As suggested by a fellow FLAK'er I decided to wash all my wool *before* swatching. There are many benefits for the effort expended to wash the wool ahead of time. Commercial yarns are typically coated with oil or other substances to flatten down the fuzzy threads that could fluff up and get caught up in the machines. Because of this, the gauge and appearance of your knitted swatch will vary before and after washing and blocking.
Often residual dye remains behind because the dye bath was not completely exhausted when the wool was manufactured.
So by washing all your skeins identically before you begin knitting, you won't be unpleasantly surprised by uneven shrinkage or dye leakage in a finished garment. The wool 'blooms' and has a softer hand (feel) and is much nicer to knit with.
I welcome any comments. Here is the method I used.
First I turned the balls into hanks making sure I had plenty of ties. I was careful not to stretch the wool. Using a contrasting color wool I put 6 ties in each hank. Make sure you know how to tie a hank before doing this. A 'niddy noddy' makes this job easier but if you don't have one you can improvise like I have here. Ladder back chairs work very well too.
Next it was into the tub with hot water and soap. Midway through I swished the hanks then left them to soak until the water was cold. I drained the tub, removed the hanks, and refilled it with cool water again swishing the hanks to remove any excess soap.
After that I put the hanks into my Siemens front-loader (I am in love with this machine) and put it through the spin cycle to extract the water. When the hanks came out of the front-loader they were nice and fluffy.
I then gave each a good snap to straighten it out. I laid an old mattress cover on the floor of the laundry room and left the wool to dry. My black Lab Sam is supervising to make sure I am doing it correctly.
When I checked on them this morning they were dry. Now I am FINALLY ready to start swatching the FLAK project.
Thank you Ann in Webster, NY for this suggestion.