When a friend of mine gave me this free alpaca fleece, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was so excited because I have heard about getting a fleece and making yarn but never imagined that I would get that chance.
After asking for lots of advice, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Luckily a friend came over to help me. We washed the fleece in plastic tubs in my bath tub. I was back breaking work and was pretty nasty. The water was so filthy that it looked like chocolate milk. We plucked out as much veggie matter as we could. When we finally got it clean (the water was pretty clear), we laid it out in the sun on sheets in the middle of my yard. I looked at this mess of stuff and wondered how in the world it would ever become yarn!
When it got dark, I brought the mostly dried fleece into my house and let it sit and air out for a few more days. After buying hand carders, I began to card the fleece and it was exciting to watch them turn into fluffy white balls of fiber. Another friend lent me a drum carder so I could see how that worked.
Before I carded all the fiber, I decided I would try dying some the fiber and see how it turned out. Then later I would spin some of the raw fiber in yarn first and then dye the yarn. After doing this, I would decide which process I liked best.
Here is what I did to dye the fiber:
1. I soaked three 1 oz. of alpaca fiber for 30 minutes in separate pots of water.
2. In three separate plastic cups, I mixed 2 c. of water, 6 T of vinegar, and two easter egg dye tablets (blue in one, red in another, and green in one).
3. After 30 min. I moved 1 oz. of fiber into a glass microwaveable bowl and poured the blue liquid in it. Then I covered it in saran wrap and microwaved it on high for 3 min. When it was done, it wasn’t enough so I cooked it for 3 more minutes. Still not enough, so I let it cool for 5 minutes and then put it in for 3 more minutes. More cooling and I had to cook it again for 3 more minutes. (Later I found out that after heating it for about 2 times, I could have let it set overnight to soak in the dye. I will try this technique another time.)
5. Then I took it out in the back yard to dry on a wooden clothes dryer.
After it was dry, I ran it through the drum carder and decided to spin it up into yarn. I like the way it turned out. The yarn is so soft. Since it is 100% alpaca, I’m sure it is going to be very warm so I will make either a hat or cowl out of this yarn.
Original photos by Pat Hensley