Sunday, July 31, 2011

What I Made on my Summer Vacation

I've been on a sewing kick lately, mainly stuff for me and my niece. I've been trying some simple reconstruction projects with fabric, and clothing I have instead of buying new supplies. This is my first project a simple tank dress. For the skirt I used an Asian print I bought a few years ago. I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought it, and it was just enough for the skirt. I knew I would make good use of it sometime.

I'm not 100% happy with it, the skirt is a bit short and poufy, the tank's a bit too long, and the straps need to be shortened. I enjoyed the process. New projects are like pancakes, the first one always comes out a little odd, but the ones following it get better, and better

Project 2:

So, I had a pair of linen pants I bought last summer, and like a dope I stuck them in the dryer. They still fit, but were way too short in the legs (I'm 5'9" so I need all the length I can get). Angry with myself for doing something so dumb to a new pair of pants, I stuffed them into the back of my closet, and left them there. Well, a few days ago wanting to do something different, I pulled them out, and thought "I can make a skirt out of these pants" and I did!

I had this funky droop in the back that no matter what I did I could not make decent looking, so I added some ruffles and a bit of a dart in the back. It looks adorable on, and is just the right length. I am really pleased with it.

My last project was one I did this afternoon. I saw this pattern at my local Joann's and figured instead of buying the pattern I could figure it out for myself. The hardest part was gauging the size since my niece lives 30 miles away! I intended it to be a dress, but she's tall for a one year old, I think it might end up being a top. My sister loves it, and I can't wait to have my niece try it on! Top picture is the front, bottom is the back. Tomorrow I might make a few more just for fun.

So, this is what I have been working on lately. I have one more week of vacation before I have to go back to work. It's been am awesome vacation. I've done loads of projects, a few household projects completed, and.... oh yeah lots, and lots of relaxing. I'm ready to go back to work I'm beginning to miss my daily routine.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Washing Alpaca Fiber

I've been on summer vacation this month, and have decided to work on cleaning up some alpaca. Here's how I clean it, and what you will need:

Lingerie bags (2-4 do nicely)
Liquid dish soap (not soap used in a dishwaser) I use plain old Dawn
A large container of hot water

Below is some of the fiber I want to clean. I picked through it by hand removing grass, short bits, and other unwanted things. Besides being really dusty it was relatively clean stuff. 

I stuffed a few handfuls into a lingerie bag. You don't want it too full, if the bag is stuffed with too much it will be hard to get it clean.

Next fill your sink with the hottest water you can get. Our water heater makes some very hot water so I just use that. Next pour in your liquid soap, I use about 4 liberal squirts of Dawn. Make sure to add this after you've filed your sink, you don't want to make suds. Here's my water ready to go!

Now, the first time I washed some of this fiber I did two bags at once. It came out clean, but it was a lot more work. This time I soaked 1 bag at a time. All you have to do is lay your lingerie bag full of fiber on top of the water and let it just absorb the water on it's own.. Don't go swishing it around, you will felt it (although I have found this particular alpaca fiber I am using can be treated pretty rough without felting)! After a few minutes, I have a dowel rod that I use to gently poke it down into the water.

After it is fully immersed I set my timer for 30 minutes and just let the soap and hot water do it's stuff. Most of the dirt, and dust will simply sink to the bottom. As you can see from the picture below the water gets quite dirty.

After 30 minutes I pull the bag out of the water, I hold it up for a bit letting the excess water run off. I have another hot, soapy bath waiting on the other side of the sink. I just pop it in the next bath for another 30 minutes. Here's what is at the bottom of my sink after the first 30 minutes!

I repeat this process until the water is basically clear and there is very little dirt at the bottom.  A,fter all the washing is done, I squeeze the excess water out of the  lingerie bag (gently now, don't go ringing the heck out of it) and lay it on a wide screen just for this. Lay it in a sunny spot, and after an hour or two you will have beautifully fluffy, clean fiber.

After that I card it, and it is ready for spinning. Here's some of the yarn I have made using the fiber above. I am really please with it. It is incredibly soft, and slightly silky in texture.  I'm working very hard on creating a balanced yarn, so far so good.

 This is a video of me using my electric spinning wheel.

I hope this little tutorial is helpful.