From washed fleece to spun yarn

I think this is the funniest picture ever. So cute and look at his funny hair! I'm still busily washing alpaca fleece. I decided to wash the second batch of it in cold water which worked fine to get it clean and it ensured that the fleece didn't felt.

I had kept the locks intact when I washed the fleece so the technique I used to prepare these for spinning is flick carding. In flick carding you grab hold of a lock, hold it by the end and brush out the end of the lock to open it up and make it fluffy. Then you turn it around and brush the end you were holding. This keeps all the fibres parallel and is good for spinning worsted yarns.

I then made rolags using the rest of the fleece using hand cards. A rolag is cigar shaped roll of fibre that has been separated and straightened out by the hand carders. I had tried making rolags before and they didn't turn out too well. I think raw fleece is much easier to make rolags from.

First you charge the carder by putting the fibre on it. The fibre is all over the place at first. Then you brush the fibre by drawing one carder over the other. Keep doing this until it's all looking lined up like in the second picture. Then I transferred from one carder to the other. The Joy of Handspinning website explains this really well and has handy videos too. Then you roll the fibres into a sausage shape. The fibre gets all separated and airy when you do this.

I made a basket of rolags and then spun them on my spinning wheel. Rolags are best for spinning using the long draw technique. There's a good video of it here on youtube. It's cool that a new technology like the net and youtube is used for teaching old techniques like spinning. Anyway long draw looks kinda like magic. I tried it before using the rolags I had made that weren't great. Because the rolags weren't good I couldn't get the hang of long draw at all. The thread kept breaking and I couldn't get enough twist in.

This time with the proper rolags long draw clicked for me. Now the single wasn't the most consistent and it wanted to get very very thin but it did mostly hold together without breaking so I'm getting enough twist in. I need more practice but at least I can do it. It's a very fast technique so it's worth sticking with learning it just for that. With a bit more practice I should be able to do it so that I get the thickness I want in the single. Long draw produces a woolen style yarn which is a lovely light lofty yarn with a bit of fuzz and halo to it. It seems to suit the alpaca really well.

I decided while I was learning new things I might as well try plying this yarn differently than usual. So I navajo plied it. This is a funky technique where you can make a three ply yarn from a single by sort of chaining the yarn while you put the plying twist in. I love plying yarn and this technique makes me like it even more as it's so much fun. Kinda like crochet with a spinning wheel.

Anyway after all that it's time for some shots of the finished yarn. It's just a first test skein so it's got it's wonky bits. It's very soft and fuzzy. It might make nice hand warmers or something. I've been learning loads since I got this fleece. Probably much more than I would if I'd just kept buying prepared roving. I wouldn't have had to learn how to use the hand cards and I would probably have just given up on learning long draw. I'm looking forward to learning more and ending up with lots of lovely alpaca yarn.

Though this post would be a good addition to fiber arts friday run by the lovely Alpaca Farm Girl. Check out her blog for even more cute photos of alpacas.

PS: I'm away on my holidays for the next two weeks so I'll see you all when I get back.

6 Responses to "From washed fleece to spun yarn" (Leave A Comment)

Sinéad says
July 3, 2009 at 4:58 AM

That yarn looks great, and really good explanations too. Looking forward to seeing your handwarmers!
Have a great holiday!

Iamreddave says
July 3, 2009 at 5:11 AM

Rolags scare me. They are like a cloud has pooed or something.

fiberdance says
July 3, 2009 at 7:46 AM

your yarn looks great-I too like to make rolags but mostly from wool-haven't tried alpaca yet. I like the easy storage of rolags in a basket or a plastic bin. I find them the easiest for me to spin from. Have a great holiday.

Alpaca Farmgirl says
July 4, 2009 at 9:15 AM

Thank you for sharing all this information with us at Fiber Arts Friday. I NEED it. As a wannabee spinner this gives me some ideas on how some of it could be made easier for me.

I will bookmark this and come back to it for sure. Awesome! (and I love the paca pic too!)

Bionic Laura says
July 4, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Thanks for the comments guys. I hope the explanations are useful. When I first started spinning I was confused by all the terms so it's nice to collect them into one post.

As well I think all the posts about the alpaca fiber should have an alpaca at the start. They're such cute animals.

in2soap says
July 4, 2009 at 8:29 PM

I am just renewing an old interest of mine and here you are....awesome. You're yarn looks super to my novice eyes. Tx.