I’m preparing alpaca fiber this month. Here is my process.
First, I grab some raw alpaca. “Some” is probably 5-8 oz. if it’s nice weather, I lay it on a rag towel on top of my hot tub cut side up.
I am trying to “skirt” the fiber. That means that on this side, I pick off all the short cuts where the shearer cut some short pieces and they cling to the blanket.
On the first pass, there weren’t very many of these short cuts. Then I turn the fleece over and take out the sticks and vegetable matter (VM). This fleece is super clean. It really just has a few sticks and a lot of dust in it.
I put this fleece portion into a laundry bag that’s very porous. I run hot water and soap in a plastic container and soak for 20 minutes. Here is a picture of the second wash. I wash it twice.
The water is really, really brown after the two washes. But after two rinses….
It’s pretty clear. Some people don’t touch the fiber while it’s soaking because alpaca can felt so easily. But I press it down when I put it in the water. I can’t resist. And, knock, on wood. I haven’t felted any yet.
After two washes and two rinses, I squeeze out the water and wrap it on a towel and stand on the fiber to get the water squeezed out.
My mom bought me these great sweater dryers at a garage sale. She’s always looking out for me!
On nice weather days, I put this out on my hot tub again. It will dry in a few hours. The hot tub has a canopy over it so it’s in the shade, and the dryer racks let the wind /air go through. If I’m home, I flip the fiber over after a couple hours. If it’s raining (like it has been here ALL summer long!), the fiber takes a couple of days or at least overnight.
Then the dry fiber goes in this fancy, smancy grocery sack!
I mix it up because this alpaca has so many different colors in his fiber that I want to blend it nicely in the yarn. At the bottom of the picture, you can see my hand carders. That’s the next step.
I lay the fiber on one of the carders. (They look like large cat combs.) The other comb goes over the top and the fibers are nicely combed out.
I lift this off. I don’t roll it up though. I like my fiber loose when I spin so I lay it delicately in yet another paper bag.
I only comb up enough to use in a single sitting. Just like when I quilt, I can’t do all of one step. In other words, I never wash the whole fleece, then card the whole fleece then spin it up. I do a little of each. It keeps it interesting!
So that’s how I prep fiber.