Monday, July 30, 2012

Spinning Experiment

Oogy's suggestion was a good one--I quickly learned that the alpaca fiber needed to be carded.  I know that some spinners could work with the combed-only fibers, but I need fiber that is more uniformly fluffed up (I'm sure there's a real term for that!).

I've done an experiment to see how the spinning might go.  This is about 20 g of singles.

I plied it and made two little skeins.

Then I washed one in baby clothes detergent.  This proved entirely insufficient.  The yarn smelled worse than before it was washed, and it was still rather dirty.  A second wash in Dawn dish liquid made a big difference.

Next step, once the washed skein is dry, is to knit a swatch!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Welcome Distraction

I'm supposed to be painting cabinet doors.

I took a break yesterday to attend a graduation party for two nephews, one having just graduated from college (he was just a baby, wasn't he?) and the other, his little brother, having just graduated from high school.  Imagine my delight to arrive at the party and be handed a big bag of alpaca fleece!  Little bro helps to maintain the pristine appearance of the animals' stalls at a neighboring alpaca farm.  It's my understanding that he was offered a fleece to give to his fiber-fiend of an aunt.  He chose the fleece of one Aja, a 2 year-old with a light coat (white? beige?).

I waited until this morning to carefully inspect the fleece.  It was not as smelly as I anticipated.  I learned from a bit of internet research that alpacas do not produce the oils that make sheep fleece so pungent.  This lack of oil is also why many spinners feel it is not necessary to scour the fleece, and instead prefer to spin the unwashed fiber and clean it for the first time as yarn.  I took a few locks to the spinning wheel and discovered quickly that this fleece needed some sort of cleaning.  Today I dumped the bag out and began to skirt.
With the usual help.

The fleece has an interesting pattern of dirt deposition: clean at the skin end, then a band of dirt, then a relatively clean area before the tip, which is glued together with another band of dirt. Combing gets most of the dirt and the occasional seed pod and twig out, but soap was required to remove all of the dirt.  The washed lock looks white to me.
It feels incredibly soft, though I have no experience in judging the quality of the fiber.  I believe another trip to the nephews' house will happen soon and we'll go visit the farm.  I'll ask all kinds of questions then!

I have about 100 g of combed locks that I'll begin spinning soon.  I haven't decided if I should card them, or if the combing is all I need to do.  Any suggestions?