especially something like animals, you should do your best to know what you are getting yourself into before you do it. I figure that the way to learn about wool would be to go and get some raw wool and learn how to card, spin, and felt by hand to see if those are things that I am really going to want to do. So I went to a local farm and bought the wool from two sheep (Shetland Sheep if you like this wool).
The first step to take with this wool is to wash it. Fresh wool is full of lanolin which makes the wool greasy and hard to work with. It is also what you are probably smelling. I found many ways to wash wool, but the one that seemed the most practical to me was to put it in the washing machine. However, you can’t just throw it in and turn on the machine. You put the wool in the washer and set it to soak cycle on hot. You can buy special wool wash, but I used my own homemade laundry detergent. Once it fills make sure it DOES NOT AGITATE. This causes felting. I turned my machine on the soak cycle thinking that it would not agitate and it did. I’m not sure to what extent the wool may have started felting, but hopefully not too much. Let it soak for about 2 hours then drain. Spinning is ok. Repeat this cycle without the detergent until the wool is clean. I did one wash with soap and 2 to rinse. The wool is not super clean, but the water was no where near as black as it was to start with. Then I laid it out on a tarp in the sun to dry. Once it was really dry, I stored it in a large paper bag, not in a moist area. I probably won’t get to the next step for a while, but I had to get the wool in spring when it was available.