Washing Combed or Prepared Fibre

I was trying to spin some pre-prepared sheep’s wool recently, but it had been left full of its natural grease and was proving a nightmare to draft. A quick Google showed me how to wash raw fleece, but nothing mentioned fibre that had already been processed.

So an experiment was required. My research suggested that the best way to prevent felting was to put my fibre in a mesh laundry bag, to be doubly sure I tied a hair elastic around the top of the bag a few inches from the point where my fibre filled it. By doing this, I reckoned the fibre had less space to move and thus less likelihood of felting.

Now, the first wash required 3tbsp of shampoo – I used a citrus based one meant for greasy hair, because this sheep certainly had greasy hair. I also added a little conditioner; wool (like hair) can dry out and I didn’t know how hard wearing it would be.

I then filled the sink with water that was a little above lukewarm, it was the temperature I’d usually bath the dogs in, I imagine baby bath water is a similar temperature. I gently pushed the bag of fibre into the sink, and left it to soak. 20 minutes later, I gently pulsed the bag at the bottom of the sink and removed it by putting my hands under the fibre containing section of the bag, and set it aside. The water was an alarming yellow colour.

I drained the sink, and refilled with a little hair conditioner and slightly warmer water – I read somewhere about “temperature shock” being avoided by ensuring wool goes into warmer water than it left. When you remember that some methods of fulling yarn require a hot bath then a cold one, so the fibres cling to each other better, this makes a lot of sense.

It took four sinkfuls for my 100g of fibre to leave the water as clean as when it went in. I then hung the bag over the bath to drip-dry. Then, when it was no longer dripping, I gently pulled the fibre into hanks, lay them out on trays on the kitchen bench, and let them dry.

Well, let them mostly dry…I was impatient and took both the dry and the damp hanks and set to spinning. It was much easier, the fibres had been aligned by the pulling apart when wet, and the damp fibres clung to each other just enough to make drafting a dream. The resulting yarn was lofty and soft, and none of it had felted!

So, if you don’t like spinning greasy wool, or just want to dilute that farmyard smell some sheep fibre comes with, this should work!

How to prepare an Alpaca Fleece for Spinning

I was recently lucky enough to get a hold of a baby alpaca fleece. I was thrilled to open the bag and see this:

image

“So clean”, I thought, “almost no preparation required!”

Then I pulled it out, un-rolled the fleece and found this:

image

Vegetable matter, mud and some stuff I just didn’t want to think about…but then all babies make a mess, baby alpacas are no different! This is easily resolved, however, when you notice that the engrained muck is all at the ends of the locks.

image

Simply take a pair of scissors and cut the dirty tips off the locks. You should only lose a centimetre or so, and this doesn’t affect its ability to be spun.

The big twigs, leaf litter and such that are caught in the fleece just pull out by hand. Be pretty thorough with this. Small bits of leaf and dust will just fall out when you are drafting, but bigger ones can ruin the look of your yarn if they end up in your final product and ruin your finger if you accidentally spin a splinter into yourself, learn from my mistake there!

Now you’re ready to go! No washing required, alpaca doesn’t have the grease that sheep’s wool does. Also, the softness makes it felt too easily, so just wash the finished yarn.

This process takes a while, it took me 45 minutes to process about 150g of raw fleece. However, the fibre is soft and wonderful, but grippy enough when spun from the fleece that even a beginner like me can manage it.

How to prepare an Alpaca Fleece for Spinning

I was recently lucky enough to get a hold of a baby alpaca fleece. I was thrilled to open the bag and see this:

image

“So clean”, I thought, “almost no preparation required!”

Then I pulled it out, un-rolled the fleece and found this:

image

Vegetable matter, mud and some stuff I just didn’t want to think about…but then all babies make a mess, baby alpacas are no different! This is easily resolved, however, when you notice that the engrained muck is all at the ends of the locks.

image

Simply take a pair of scissors and cut the dirty tips off the locks. You should only lose a centimetre or so, and this doesn’t affect its ability to be spun.

The big twigs, leaf litter and such that are caught in the fleece just pull out by hand. Be pretty thorough with this. Small bits of leaf and dust will just fall out when you are drafting, but bigger ones can ruin the look of your yarn if they end up in your final product and ruin your finger if you accidentally spin a splinter into yourself, learn from my mistake there!

Now you’re ready to go! No washing required, alpaca doesn’t have the grease that sheep’s wool does. Also, the softness makes it felt too easily, so just wash the finished yarn.

This process takes a while, it took me 45 minutes to process about 150g of raw fleece. However, the fibre is soft and wonderful, but grippy enough when spun from the fleece that even a beginner like me can manage it.