I got my hands on some beautiful alpaca fiber. It came from a lovely alpaca named Dalma who I’m sure was happy to enjoy her summer with a fancy hair cut. I agreed to spin Dalma’s blanket (a sheep’s wool is called a fleece, an alpaca’s fiber is called a blanket) for her owner in exchange for keeping some for myself. This was a huge project and I wanted to document it in a video series (also a huge project!). Keep reading to learn how I took Dalma’s alpaca fiber from farm to yarn!
The first thing I had to do was wash the fiber. The fiber that came to me was lovely and well skirted. That means most of the icky bits were removed and all that was left was the good stuff to spin. However, like all alpacas, Dalma was dusty. I have found the best way to wash an alpaca fleece is in my washing machine. It has the capacity to hold a large quantity of water and there is no concern of greasy lanolin when dealing with alpaca fiber. Don’t put your fiber in the washing machine on a spin cycle though or you could felt it! Just let it soak. If you have a particularly dirty blanket, a squirt of dawn dish detergent is all you need. Check out my complete washing and drying process in this video
Once the fiber was washed and dry, I had to get it ready for spinning. Since Dalma’s fiber was fairly short stapled, about 3 inches, I was able to use a woolen preparation. Through my years of spinning, I have used different methods to prepare alpaca to spin. First I hand picked it into a cloud preparation. Next I demonstrate how I use my hand cards to make mini batts out of the alpaca fiber. Finally, I used a drum carder to create roving or narrow batts to spin from. Check it out in detail by watching how I card the fiber!
The way I spin from cloud, hand carded batts, or drum carded roving is mostly the same. I spin it woolen. But there are some subtle differences in how I am able to draw out the fiber before winding it on to the bobbin. I spun the fiber from each type of preparation and showed the differences including how to reattach the fiber to a single that drafts too thin. Watch how I spin the fiber!
Amazing! The fiber is all spun up! Now what? Plying the singles together will create a durable and lofty yarn. That’s just what I did. I plied the singles together from two separate bobbins and from a center pull ball. Check out my tips and demonstration to make sure your plied yarn comes out nice and balanced in the 4th video.
Wow! We have made it so far! But don’t stop now. The fiber isn’t finished until it has been taken off the bobbins, washed, counted, measured, and tagged. Tags are so important because they will tell you how much material you have to work with. They are especially essential if your yarn is going into your stash to wait for the perfect project. You might not remember how many yards are in each skein a month or two later. Check out my process for tagging yarn and also watch my step by step instructions to calculate my yardage from my niddy-noddy in video #5.
There it is! The spinning is complete, the skeins are washed and tagged. They are now ready to use in a special project. This was a great project. I’m so thankful I was able to share it with you fiber friend and I hope you enjoyed it! So…what should I work on next?
9 thoughts on “How to Spin Alpaca – From Farm to Yarn!”
Thank you for sharing your skills! I love to knit and some day would love to learn to do what you just did!!
Thank you so much for this. I have about 40 pounds of alpaca fiber I purchased from a co-op which was very sadly going out of business so this is great information for me. Your posts and videos are always so helpful and inspiring.
If you wash the wool before spinning do you need to wash it again after spinning?
Most spinners do so they can set the twist of their yarn. I personally don’t consider the spin finished until I’ve washed it.
Is there an alternative way to wash the fleece that you could suggest to those of us with front-loading washers?
A large kettle will work. Just be sure not to agitate it too much.
Amazing videos. You are very talented and I love all your videos. I’ll never complain about the cost of hand-spun yarn ever again!
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