Monday, 12 January 2015


An update on what I'm working on:

What I'm most excited about at the moment is some alpaca fiber. I bought some brown alpaca at the Fiber Expo in the fall.

Off the top of my head, I think it's the fleece on the right. Both brown are alpaca. I've now washed all of these fleece. The original plan was to blend the alpaca with some wool to knit a sweater. I don't want it to be 100% fleece for two reasons. 1. Alpaca is warmer than wool and I don't really want to make the sweater so warm that I can't wear it much. 2. Alpaca doesn't have the elasticity that wool does. If I made a sweater of it, it would droop over time and get out of shape.

I do have some brown wool that I can blend with it. It is also brown (Border Leicester), but a darker shade. Blending the two would, in theory, give a color between the two.

Looking at the shorter staple length of the alpaca and knowing I wanted to blend the fibers, I got some cards.
Alpaca on wool carder

Alpaca removed from wool carder

I didn't mind the process of carding. It's pretty simple and does work. I wasn't excited about the rolags I got. I like spinning worsted from top or roving. I didn't like that I had no length along the direction of the fiber. It carded the alpaca well enough but, considering the length difference between the alpaca and Border Leicester, they didn't seem to want to blend well.

I did take the rolags, rolled from one end of the card to the other, so that the fibers would remain straight and aligned, and pulled to try to end up with something similar to roving. That's when I discovered that it wasn't blended all that well. Perhaps I just need more practice.  I took to combing wool quickly and like the results I got, so that will remain my preferred method of processing washed wool.

You can see the lighter alpaca and darker wool being blended

My friend bright over a drum carder that she had rented. I thought I might like that better as I'd get something that has a length equal to the circumference of the larger drum. I could split that more easily into something similar to roving and it might be better to spin. I was right.

We ran the fiber through the carder 3 times and ended up with a nice looking batt. We did have to adjust as we went as we weren't sure how much fiber we could put on the drum carder. In the end, we had two batts with different fiber ratios. One is close to 50:50. The other is roughly 75% alpaca.

You can see the color difference between the two batts. The one on the left is 50:50, and possibly not blended quite as it could be. The one on the right is 70ish % alpaca.

The thing that bothers me about the drum carder is the amount of waste. I did get a fair amount of waste with the combs, but this seemed like even more.

I've now spun and (Navajo) plied both of these batts.

75% alpaca on the left, 50:50 on the right
I think the 50:50 could have been better blended. It spun reasonably well. I enjoyed spinning the 75% alpaca better. The next step is to knit swatches to see which I like better. I think one more thing I want try is spinning singles of the alpaca and wool separately and plying the two different singles. I'm not sure if I want to do one ply of each or two alpaca and one wool or two wool and one alpaca. I'll probably try each.

I've now rented a drum carder for the month. I just need to finish figuring out how I want to process the rest of the alpaca. Once I get that figured out, I'll be able to finish processing the fiber.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Sand art

This was an idea I got from my sister-in-law.  My girls were playing at her house on Thursday and she had taken a tray, painted the bottom and put some sand in it. They drew in the sand with a stiff bristled paint brush.

I had been given this tray as part of a house warming gift. I could have left the bottom unpainted, but I thought the girls would like some color. If I had known how the finest bits in the sand lightened the paint, I would have gone with a darker color. I did have painter's tape so I used that to tape the sides to keep them paint free.

Cordelia asked me to write her name. Then she asked for mine, then Valerie's, then Daddy's. I then drew a heart. She said "Draw my heart. My heart very big!" That made this worth the work to paint it right there.

The girls have been having fun playing with it. The problem with this sand tray is the holes for the handles. The sand likes to exit there. I tried putting packing tape over them, but it didn't stay stuck. I still need to come up with a solution for this. I could put the painter's tape over it, but that wouldn't look very nice.

One of the nice things about this project is that it was inexpensive. The tray we had, the paint is just craft paint. I bought the big one as I didn't think one of the small ones would be enough, so the paint was almost $2. The sand is the fine craft sand, so it was originally $7 for a bag. I had a 50% off coupon, so it was only $3.50. This is a small portion of the bag, which is good because I suspect we will have to add to it somewhat regularly. I also used paint brushes that we already had. The bristles aren't as stiff as the ones that my SIL had, but they work.