Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Alpaca Fiber Process from Humming in the Back Yard to Yarn

Orion (Slammie), Pollux (Luxie), and GunnyI'm thinking that it would be fun to give a very simple explanation of the process of making yarn from our alpacas. You need to imagine the step of shearing to get the fiber off the alpacas. I will have pictures in May when we actually do the shear.
This is what the raw fiber looks like. Our animals stay quite clean and free of vegetation because we don't bed with straw and I sweep up fallen hay everyday. When the 'pacas are inside, they live on rubber mats.
To clean the fleece, I spread it out on a screen stapled to a big square, and pick out the vegetation (VM) by hand. Dust and dirt falls through to the floor.
Then I wash it which I have talked about here in my blog. If I am going to immediately dye, I leave the fiber wet after a vinegar solution soak.

My favorite way to dye is in my crock pot. I sprinkle dry Jacquard powder over the wet fiber, pour boiling water over, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. This yellow and green isn't the fiber for the final skein. But this is ↓

Then spread the fiber out to dry. Riley Cat enjoys the drying too much so this usually goes into the tub in the spare bathroom.

The fiber can be spun as soon as it is dry, but I like to card it which lines all the fibers up nice and straight and makes the spinning easier. BTW, this isn't the fiber in the final skein either.

Now the fun part (well, it's all fun, but this is my favorite) SPINNING. For this particular yarn, I tried to make slubby areas and very thin strands. I added some of Rita's (Castleman) mauve Tussah yarn as I spun. Then I plied the single with Woolly Nylon serger thread that had some elasticity to enhance my slubs and bumps.
All this preparation for 50 yards of this ↓