Archive for the “processing” Category

Some time ago, I was given multiple bags of alpaca "seconds" - fleece that couldn't be sold for a number of reasons, possibly that it's not soft enough, that it wasn't sheared well, or that the quality is really varied. The stuff I have is... all of the above! But it was free, and I'm having fun going through it to pick out the good stuff.

This bag of fibre came from an alpaca named Valdir, who is apparently part white and part tan:

I'm picking through the bag to find the best of the locks, flicking them open with my hand carder...

Neat rows of alpaca locks lie on a table next to a hand card that has some wisps of fibre stuck in its teeth.

...and putting them all in a box.

Rows of alpaca locks that have been flicked open at both ends and laid neatly into a cardboard box.

All the short cuts are going directly into the garbage, and the soft fibres that aren't in perfect lock formation will go through the drum carder to make floofy batts.

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Last May we bought a fleece at MD Sheep and Wool.

We were only going to look at the fleeces, not buy one. We were only going to compare a few, not buy one. We were only going to pet them, not buy one.

Suuuuure we were.

Pictured: two people who don't yet know that they're in over their heads.

We washed it all, and opened up some locks, and carded a few batts.

Pictured: All the fleece that can be fed into a drum carder at one time. It is... not a lot.

And then we lost steam.

But today! Today was a fibre day. We were going to get this project reinvigorated! We decided to work on opening locks, so that everything would be ready for the drum carder. Two hours later the box of flicked locks was quite full but the fleece itself didn't look any smaller... and we gave up. This is just too much for us. We have other projects that we want to work on, and quite honestly, this isn't very much fun at all.

Pictured: a very, very small fraction of the total fleece, which weighs about 6.5 pounds after washing.

It's a gorgeous fleece, and it's going to go to a mill for processing, and then we'll have the fun of spinning it without the tedium of carding it ourselves.

It's been a beautiful learning experience, though.

Pictured: amazing fleece with amazing crimp.

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The eight-pound fleece which Caroline and I are splitting came from Sheep #412, as the envelope tucked in the bag informed us. Four-Twelve (a merino/rambouillet cross) spread out nicely on my floor for admiration, and we were surprised to discover that it had a bitty white streak in one corner. We're going to keep that separate, though there might only be enough for a bit of duplicate stitch on our finished projects.

whole_fleece

Four-Twelve was a coated sheep and the fleece had already been skirted, thank goodness, so there wasn't much to pick out or discard. It smelled sheepy, but not dirty or disgusting. We gently loaded lingerie bags, filled the sink with hot water and Scour, and started the washing process (which is mostly a waiting process). Each batch took three washes and a rinse, then we laid it all out to dry upstairs... except for one of the bags, which we put on the sweater-rack in the dryer, because we were really impatient to try it out.

fleece_rolags_cards

I spun a couple of rolags into a quick sample of chain-plyed yarn, soft and bouncy and poofy, and I'm pretty sure that the eventual yarn will be a true three-ply. This seems like it will be perfect for the sweater I have in mind - something like Alpengluhen, October Frost, Jackaroo or the Stonecutters Cardigan - a nice round three-ply yarn will be great for stitch definition and cables.

fleece_rolags_sample1

Once all the fleece is dry, I'll be spending lots and lots of time with the drum carder. Making a few rolags to test out the fibre is one thing, but there's no way I'm hand-carding half a fleece!

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