Monday, February 4, 2008

Alpaca Fiber Preparation - Drum Carding

When I look up from my carding, this is the view out my basement window. The view, a little music, creating lovely fiber. How perfect! Well, maybe some wine and chocolate.......
Here she is, friends, my Strauch carder. She does a perfect job with my alpaca fiber. The only thing that I can think of that I would like more is if that dang handle were motorized. That repetitive motion is hard on the old joints.

This is my view while carding and looking down. I fluff the fiber and put on the metal tray on the left. The brutally pokey cylinder (licker in) pulls the fiber in when I crank the red handle. The carded fiber is on the big cylinder to the right.
This is the stage that I was having all kinds of static problems. Well, and when trying to take the batt off. Friends on Ravelry and Etsy forums gave me all kinds of suggestions to control the flight of the fiber. What is working best for me right now is diluting Downy fabric softener in water and spritzing the raw fiber before I even start.
Even though the I have the brush ↓ attachment, I use an additional wide, cheap, bristley brush to pank the fiber down. My friend Carey uses a long wall paper brush.
Fiber coming off carder after one pass through.

After running a hook like tool that Strauch provided (some folks use a long knitting needle) along the little opening with no teeth (you can just sort of see it under the fiber) you can lift the fiber off in sort of a peel like movement. A little fiber will be left behind but I use a metal dog brush like tool to lift it out and add it to my roving piles.
I like to run the bat through again. I strip it lengthwise into about 4 strips and spread/fluff them a little and crank away. My carder can handle about 1.4 ounces before it tells me no more by leaving fiber on the licker in.
I'm very pleased that my Strauch is so kind to my alpaca and does not create little tuffs and noils. My first carder was the Louet Junior (the narrow one) and it was rather harsh and would break my fiber.

Two finished batts ready for spinning. I unfold the batt and strip it lengthwise for mini rovings that are ready to go. I have a custom spinning order for all of this fiber from a very loyal customer - Jessie who lives in Bearsville, New York. She makes beautiful jewelry from coins. Go visit her shop called MadeFromCoins.