Spinning from commercial top that has been hand dyed is so very fun, but I was really excited last week when I was handed a bag of raw alpaca! You can’t just throw this on the wheel, but going through all the steps to get it spinnable was an exciting new adventure that I have been wanting to take.

Here is the filthy, matted alpaca right out of the plastic grocery bag –

The Fraggle was very excited about helping me load it into a mesh bag for washing.

Now, I have been told that you don’t have to wash alpaca, but this stuff is filthy – even dirtier than I at first suspected, as you will soon see.

Pressing it into the soapy water.

And leaving it to soak. I did squish it around gently a little bit because my mesh bag is only mesh on one side and that was impeding the water movement.

Once I was ready to rinse, I took it out of the bag so that I could be sure to get the soap out. It was pretty matted together and I only lost the tiniest bit of fiber in the water. The rinse water looked pretty clear at this point, so I laid it out to dry.

Pictured is half of the four ounces. I did it in two batches.

After a very long wait it was ready to card. I know, I know. Alpaca should be combed. But I have carders, so that is what I used. If you want me to do it right, send me a pair of combs.

During the carding process, my lap got so very dirty! All of the vegetable matter and dirt that didn’t get washed out just fell into my lap. I was very glad that I had washed it at this point, even if I didn’t do a thorough job. I can’t imagine how dirty I would have gotten if I had just spun it dirty. Look at that!

Kind of gross, right? I had to go bathe when I was done!

Even now, as I am spinning it, I am picking out bits of grass and stickers and dirt is falling on the floor.

I am disappointed in the quality of this fiber. I don’t know what alpaca is supposed to look like, but I doubt that a good batch has this much guard hair or short unusable bits. I understand the dirt and VM, I am not really talking about that. Is there anybody out there that can educate me? I know that when you buy a wool fleece it comes in one, sheep shaped piece, right? I expected alpaca to as well, but what I got seemed more like the sweepings from a barber shop floor. It was free, and I won’t complain. It is also a great experience and I still have high hopes for the yarn (2 ply laceweight alpaca? Oh, yeah.).

As I spin and knit this fiber up, I am sure that I will have more to say about this experience. So far, however, I think I prefer getting the pretty commercial top all prepared, dyed, and ready to spin.