Five Bags Full

In a previous post I said I was contacting a farmer about getting some alpaca fleece. Well this weekend our new tent arrived so me and Dave decided to go camping on the lake near where the farmer lived. On Sunday afternoon we met the farmer at his beautiful house right on Lough Derravaragh. First of all he brought us into the field to meet the alpaca. They had just been sheared on Friday and were looking pretty silly. They're quite small fellas and very cute. They came over to see us, apparently they're quite inquisitive and they weren't scared. He says he keeps them for interest and to scare the foxes away from the sheep when they're lambing. They chase foxes and predators away. He started with two and there are now five of them.

We ended up buying five fleeces from the five alpaca he had. This included a baby alpaca fleece. It's soft, crimpy, lovely and seems to be really good quality. There are two white ones and the others are lovely orange/brown colours. He showed us a lovely throw and cushion he had made by a spinner from the fleece. They were so soft and warm, it must be lovely to be warmed by a throw made from your own alpaca fleece. In the picture you can see some of the locks.

So today I set to work processing the fleece. I took a small amount to run through the process and see if there were any problems with it. I don't want to ruin a whole load of it or make lots of work for myself so I did a trial run. Some people spin alpaca as is without washing first. I decided not to. Alpaca like to roll in the dust and you don't know what they've been rolling in and I didn't want dust all over the place and getting into the bearing of my wheel.

I emptied one fleece out on a big bag and started sorting through it. I took out any obvious dirty bits and put handfuls of locks into a bucket. I then picked at the locks and took off any short bits and dirt. There wasn't so much dirt which is great. I put them into laundry bags and then soaked the bags in hot soapy water for fifteen minutes. The water got pretty dirty and grey. I then rinsed the bags in clean water.

After this I squeezed the bags in a towel before taking the fleece out and putting it on a towel on a rack to dry. For the next go I'll probably just put the locks directly into the laundry bags. I think I'll get a load more laundry bags and wash a load of fleece in the bath. Hopefully I can get them all clean and dry so that I can store it away until it's time to spin them.

I think you can expect to hear a lot more about alpaca fibre preparation and spinning in the next while. I think all this fleece should keep me busy for some time to come.

13 Responses to "Five Bags Full" (Leave A Comment)

eddie says
June 22, 2009 at 1:40 PM

How many jumpers worth of wool do you reckon you'll have? Can I commission a jumper!?

Bionic Laura says
June 22, 2009 at 2:11 PM

I don't know yet. Probably a few. You can commission a hat for a start. I'm still scared of spinning enough for a jumper!

Iamreddave says
June 22, 2009 at 2:19 PM

Very weird animal. Hard to imagine them in the throws of sexual passion. Thanks to the internet you don't have to imagine anymore...

Sinéad says
June 24, 2009 at 11:29 AM

I know you said they looked poodly when shorn, but those guys are hilarious. Particularly the "socks". Ha! Having had a squeeze of the yarn first hand after spinning I must say it's delicious. Enjoy!

Mimiko says
June 26, 2009 at 10:30 AM

This is interesting! I'd love to see the spinning process.

Kuri says
June 26, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Thanks for showing us how it's going. I recently got two fleeces from my sister and didn't know how to prepare them, so I'm glad to see this link.

Soma drugstore says
June 28, 2009 at 8:03 PM

What kind of product are you making? I'm interested! contact me!

marlo says
June 30, 2009 at 7:06 AM

i just had my llama sheared and am planing on spinning his fleece. I am new to cleaning my own fleece and want to make sure I do it correct. Thanks for showing us how. The hot water bath doesnt "felt" the wool at all??

Luke McKinney says
June 30, 2009 at 7:40 AM

Looking forward to the evolution of the alpaca. Well done on getting all Craftzined up as well, keep going!

Bionic Laura says
July 1, 2009 at 4:45 AM

Hi everyone who commented. I have another post about how to get the washed fleece ready for spinning coming up.

@marlo The hot water won't felt the wool if you are very careful not to agitate the fleece at all. Handle it very gently. Also the water should all be at the same temperature. So the rinse water is the same temp as the washing water.

For the latest batch of fleece that I cleaned I used cold water. It seemed to work just as well and no danger of felting. I just left the fleece to soak in detergent for a while and that got most of the dust and stuff out.

Leigh says
July 18, 2009 at 6:53 AM

this is possibly the coolest creature I have ever seen! how cute!

seahorse says
September 5, 2009 at 2:04 AM

I have 4 Alpaca boys and their fleeces now to make something useful out of. They are washed and ready to card, I have borrowed a spinning wheel and cant wait to get going, this winter I will be sat spinning in front of the fire watching tv! Ok not that traditional! Need a jumper, it gets cold over here.. the Isle of Man.

kneehigh says
October 28, 2009 at 2:10 PM

This post is so inspiring!! Loved reading it and looking forward to hearing more.