Monday, May 17, 2010

Spinning Alpaca

Over the winter I was commissioned to spin a cria fleece for a local breeder. I had never spun raw alpaca before, only roving. (Here's where if I had been thinking ahead I would have taken some photos of the raw fleece.)

The fleece was very well skirted, in fact, I don't remember seeing any VM in it at all. It was dusty, and from what I've now seen of other freshly shorn alpaca fleeces, that seems to be the norm. The lady that I was spinning for requested a 2 ply sport-ish weight yarn. She wanted something that would be desirable to both knitters and possibly weavers. So I aimed for something with some loft but not too fuzzy.

I tried hand carding first, and wasn't very happy with the results. I didn't like the way it drafted. I think that part of that was because this was a raw fleece, and the dirt in it made the fibers stickier. Not as sticky as raw sheep wool, but stickier than I was accustomed to with alpaca. So I carded up several ounces on the drum carder. I sent the fiber through the carder twice, which resulted in a nice smooth batt. This spun much better. It was smoother to draft, and created a yarn that wasn't too fuzzy.

While spinning this fleece I kept the wheel (an Ashford Traditional) at 6.5 rotations (the "low gear" on that wheel) to keep the singles at a fairly low twist. Then when I plied, I added just a little more twist to let the singles open up a little more and make the yarn a little loftier.

Since I spun all of the yarn from a raw, dirty fleece, I needed to clean the yarn. For the first few skeins, I put a pot of hot water on the stove and mixed in a little Dawn dish soap. Added the yarn and let it soak for half an hour or so, then rinsed in cool water. I got lazy toward the end of this project and started filling the bathroom sink up with hot water, adding the dish soap, dropping the yarn in and forgetting about it until I needed to use the sink. Take the yarn out, drain the sink, rinse the yarn and hang it from the shower head to dry. Honestly, I can not see a difference after the two different methods. All the yarn is soft, lofty and has just a hint of shine to it.

After spinning two pounds of cria fleece, I have to say that I enjoy spinning alpaca from a raw fleece much more than from commercial roving. So, for part of my reimbursement, I took two more fleeces home! I promise to take pictures when I start in on spinning those.

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