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.

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