Category Archives: alpaca

The Blanket Project

Ginette and I decided to collaborate on a fibre arts project. She’s the weaver and I’m the spinner on this project. A client of hers wants a hand woven blanket that is white, soft and uses a good amount of local fibre. So we went out to Ann’s place. Ann has many sheep. Not only does she have many sheep, but she treats them well so their fibre is lovely, soft and top quality for spinning. We came away with these two bags of Ramboulette/Targhee cross. It’s 3.5 lbs and it’s already washed. BONUS. It is in two bags because the locks in one of the bags has the tips cut. Even better.
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Ginette has some wonderfully soft alpaca that she wants to use as the weft, so what I’ll be spinning is the warp. With that in mind, the first thing I sampled was combing it and spinning it worsted. The yarn that resulted was nearly perfect worsted yarn. Strong, lustrous, and smooth. But combing takes time and produces waste. I wanted to know if I could produce a worsted type yarn, but with a faster preparation technique, like a drum carder.

So the next experiment was to drum card the fibre and spin the batts worsted. Here’s my set-up for making carded batts. What you see below are my tools and equipment. From left to right are the brushes, doffers, carding board and drum carder.

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I get the fibre ready for the drum carder by teasing it on the carding board. Just a few passes with my hand cards and it’s ready for the big machine. See how it opens up the fibres and gets them ready for the drum carder? This saves tons of time. I used to this teasing lock by lock. It got rid of more straw and bits, but it took a lot of time.

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Once I have teased up about an ounce of fibre, I start putting it into the drum carder. Nice and slow. Little layers at a time. The fibre was so clean I only needed two passes on the drum carder.

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For that first sample using the carded preparation, I spun with a short forward draw (worsted) and smoothed the yarn as I went. I was aiming for the same thickness as the weft yarn.

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From top to bottom: 1) combed/short forward draw;  2) drum carded/short forward draw with more twist in the ply than in the next sample; 3) drum carded/short forward draw with less twist in the ply than sample 2; 4) drum carded/short forward draw but I let the twist into it, so it’s a modified woollen draft; the sample below the pen is drum carded/long draw. It was a bust – horribly uneven, but I included it the show and tell anyway.

blanket yarn 002Even though I was focused on making a worsted yarn because that’s what I thought was the best thing for warp – the woollen yarn that I made ended up being the yarn of choice.

While we like all the yarn produced, for this project we decided on sample 2 – the woollen sample. It is strong enough to be used as warp – but it’s light and soft, matching the weft yarn better than any of the other samples. It is also faster to spin than the other samples. BONUS. So I need to card and spin 900 yards of two-ply yarn. If I want a blanket of my own, I just need to spin up another 900 yards.

I think I’ll do just that.

 

Testing out some fibre

Here is some fibre – cria (baby alpaca) to be exact – that has been sitting in a bag in my laundry room for the last two, maybe even three years. That’s just crazy. Over the weekend I decided that I had to do something about it – spin it up or give it away.
The Backstory:
I’ve been on this de-junking spree lately getting rid of old magazines, clothing, household goods. It’s been making a difference and the house is looking tidy and much more spacious. I’ve also been semi-ruthlessly going through my fibre stash getting rid of things that I really don’t want, making better storage decisions about things I do want to keep. This cria (six bags like the one seen below) has been in my laundry room for a long while.
It was time to make a decision about this fibre so I took a bag of it onto the back porch and opened it. The staple are long, about 10 inches. The fibre was also full of VM – vegetable matter. It called for the combs. What’s seen below are the two test nests I combed. Each nest took four passes of the combs. The total weight of both nests is 11grams, and the total weight of the waste was 5 grams. That’s a lot of work to lose 50%. One strike AGAINST it.

Then I spun up these nests into a 2-ply yarn measuring 20 yds or 18 metres. You see it below. The first picture of the test skein is before it was washed. You can’t see any sheen and it looks decidedly creamy.

2014-05-19 07.10.36 This next photo is the skein washed up. The wash water looked like chocolate milk after the first wash. And here you see the sheen coming through. It’s really lovely stuff. A mark FOR.

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Despite the fact that it really is lovely fibre and spins up to be beautiful yarn, I made a difficult decision. At our annual guild “swap and shop” I gave it all away – for free. I don’t have a lot of time, and what time I have I don’t want to spend it on the amount of fibre preparation that this requires. I know the fibre folks who walked home with this fibre and it’s in good hands.

Now whenever I walk into the laundry room, I just see an empty space on the floor, and not a bag of fibre that gives me stabs of guilt.

100-Mile Skirt – Complete – the photo shoot

I started this project in October 2011. Inspired after a spinning workshop with Abby Franquemont, who had plans to make her own pair of jeans from hand woven fabric from her own hand spun cotton, I thought I could do something similar.
I was in love with the Claudia Evilla skirt. While a bit of a knitting marathon, it was an easy knit. I had made one already, knew that the style looked good on my shape, and knew roughly how much yarn it would take.
So I started. Through the course of 2011, 2012, and yikes, 2013 I blogged about it. I combed the alpaca, spun 4 sets of singles, plied the yarn and then plied it again to make a strong cabled yarn that could withstand the wear and tear that a skirt, especially the bottom, gets.
And then I started knitting. I ran out of yarn and had to go back to the combing, spinning, and plying. I combed all the alpaca I had, make all the yarn I could make and got back to knitting. And then I was stuck.
Stuck because I just didn’t have a good plan B if I ran out of yarn. Fast forward to late December 2013.  Local Yarn Store 88 Stitches hosted a KAL (knit along) on Ravelry to help us finish UFOHs (Unfinished Objects with Hope). Among the three things I listed, one of them was the 100-mile skirt.
And I finished it. All that worrying about plan B was all for naught. I ended up with a small ball of yarn about the size of a loonie, 8 metres to spare. 
And here are some photos of the finished, washed and worn skirt.  It is an incredibly warm skirt. And the fact that it requires a second layer under it because of the lace. . . . well, I’ll only be wearing it in January and February. We’re moving into a wee cold spell here in so I’ll wear it to work this week.
Here’s a photo of it being blocked.
After it mostly dried, I hung it over the stove to finish it off and to get the drape going.

The first time I wore it, it was full of static.  It bunched around my legs and drove me crazy.  I was so upset! After all that work and the damned thing is full of static!?!!

Then whilst in the laundry aisle looking for something to remove hair dye from upholstery, I saw something from my past called “Static Guard”.   INSTANTLY ELIMINATES STATIC CLING! was the claim. I bought it. And yes, it has saved me and my skirt from annoying static cling.

Ta-da!

I wore it yesterday to an event at 88 Stitches and was happily reminded about how much I love this skirt. It flows beautifully, is the perfect length, and yes, I have the satisfaction that I made the entire thing.