Alpaca Fleeces and Sammy the Cat

In the past week, I have purchased an amazing amount of fleece: over 2.25 pounds. I am still reeling from the experience and lapse in sanity. 

WHAT was I thinking? I’m not exactly sure, but I will try to communicate my train of thought.

My 1st attempt of spinning was from Corriedale roving that had been sitting in my cedar closet for about 5 years. The years had not been kind to it; time had compacted the fibers into a very flat disk. The roving measured approximately 4 inches in width. These two facts meant that I had to do a lot of pre-drafting. Additional drafting had to be done as it was being spun onto my Ashford spindle.

My 2nd and current attempt at spinning is from Shetland roving. This roving is soft and lofty. More importantly, it was carded into pencil roving, roving that is approximately 1 inch wide. My first thought when I received it was that I won’t have to do any pre-drafting. Wrong. I still do though it has been greatly reduced. Pre-drafting consists of just teasing the fibers further apart so that the yarn can be spun thinner than the initial carded 1-inch width.

These two wools have been great to work with as a beginner spinner. Yet, my favorite wool is alpaca. It’s heaven in your hands. My entire reason for spinning was so that I could eventually spin my own alpaca. There you have it: Reason #1.

Reason #2: If there is no amount of carding that can eliminate pre-drafting, why not skip the step altogether? Why not indeed. So, I did my research. Come to find out – it is possible to eliminate the carding process with certain fibers. Alpaca is one of those fibers that can be spun straight from the locks (sections pulled off of a fleece).

Reason #3: I love to take something and strip it down to the basics. In design work, I start with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. In gardening, I start with seeds or bulbs. Short of shearing the animal yourself, the closest I can get to the basics of wool is to purchase the fleece and start from scratch.

Reason #4: It’s Maple’s fault. She wooed me. I was browsing through her Etsy store to purchase yarn for my swap partner and I came across her listings for alpaca roving and raw fleece. Her description of Sunshine’s fleece grabbed my attention. “By the way, this fleece has hardly any vegetation in it. I am going to spin this without further preparation, like carding or combing. Because it is crimpy and long this is easily spun.”

So, my 1st purchase of raw alpaca fleece was from Maple of North Star Alpacas. Here are pictures of the raw fleece she sent me.

Sunshine

A lock of Sunshine: Do you see how it changes from cream to fawn and back to cream?

Polaris

On Sunday, I received a call from my local alpaca farmer. She invited me to come out and see the bounty from her latest shearing.

As I was walking towards her house on the farm, I was greeted by Sammy.

I heard Sammy’s greeting of Meow, Meow before I even saw him. Walking swiftly to me was an orange tabby cat. I knelt down to meet him and he bowed his head so I could scratch his ears. I spent the next several minutes taking photos of Sammy and petting him. What a sweet cat!

Show and Tell of Shearing

Though I had no plans to purchase anything more than a sampling of fibers totaling one pound. I came home with two pounds. What can I say? I have no will power.

Buddy, the blind alpaca, before any processing

Buddy after shaking (to remove the vegetation) and carding (to blend in the sun-dried tips)

Magnum whose fiber is red!

Dan commented that Magnum’s fiber looked eerily like my hair.

And more goodies starting from the top right and working clockwise: Cream alpaca blended with brown alpaca roving, Dark grey – almost black alpaca roving, undyed silk roving, and lastly brown alpaca roving.

Oh, yes, I have enough fiber and roving to last me for many months. I am NOT allowed to purchase anymore no matter how pretty it is.

Which begs the question, how am I coming along on that Shetland roving? Well, I still have 4 more ounces in my cedar closet, untouched. On the positive side, I am making mean work of the roving upstairs.

I LOVE my new spindle. It spins and spins. I highly recommend Jenkins Woodworking.