Process

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.

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4 thoughts on “Process

  1. All of the alpaca I’ve ever been given was from pets, not farm animals. So yes, more like it was swept up – very annoying. Alpacas roll in the dirt. They are dusty, filthy creatures (love them to death, but let’s be honest here). I don’t think I would ever *not* wash a fleece – from any animal. The alpaca I’ve had, I’ve had to wash mutliple times – upwards of three. I’ve used my drum carder to card it. I’ve never heard of just using combs but I can’t say that I researched it heavily. A fine-toothed carder should work just fine. I have some hybrid alpaca/llama that I didn’t bother to card. I just spun it into chunky, funky, hairy fun.

    I look at all of my spinning as an experiment. I bought a sheep fleece over the weekend and, yes, it’s sort of shaped like an animal. But having it all come off in one piece is more for presentation – you’re going to take it apart anyway.

    Best of luck with your new fiber. Enjoy it, learn from it, have fun! (:

  2. I think it’s just who you get it from. I have a beautiful black alpaca fleece i have had for quite some time. A little dirty but no gunk. I also hand card mine. My drum carder is older and doesn’t work well with anything but sheep’s wool. I had bought 7 lbs. or so of 1st sheer alpaca and I still have about half left. It is so soft. I LOVE it. Bought mine at a wool gathering here in OH. from the lady who raised him. Here’s one for you, Angora! Raise German Giants and have your children take care of them for 4-H. I did this for awhile and loved it.

    I have had a “bad” sheep fleece. My Mom bought it for me and when I separated it had clumps of dirt, straw, and feces in the middle plus moth larvae. I now only buy what I can look at.

    Happy spinning to you!!! Everything is a learning experience:)

  3. A few years ago, a friend gave me a fleece from Black Sheep Wool festival — it won a prize for something. It was skirted and very clean, but after washing and carding, I still picked out VM. Like you, although I liked the finished yarn, I decided that the prep is just too labor intensive. I’m much happier spinning something ready to go.

  4. My first purchase of alpaca fleece was from a couple who raised Alpaca just for the sake of it (don’t ask me why, they are retired.) Other than being dusty stored in black garbage bag, I spun it “raw” without washing it. They were fine. Fleece I have purchased since then were very “clean” too and I don’t bother to wash ’em either. Yes, I do get some dusts and VM but that doesn’t bother me at all. I have a rug on the floor and a cotton towel on my lap when spinning so it was quite easy to clean ’em up.

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