Alpacas Shorn


I was starting to panic – Grumpy was carrying two bags of fleece on his little body. I knew he was suffering.

But I found a woman who would shear them for us. I helped, and the guys seemed to appreciate that it was me who held them and talked to them. They came back to the barn for food afterwards, which is always a good sign.

We have 4 bags of fleece from three alpacas. Grumpy’s is longer and bulkier than the others.

I’m going to start working on the fleeces tonight. Going to build a skirting table for the fleece and pick the second cuts and fiber out of it. The dirt will need to be washed out. Over and over again.

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The Next Step – A Picker


Lil Dynamo - lives up to it's name.

Lil Dynamo – lives up to it’s name.

I’ve got several llama fleeces, and the problem with llamas are they are dirt bathers.

After a few hours with an unwashed llama fleece, I wake up that night with my sinuses completely closed up.

That’s a LOT of dirt.

So washing a llama fleece takes many, many washings. Each one has the potential to matt the fleece a little bit more.

So the other day, I really blew it and matted a white llama fleece. It was just a mess. Not felted, because I could pull it apart, but the fiber was in knots. I went to Etsy to price pickers and found this little oak picker that is small enough to fit under the bed.

I put a fist full of matted llama in. It took a couple of passes to get the mats out, and with it came handfuls of dirt. But the fiber is a lovely fluffy mass now. Not a matted mess. (Big sigh of relief!)

I think carding is now possible.

Otter Bee – Crafters’ Get Together


Three of us met for Otter Bee at Shoppes at Otter Creek yesterday.

I got to see my very first battery operated sewing machine in action. It was so tiny and so cute, but it really worked!

And a spinning buddy brought her tiny spinning wheel in. It was also tiny and cute! A direct drive wheel that she used to spin up some really lovely alpaca roving in soft golds and greens.

I took my beloved Kromski and spun up nearly all of my ‘Forest Sky’ alpaca roving. Unfortunately, the 4 oz roving had sat long enough that I couldn’t long-draw it. So I’m still working on it.

We also talked about my problem with staple length – the appalousa llama fleece was cut with less than a 2 inch staple length. I got some fake casmere to blend with it, and some Shetland roving to dye a dark blue and mix with the black llama. The black llama is even softer than the white, and the staple length is even shorter. But it’s so soft and fine that I’m determined to spin every bit of it.

No new photos today. I didn’t take any.

On the downside, I ‘lost’ a finished project for my step-son. I crocheted him a llama hat in chocolate and appalousa that was just dreamy soft and warm. But somehow, it grew legs and vanished from my house. I’ve looked everywhere!

The young man shaves his head, and lives in Upstate New York, where the winters are savagely cold. I’m afraid that I can’t make him a new hat before the holiday.

First Projects


Digital Camera

Of course the first thing is to process the fiber. Washed and dried, it dares me to pick up the cards and get to it.

Today, since it was sunny and warm on the back porch, I carded for awhile. I think it was a couple of hours before I had a basket full of rolags. I weighed the rolags, only to find it was under 2 ounces.

DRAT!

I like to divide the fiber into 1 ounce bags for spinning. The last few skeins have been nearly 100 yards to the ounce. I thought that was pretty good but I wasn’t happy with the ‘fine as froghair’ singles.

Another thing that’s been bugging me is the sheer scale of this project.

Yesterday, as I scrolled through the blogs, I discovered a post that mentioned production spinning. I’m so sorry I didn’t get the name of the blog, or I’d plug it. The writer mentioned that production spinning was very fast. A spinner couldn’t get caught up in perfecting every inch, she has to let it all fly.

I mulled over that all day. It really struck a cord with me. I DO check each inch – which is why my yarn is so fine.

So I asked myself – what if I went faster? I’d have to tinker with the wheel settings, but that’s what they are for, after all. It might just put more twist in the fiber, and I might get something a bit thicker. Tonight when I sat down at the wheel, I set everything a little faster.

BINGO!

I got more twist in the single, and it was consistantly thicker! Not only that, but I spun the whole ounce in a couple of hours with only a short break.

The difference in the two singles really showed up when I plied them. The second single was conciderably shorter and thicker, exactly what I’d hoped. Also the yarn had a really nice drape to it. It felt very balanced, not over twisted or under twisted. I got 90 yards by plying the end of the first skein with the end of the second.

I didn’t take a picture. I washed that skein right away.

Also I wanted to note that llama dries very quickly. A good breeze will dry out a skein in a couple of hours.

That mountain of fiber is starting to look more managable. LOL Looks like there are a dozen infinity scarves in my future.

Ho Ho Ho – Merry Christmas!

Llama Fiber Mega Stash


Digital Camera

As you can see, I’ve been busy processing the llama fiber I was given. The large brown crate on the floor is full to the brim with washed fiber that needs picked and carded. The white bags are full of unwashed fiber. The tilted crate is half full of Appalousa llama fiber, which appears to be free of guard hair. It’s all pure fluff. There are still two bags of fiber in the car. (gulp)

You can see I’ve got a huge task ahead of me. If I wasn’t itching for something to do, I’d be freaking out. It’s fairly easy to wash the fiber, though it’s full of dirt and bits of vegetation. Once it’s washed and rinsed, it dries into mats. I use conditioner to make it easier to pick, otherwise it developes a wicked case of static cling.

The mats can be broken up by hand, or with a picking machine. A picking machine is an ugly bed of nails that rips the fiber mats open. It will also give an unwary woman a masectomy, so it has to be used with caution. Once the mats are turned into fluff, the fiber can be carded either by hand or with a machine.

This week, I have washed one bag of fiber, the chestnut. The crate contains the bulk of it. I have carded 4 oz. I’ve spun all 4 ounces into 2 skeins. One skein is already half of an infinity scarf. The other skein is drying on the rack. Once it is dry, I’ll crochet the rest of the scarf.

Thus far, the appalousa llama is the most intreging fiber. It’s also very dirty. I thought one wash and rinse was enough, but I was wrong. This guy liked to wallow in clay dust. (shrug) No big deal, really.

I’m toying with the idea of dying some of the white. (BTW – appalousa is white with tan spots.) I’ve got lavender and turquois dyes that should really look good with the mottled fiber. Not sure about that yet, it might be entirely too time consuming for Christmas presents.

I’m also looking into Dragon speach to text software. I suspect I won’t have my hands free until summer. LOL

Confession of a New Obsession – Spinning


Foot kick spindle

I’ve always been a spinner of tales. Sometimes, I need something to do with my hands and my mind while I’m working on a story.

The usually thing is to play Spider or other game of solitare. However, after 4 novels, I’m utterly bored with card games. So I started crocheting about the same time I started working on ‘The Emissary.’

The trouble is that there really isn’t a lot of choice in yarn out there.

I wanted a red, white and blue yarn or a green and white yarn. Niether of which I was able to find.

And the selection of dark natural colors was also limited. I couldn’t find what I wanted at a price I could afford.

I started with a drop spindle kit from Amazon. Which got me looking for a local teacher. When I found one, I started looking for some local with wool.

I found that, too.

Then I found a Llama rescue organization.

It’s only taken a couple of weeks to get in this deep. Luckily I had sense enough to say no to the lovely person who offered me 2 fiber llamas.

It doesn’t take very long to get in over your head these days. Just type in a question on Google.

The llamas arrive in May.

LOL