A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 25, 2009

A Small Fiber Distraction

Inca's The Llama's Fleece  - Washed

Inca's The Llama's Fleece - Washed

While looking for a document on my computer the other day I came across some instructions for washing alpaca fleece that I had kept from a couple of years ago.  Usually we don’t wash our fleeces before sending them to processing.  Often when I prepare alpaca fleece for hand spinning I don’t wash the fleece until after the yarn is processed, but I tend to use the cleaner fleeces for hand spinning projects.

The article I had kept had piqued my interest when I read it.  I know that prior to preparing sheep’s wool for spinning washing the fleece is a must in order to remove the lanolin from it.  As alpacas don’t have lanolin in their fleece that is not an issue with alpaca fleece.  Still that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t wash alpaca fleece prior to processing for fiber arts projects at home and the article had some points on what to do and (probably more importantly) what not to do.

I have one alpaca fleece in mind to wash, that of our black alpaca Queen, but I thought that before I tried my hand at washing fleece that I really wanted to use for a specific project, perhaps I should find some other fleece to practice on first.

Down in our shearing area are several bags of llama fleece from shearing customers who just didn’t want to take the fleece with them.   I hate to see all of that fleece just thrown away, some admittedly was not the best or is too laden with vegetable matter to be useable, but other llama fleeces had a nice soft hand and were relatively clean.  Those llama fleeces make good candidates for experiment and I will probably get something nice as a result too!

Looking over the llama fleeces I decided to first try one of our own.  Our silver gray llama Inca has a lovely soft fleece in a pretty color (that’s her fleece in the picture) so I pulled out an amount of blanket fleece from her bag and off to the kitchen I went.

Before anyone starts to get concerned about the hygiene of washing fleeces in the kitchen sink I have to explain that our house has two kitchens.  One we use as our food kitchen.  The other is used for our alpaca medical supplies and various craft projects.  This second kitchen is large and has a large center pedestal making it a great work area.  I love having the two kitchens and if we were ever to think of moving I am afraid I would want to kitchens in the next house too!

The llama fleece washing commenced and the first step involved setting the fleece in hot water that had either shampoo or a soap such as Dawn dish soap or Orvus.    I have a lovely soap that I use for washing my fiber arts projects and so I decided to use that.  You should have seen the color of that water!  It was a lovely shade of Clovis orange (courtesy of the fine red sand in our area).  I was amazed at how much dirt came out, so amazed that I decided I had better repeat that step just to make sure all the dirt was removed.

The rest of the process went smoothly; I did find that some of the fiber felted a little.  Perhaps I had a little variation in the water temperature, or perhaps I had too much fleece in the water at one time.  Next time I think I will try the process in cold water just to see how different the results are.

So now I have a nice quantity of washed llama fleece sitting on the work surface in the big kitchen.  I have already decided that I am going to use my five point English combs on the fleece to produce roving.  From there my intention is to make some felted balls that can be used as cat toys, but… if that roving looks really nice when I have finished it then I may just have to spin it into yarn.  On that note excuse me while I go off to the kitchen to play whoops I really meant work on that fleece.

Rosemary

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