Truth be told, with the activities at the end of the school year and the running around getting things ready for the six-week summer holidays from school, I haven't really been getting on with knitting, crocheting or spinning. I have got a couple of projects on the needles that I'll show you in a day or two, but I wanted to show you something different today :)
A few weeks ago, my sister phoned me. "I've got a bag of alpaca fleece in the boot of my car for you" she said. "Remind me to give it to you the next time I see you". In the event, the next time I saw her, she didn't have the bag of alpaca in her boot as she'd had to take it out to make room for something else and it hadn't got put back in. I've got it now though - my parents dropped it off the week before last.
When she said 'a bag', I assumed she meant a supermarket carrier bag full. No. It's a potato sack full of the fleece from an alpaca named Hurricane. I reckon there's a few kilos of fleece in there. Hurricane's owner is a chap who's a client of my sister's gym (sis re-trained as a sports injury masseuse and has added other strings to her bow and now does other therapies as well as personal training) and when she found out he had alpacas, sis told him that I've got a spinning wheel and, well, things led on from there. The 'deal' is that if I make Hurricane's owner something (I said a hat to start with because I didn't know how successful I'd be and how much of the fleece I'd end up ruining/wasting).
Here's a bag of the fleece:
That's as it came from Hurricane, complete with dirt, grit and bits of vegetable matter.
I read up on the internet and most people advise spinning the fibre and then washing the resulting yarn, although some people prefer to wash the fleece first. I went with the first option and used my drum carder to make a batt of around 45g:
I'm hoping that it'll wash up ok. I'm going to make a 3-ply yarn which should be sport or DK weight. Truth be told, as alpaca's warmer than sheep-wool, I don't want to go much thicker than DK otherwise the hat will run the risk of being too hot. I've got in mind Mimi Hill's latest hat pattern but if the yarn comes out more 4ply than DK then I'll have a re-think. I'm not that worried as this is a bit of a steep learning curve for me. I've used my drum carder to blend fibres, but not to prepare from 'raw' and as the only alpaca I've spun was a silk blend, I don't know how (or if) the yarn will bloom once washed.
I also put some of the fibre into a mesh bag and put it on a wool wash in my machine. It's currently hanging on the garden gate, drying so I'll see in a couple of hours if it's felted and if it's ok, I might hand-card that (there's only about 20g) and see how it spins up compared to the 'dirty' fibre. In the meantime, I've got a pair of tweezers to hand and stop spinning to pick out any bits that didn't drop out when I shook the fibre and then carded it.
I'm going to leave this yarn as its natural colour. Partly because I've only dyed with food colouring (which tends to fade) and partly because I think for this first effort it's the right thing to do. My in-laws recently moved house and I've been given two saucepans they no longer wanted (stainless steel ones) so as I don't need both of them, I might keep one and buy some acid dyes (I bet that'll go down a storm with hubby :D ).
I have to say that I'm having a fair amount of fun with this :) I'm just not going to look at the state of the house today, especially as DD2 has been left to her own devices for most of the morning......