This is a shamefully simple way to make a gorgeous boa! Start with a beautiful raw fleece. If you use an unattractive fleece the result will be an unattractive boa. This project is all about the fleece, preserving the fleecy qualities and keeping it as close to its original state as possible. Staple length counts. I have found that short staples tend to felt into a skinny lumpy thing, so select a fleece that has medium to long locks. You can use mohair, wool, or alpaca. (If using alpaca, stick to long staple, and less a fine grade.)
Wool Fleece Washing Machine Boa
Lay the fleece out on the floor and skirt it of all unusable parts; short cuts, gummy wool, and any really muddy or dung-coated areas. From the remaining fleece, choose the parts with the most pristine and individual locks, and pull these sections out in strips wide enough to cover the bottom of the washing machine tub. Keeping the locks attached to each other will make them felt together more smoothly.
Load the Washer!
Lay the fleece strips around the bottom of a top-loading washing machine keeping the fleece as intact as possible. When adding a section that is not attached, overlap a bit of the fleece already in the tub. Arrange two layers of fleece in the machine. For the best bonding results, place the first fleece layer with the tips of the locks facedown, and the second layer with the tips facing up. The base of the locks will felt together more readily than the tips. With the layers arranged base-to-base, it will give the boa a stronger core, and hopefully leave most of the beautiful tips sticking out.
Set the machine for hot water and as small of load as is appropriate for the fleece. Too much water will allow the fleece to drift around too much. Usually small or medium load levels will suffice.
Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) laundry detergent to the water, and then allow the fleece to soak in the hot water for 10 minutes. (This will remove most of the dirt.) Agitate for two minutes, and then stop the machine. Advance the dial to the spin cycle and spin out the excess water. One of the mistakes students make when trying to wash fleece (which often results in a great boa) is to have the machine start spinning before the water has fully drained. A whirlpool is created that gently twists the fleece into the form of a boa. Spin until all excess water is removed. Fill the machine again with hot water, but this time don’t soak the fleece. Agitate the fleece for two more minutes, stop the machine, set the dial to spin, and spin to remove the water. Check the boa to see if it has bonded and the locks still look nice—not getting too felted.
If it seems stuck together for the most part, take it out of the machine. If it does not seem bonded and is not felted at all, then repeat the hot water/agitate/spin cycle until the boa is to your liking.
Finishing the Boa
Lay the boa out on the floor in a line. If it is bonded in a circle, find a weak point and pull it apart. This is where the designing comes in. Look at the shape of the boa and decide where it needs more or less body. You will see weak areas where it may be barely connected. To make the boa stronger, tie some of the locks together with a square knot. Don’t worry; no one is going to notice a little old knot in this big furry thing! Make sure the locks you are tying are securely attached to the core. If there are random lengths of boa shooting off in the wrong direction bring them inline by knotting them to other parts. Work through the entire length of the boa, reinforcing weak spots with knots, and making a nice, somewhat uniform shape. When finished, give the boa a good shake to dislodge any loose pieces. Now throw it around your shoulders and hit the town—but be prepared for people to ask you when your show starts.