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Preparing Alpaca Fiber For Hand Spinning
To Wash Or Not To Wash
Many people spin alpaca unwashed. There is no lanolin or other grease in the fleece, but alpacas do love their dustbaths, so the fleece may be more or less dusty depending on the individual it came from. Any vegetation should be loose and drop out while you're processing it. Some spinners find that spinning unwashed alpaca is easier than spinning it washed as the dust "grabs" a little and makes the silky fibers less slippery. The washing takes place after the fiber is spun, as part of setting the twist. To wash a fleece, put it in a large colander or a mesh lingerie bag (don't do more than about half a pound at a time unless you've got a very large container for it and a lot of water in your sink), fill your sink with tepid water and immerse the fleece for a few minutes. Pull it out of the water, drain it, and immerse it in fresh water with a little dish detergent or shampoo added. Let it soak for about half an hour, then dunk it in as many rinse-waters as required to clear the dirt and soap. Keep the water tepid and avoid agitating the fiber. Alpaca doesn't felt as readily as most sheep's wool, but it *will* felt quite nicely under the right conditions.Lay the fleece out on a screen, if possible, to dry. It should still have most of it's lock structure intact. Teasing
Soft, light alpaca can be spun straight from the fleece by teasing the fibers apart into a fluffy mass and spinning a woollen-style yarn. The fibers will align themselves somewhat as you're drafting them, but a lot of air spaces will remain, making a lofty, elastic yarn. Flick-Combing
Take a lock or two in your left hand, holding the butt-end firmly in your fingers. With a flick-comb or dog brush, "flick" the free ends of the lock, opening them up and removing vegetation and dust at the same time. Turn the lock around and repeat the procedure on the butt-end. Keep your flicked locks oriented the same way, as they spin differently from the butt-end and the tip-end. Spinning tip-end first will result in a smoother yarn than spinning butt-end first. Carding
Alpaca is a fine fiber, and requires fine-clothed carders. Handcards for fine wools and downy fiber (120 points per inch or more) are appropriate, and in drum carders look for "fine cloth" "fur cloth" or "exotic cloth". Take care not to overcard alpaca; like any fine fiber it will tangle and nap if overworked. Keep rolags fairly thin and airy to maximize the "woollenness" of your finished yarn. Combing
Longer fibered fleeces are wonderful to comb for worsted
preparations (the luster and silky drape of alpaca are best highlighted
in a worsted-style yarn). There are many types of combs available; if
you already own combs, try them with alpaca. If you're shopping for combs,
test-drive as many types as you can. Most combs work well with alpaca
and the type you use is a matter of personal choice.
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Neonatal-Birthing Clinic for Alpaca and Llama Breeders
Springtime birthing season is right around the corner!
Island Alpaca Farm will host Dr. Cheryl DeWitt on Saturday, April 12 from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm for a most invaluable one day clinic, featuring new material on cria-care this year!
Light Breakfast and full Lunch included, as well as one Coursebook per farm. New lowered price this year, and registration is available online: http://islandalpaca.com/product_detail.php?p_id=228
MC/Visa and Amex accepted. $195, and $150 for additional farm members. $100 for repeat students.
Discount stays available at The Mansion House, Vineyard Haven. (Indoor pool, hot-tub, sauna, fitness center, and buffet breakfast. Make it a weekend get-away!
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