Adventures n · Fiber prep · Fresh off the wheel · Handcrafts · knit · Learning to spin · Tutorials

From Wool to Wear: a look at processing Alpaca

This month has been crazy busy. If it is any indication of how the rest of the year is going to be, then wow, I better not blink or I might miss it!

I seem to have peaked the curiosity of others where I live. Without any suggestion on my part I was nominated to do a little presentation on how wool is processed and spun into yarn for some ladies at church. They took charge,meet the date, and now here we are, it’s Friday and I stand in the spotlight tonight! If someone would of told my younger self that in several years I would be leading a group of women into an education an appreciation of Spinning, I am pretty sure they would have gotten a deer in the headlights type look. Followed by:

“Me? In front of a room? Talking? To people? About Spinning yarn? Umm….you are outa your mind friend!”

But the present day  obsessed with all things fiber Me is totally excited!! I am so enthralled with spinning and processing wool that I do not even care that I will have all eyes on me. Yep, I said it, as of right now anyway, my stage fright is out the window. Could this be a sign that I truly do have a love for this art…I think it might. The very definition of love is sacrifice.

As I was prepping for this presentation. I became aware that I have learned a lot in the past ten months! The pages of my notebook kept filling up with more and more information that just flowed from my brain into my fingertips as I tried to plan an outline. And then I discovered a problem.

There is no way I can share all I know and plan to learn, in one hour!

So, I am going to somehow condense it. Make it just enough information to cure the curiosity or light the fire. For those that fell that burning desire to know more, I will do an intiment workshop this spring to impart all I have educated myself on this far. I am excited!

Now, if you have survived through my excited ramblings you can be rewarded with an overview at how I have processed wool from its raw state to finished product check out the pictures below. Continue scrolling down for a more wordy explaination of the process and keep reading. Even if you only feel the need to check out the process via the photos, be sure to scroll down to the bottom after my detailed explanation  to see what I made with the Handspun Alpca yarn! Enjoy the show!

Raw, dirty Alpaca. First I had to skirt the fleece so that only the best quality of the fibers end up in my spin basket.

Wonderfully soft wool, but still dirty. Next I put it in a garment bag and give it a soak in the tub with a little bit of dish soap. Alpaca are very dirty because they like to roll around on the ground. So this process can take several rinse and repeats.

Then the waiting time of it to air dry. It’s not too bad in the summer when I can spread it out on the deck. But in the winter it can take a few days to dry thoroughly.

Once I have clean dried wool. I sit with the bag, handcards, and a basket. The wool goes onto my handcards to be combed. This get the vegetable matter out and aligns the fibers. After about four passes, the wool it rolled off of the handcard into a Rolag.

I can then place it in my spinning basket. I like to get lots of these made before actually spinning because once I start spining I don’t want to stop to handcard. So the hand arcing usually takes place during evening relax time watching something on Netflix.

When I am ready to spin I pre-draft the Rolag (or several).

My method of spinning so far is pretty free form. I let the wool show me how it wants to be spun. Sometimes thick, sometimes thin, or even I might be spinning a really nice even yarn and then-slub- there is a lump of fiber that didn’t draft as nice as the rest. I don’t mind it gives it personality, that uniqueness that can’t be replicated by machine made yarns. Handspun is awesome!

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When the spool is filled to the desired capacity, I either ply it on itself or with another spool of the same, or even just a thread. Then it is unwound on my super fancy thrifted collapse-able wine rack thingy-majig. Other people might use what is called a swift or even a niddy noddy. Maybe someday I will too.

The next step is to set the twist of the yarn. A soak in a tub of warm water for about twenty minutes is all this luxurious yarn needs. – Oh, and then a sound beating. No really, if you want nice fluffy soft yarn you can’t skip fulling it. Whack it on a towel that you put on the counter or table, rotating is around so all sides get their deserved beating. When it is warm outside I step out the basement beat my yarn against the rock facade. It really does make a happy balanced yarn.
And now we come back to the waiting part again. It has to air dry…unless you want to make felted yarn, in which case you need to wait for me to experiment with that before I can share those instructions.

While it is drying, use the wait time to check out patterns on Ravelry, Pinterest or your new 50 pound stack of books you just checked out from the library. Find a pattern that is worthy of your hardwork, or wing it and make up your own. I did.

My suppliers of Alpaca wool only asked that I make them something. One request was a scarf, the other was a wall hanging so that visitors could know what the Alpaka felt like without going out and playing “catch me if you can” with the playful monkey-faced critters.

So here they are, finished.

 

Happy Day! Happy Spinning!

H

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