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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alpaca Fibre Processing, Part 2..

I finally finished cleaning/washing/combing the mid fawn alpaca fibre. 490g of perfectly clean, soft, fluffy nests to spin. Before I started the fibre weighed 610g so the wastage has run at about 20% which isn't bad.

The cria fleece I'm working on now, which came from Radar, is so very soft and fine and wastage seems very high. So I did two experiments:

1. I took a section of dirty fleece, in it's raw, unpicked state, washed and dried it, then weighed it. 210g. I combed it, giving it 5 passes through the combs to get rid of all the VM. Finished weight of the combed fibre was 44g. Too much work for too little product.

2. I took another section of the same fleece weighing 210g, then flicked out most of the VM with a dog slicker brush, washed and dried it as before then combed it, it needed only 2 passes through the combs. Finished weight 121g.

The red basket shows the fibre after flicking out the VM but before washing and combing. The colour is true to life. The dirt dulls everything about it, the colour, feel and the texture.

After washing and combing the fibre is totally transformed into clean, beautiful nests with a gorgeous rich colour and sheen.  
So, for me personally after weighing everything up, removing the VM with the dog slicker brush first is the best option. Although time consuming, I'm now rather adept at it and can whip through the fleece quite efficiently. I would rather do that and follow with 2 passes through the combs than do 5 passes through the combs, fighting the static and flyaway fibre is no fun. I just wanted to reassure myself that I was doing this the most efficient way, for me anyway.                                              

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Alpaca Fibre Processing....

I've been diligently washing 2 lingerie bags of alpaca fibre every evening this week, as soon as it's dry it's on my combs, being made into clean, soft nests of delicious fibre ready for spinning:
This is the fibre that was sitting in the red basket on my 'Three Bags Full' post last week, it was a fleece I bought from a breeder friend last year off her alpaca Chantallini.
I washed it in mild hair shampoo, 2 good rinses, then a final rinse with a spot of hair conditioner added (as this cuts down on the static when you come to comb it), then laid it out on a rack to dry and have combed 280g so far. There's another 200g dry today. I shall wash another batch after dinner, and so the washing/drying/combing cycle goes on and on.

I have an image in my mind that one day I will have a whole shelf of large lidded boxes, each box containing the processed fleece from one of my alpacas. When I get the urge I can just walk to the box and remove the required amount of ready to spin fibre that I need. We can all dream.

Sometimes I don't want to sit and knit, or to sit and spin for that matter, sometimes the only thing that will cut the mustard for me is some good old fibre prep!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Today I picked the first of the season's asparagus from the garden. It doesn't take long to grow once those first little spears poke their way through the soil. We will be eating it most days for the next 8 weeks, then I have to stop cutting it and let the crowns fatten up ready for next year. I have managed to keep this bed alive for the last 4 years so I must be doing something right!

I love the colours, green and purple are so nice together.

Poached eggs & asparagus for dinner tonight. Yummy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

3 Bags Full.... of Alpaca Fibre

Well, 2 bags and a basket to be precise.

This is 2 days of work.
The white is 700g of cria fleece which will be blended with 18 micron merino, the bag in front is 1kg of tan/white alpaca and the basket contains the rest (about 600g) of the tan fleece which I want to wash and comb.
The 2 bags are going off to the wool carders tomorrow for processing. I still cleaned all of this fleece, lock by lock, with a flick carder to get all the VM out and believe me it was full of the stuff. But, if you send rubbish off to the carders you get rubbish back, and I want to have nice fibre that's a pleasure to spin, so time spent on it now will pay off in the long run.

The white alpaca is so soft, I'm going for a 70/30 blend with the merino. The tan fleece is also lovely and soft - I'm tempted to just have it washed and carded and kept as 100% alpaca. All the fleece have staples of about 7".
I've just made a start on Radar's, it's chocolate brown with black and so far I have skirted it, taken off the legs, neck and belly fibre yet I can't see any guard hair in his fleece at all. It's very crimpy and silky soft. I think I may send it to the wool carders next month if I have it prepped by then. That will be 3 down, 2 more fleece to go. The end is in sight...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rappard Little Peggy

I finally got a Little Peggy wheel. She's a 1980 wheel. I've been wanting one for a long time. She will be my ideal wheel for going to spinning meetings due to her size. I have an Ashford Traveller (which I also love) but Little Peggy is much more compact. I also love the idea that she can be set up in Scotch tension or double drive. I brought her home yesterday and she was in a state of neglect, I feel she has been a well used wheel but has not been used for years. Apart from the dirt and grime she was in pretty good condition:

I spent a good few hours cleaning every inch of her with furniture oil, the wool on the bobbins was a pain to get off as it had set on there like cement and has left black marks on the core of the bobbins that won't come out, but that's part of her life history. I cleaned all the old black dirt/grease off. Took the rust off the metal parts using steel wool and furniture oil, then I put her back together and thoroughly oiled her.

She now has new flyer hooks, drive band and brake band. The old hooks had just about worn through:

Here's Peggy after her makeover:

You can see the bobbin support upright is missing so I put an elastic band on for now to hold the bobbins on. I had a wee spin on her last night, smooth and quiet, I'm smitten!

She has a few bumps and knocks but in my eyes she's a real beauty.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Uppers & Downers

In August my beloved dog Molly died. She had been diagnosed with MVF in June this year and seemed to be doing well on her meds but we knew it was not a cure, we were just prolonging her life. It was all rather quick in the end, she laid on my lap that evening and just drifted away. She was 13 1/2 years old which is a good age for a Cavalier King Charles. I take comfort in the fact that she didn't suffer, didn't lose her quality of life and died in her own home with the people who had loved her every day of her life at her side.

Because of these unexpected events I have had very little time or inclination for crafting, plus I took a new job which is swallowing up more of my time than I originally anticipated.

But, there are a few things I would like to tell you about. Firstly I entered 2 handspun shawls into an exhibition. I won 2 awards, the Ashford New Zealand award and the Gifford colour award. The Ashford prize was a gift card and after much thought about what to buy this is what I chose:

The lace flyer kit that fits both my Traveller and my Traditional wheel. I had it in my mind that I could just pop it onto either wheel when I felt inclined to. That's not the case. You have to replace the maidens, as you can see on the pic it comes with 2 different ones. So I decided to set it up permanently on my Traditional wheel. I thought I was spinning fine before, but spinning fine singles now feels effortless and much faster. I am thrilled with it to say the least.

A batch of superfine merino which I hand dyed a very long time ago. This is my practise batch for the new flyer and it's a dream to spin.

My Traditional wheel is the one I first learnt to spin on, bought second hand but it was almost new. I drove all the way to Methven to get it, the lady selling it had bought it a few months previously, had a go then decided spinning was not her cup of tea and put it up for sale. It was a steal and I felt guilty handing over the small sum she asked for it.

I finally got round to making new curtains for my bedroom and cushions for my Son and his fiance so while I had the machine set up I made a cushion for the guest bedroom:

I think this fabric is so beautiful, looking at it makes me feel very happy. I have a throw the exact same colour as the blue birds to go with it.

We are well into Spring here now and I can almost smell Summer coming. The cherry trees are in full bloom and I have found a little time to spend in the garden, the potatoes are planted, the tomatoes and cucumbers have germinated and I need to get on and clear the Winter crops from the greenhouse and plant the Summer crops out. I look forward to a lot of crafting and cooking over the next couple of months. This time of year is by far my favorite and I feel rejuvenated and full of inspiration.