Ah, handspinning. There’s nothing like creating a project 100% from scratch. If you love transforming fleece into craftable yarn, alpaca fibers are your new best friend. Their softness and strength make them ideal for creating the yarns you love to work with, an excellent basis for everything from blankets to apparel.
For first-timers, getting started requires some extra information. Consider the following your alpaca fiber prep guide, and please contact us with any questions!
Lay The Fibers Out
Your first step is to lay out the shorn fleece and look for any pieces that appear less-than high-quality. This large piece of shorn fibers is called the “blanket” and includes the back, shoulders, and sides of the alpaca fleece, but not the neck, belly, legs, or rump area. Most important? Be sure to match the length as well as the fineness of the fibers. You may need to remove any areas that are coarser or thicker than those commonly found in the blanket area, as well as any vegetable matter, including bits of hay and burrs.
Once this process is complete, roll up the fleece and place it in an open plastic bag, without tying it shut. Allowing the fleece to breathe is essential to maintaining buoyant fibers.
To Wash or Not to Wash?
Alpaca fiber can be prepped in a wide variety of ways, most that have nothing to do with washing. Because alpaca do not produce body oil that sheep do (which is used to produce Lanolin), there is no reason to wash the fibers prior to spinning them.
While you may find dust in alpaca fibers, this will not be a problem when spinning it. Once the fibers have been spun, you can wash them in their yarn form, which helps to further set the twists created during the process and prevent accidental felting.
For those who have never heard of the term, accidental felting is a process in which fibers shrink, causing them to stick to one another and turn into a solid material. This can be is destructive to projects unless the goal is to create felt and mold it into small shapes or animals. Washing fibers in yarn form helps to prevent this issue.
Tease, Combing, and Carding
Depending on how you were taught, you may or may not spin raw alpaca fiber directly from the lock. Carding is one way to process the fibers and get them ready to be spun. This process includes brushing fibers prior to spinning. You can also tease out the fibers with a comb or dog brush to create different textures.
Handspinning is an exceptional way to get involved in every step of your crafting experience. Alpaca fibers, in particular, are simple to prep and make an excellent basis for your projects.
Looking DIY on a whole new level? Raise your own alpaca to feed your fiber habit! Contact our farm today to learn more about our herdsire breeding program and all the benefits of raising your own alpaca.