With careful storage, wool fleeces will last decades.
There are a few important guidelines to follow to keep your wool from falling victim to pests or unwanted felting.
If you have additional information or advice, please share with us! If you disagree with us or read on our website what you would consider erroneous information or advice, please contact us for that as well. We think wool is the best thing on earth and don't want to steer anyone in the wrong direction from being successful with handling their fleece.
Whenever possible, wash wool before storing. With that said, I've had wool for over a year before washing it. While I don't advise this, it is possible to safe guard against finding a disaster later when you are ready to proceed with washing. Below is some advice to follow if you can't get to washing right away.
1. Make sure all manure (including "tags") is removed. Go through the fleece thoroughly to pick out pieces of manure and remove the dangling pieces of wool that are packed with poop (these are tags). Don't feel guilty about throwing this out in the woods or lining your garden with it. In fact, feel good about it.
2. Put the fleece in a large plastic bag with lots of room - do not tie or seal the bag. You want the air to be able to get in and circulate as much as possible. It is better to have a mouse find its home in the bag for the winter than to open a sealed bag in spring and find a felted, unusable matted piece of yuck.
3. Store someplace where the temperature will stay relatively the same or change at a gradual rate. Sudden temperature fluctuation also causes felting. I keep my unwashed wool in my unheated garage for the winter if I haven't been able to get it washed. In the spring, I empty it out on a tarp before handling. It's true I've found corn kernels from a lucky mouse who found a comfy and warm home for the winter, but it doesn't bother me. If storing over warmer weather, make sure it's not in a hot barn loft or exposed to hot sun through a window
4. Do not pile bags of wool (washed or unwashed) on top of each other. The pressure can also cause felting.
1. Plastic storage bins or totes. Do not pack too much fleece into one container as squishing fiber will felt it. You might want to throw in some cedar blocks (available in home stores or hardware stores in the closet section) to deter moths - just in case. Bins are great because you can stack them up without worrying about flattening the fleece inside. Make sure to label the bin. You might think you'll remember which fleece is which, but we all know how memory fades with passing time!
2. Cotton pillow cases. Some times I put one fleece per pillow case and put two pillow cases in a larger bin/tote. I have heard that moths don't like cotton, or at least can't eat through it. I like using pillow cases as I can grab a bag of fleece easily to work from. Pillow cases are a great temporary place to hold your fleece if you're going to get to carding it soon. I throw a few cedar blocks in these as well.
3. Fabric under-the-bed storage containers. I like these, too. They are more compact than bins and some of them are quite roomy. Do not stack these on top of each other, though, due to the squish factor. And yep, add some cedar blocks and label.
4. If your only option is plastic garbage bags, make sure to leave the tops open for air circulation, include cedar blocks, and occasionally remove the fleece, shake out, and double check that there is no moisture accumulating inside.
There are several options for storing washed wool. Whether the wool is carded or not, you want to protect the wool from extreme heat, sudden wide temperature fluctuations, bugs (like moths!), and squishing. Below are some ideas, all of which I've used. Never use moth balls as they are filled with harmful chemicals.
The same storage methods as storing washed wool - except for the pillow cases - work for carded wool as well. The main idea is to not ruin all that hard work of carding.
If you have other suggestions, please share with us at email@example.com and we'll add your suggestion here!