Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cleaning raw wool and spinning.

My MIL, who is currently working in New Hampshire sent me a birthday gift a few weeks ago. A giant box of raw alpaca! Two big bags one, creamy white, and one a rich auburn brown color. I was daunted by the thought of washing it all. I've never done it before, but I have been reading, and watching a ton videos of people doing it. So, after a few more days of research, and some tool making I dove in.

The first thing I needed was a skirting table. I'm the type of person that would always prefer making my tools rather than buying them. And have you priced a skirting table lately?! Yowch, they are expensive!

I went to Lowes, and bought some 1.5" thick pvc pipe, cut it into 3x5 pieces, and made a rectangle out of them. Then I covered it in plastic bird netting which was all I could find. I'm getting some sturdier plastic chicken wire from my mom when I remember. I just zip tied the netting to the pvc rectangle. Presto, a skirting table that didn't even cost 15.00! I use my husbands saw horses, and it works like a charm.

So, after getting the big clumps of debris, and other unmentionables out of the wool, I filled my lingerie bags with fiber and started soaking them.

Shoot, wishing I had taken photos of all of this, but was way too busy and forgot. Next time!

I washed my wool in my kitchen sink, I filled it with the hottest water my sink could provide, and a kettle of boiling water which got me a temp of 140 or so, which seemed to work perfectly. I added about 1/2 cup of liquid dish soap (not dishwasher detergent do not use that) making sure not to make the water sudsy. After that I very slowly, and gently pushed the bags into the water and let them soak for a half an hour.

Seeing how dusty and grass ridden this stuff was, I was skeptical that simply letting them sit would get everything out, but it did! I still have some grass to pick out, but for the most part it came out beautifully.

I've only cleaned a small fraction of what was in the box, and what I've done is enough to last me for a long while. Right now, I'm using big slicker brushes to card the fiber. They aren't the greatest tools for the job, but I'm saving my dollars for hand carders or a pair of combs. I can't decide which I want more. I don't mind spinning carded rolags, or combed top, it's really more of a question of which is a better process for the alpaca. If any spinners can give me their opinion or advice on combs vs carders that would be great!

So that's what I've been up to. It's getting warmer everyday and flowers are beginning to pop up here, and there. Could winter really be ending?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's been awhile.

Sorry it's been so long since I have posted anything. I've been busy (and lazy). I found a local yarn shop that sells spinning wool, which has given me no end of joy. This is just the first of many purchases to come.  It's a beautiful blue Suri Alpaca. This is such a gorgeous color, this picture does it little justice.


I heard that alpaca is slippery stuff to spin, but I have found that I actually like it more than the wool I just finished. I taught myself, (after lots of cursing) the long draw technique. It's so much fun, now that I know how to do it! I'm still very inconsistent, I find that I draw it waaayy too far out, and the single just snaps into nothingness, but I will keep practicing.

I've also been doing some dyeing. The last bit of my Polwarth wool I wanted to do something fun with, so I decided to knit up a pair of thrummed mittens for my MIL. I didn't want to use boring white, so I dyed it. Unfortunately, it did not come out as it looks in the first pictures, (most of the color mixed together once I put the heat to it), but I'm happy with the results. 

Isn't it a pretty fuchsia color? 

 This is the finished wool that I dyed. I know it's looks like it's all gold, but in actuality it has pinks, and greens running through it. It looks great with the fuchsia yarn. I'm still getting used to dyeing with heat, I get a little better each time.

I've also been thinking about joining the Weavers Guild of Saint Louis. I'm apprehensive, I'm not a social butterfly, I want to learn as much as I can, but it's hard to make that leap to join a group. I wonder if any of my readers are a part of a guild (knitting, artists, weavers etc)? What do you do? What have you learned from being apart of a guild? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I wish I had taken a moment to take pictures of the finished mittens, but I was so excited to send them off that I forgot! So that's what I've been doing lately, along with working, and wishing for Spring. Will it ever come?