It's been long overdue! My friend, Marie Little, of "The Little Alpaca Ranch", came over and held me accountable on getting my fiber prepared for spinning...well, at least the first step in getting it prepared.
The first step, which I didn't even get a picture of (darn!), is to lay the fleece out on a skirting table. We need to identify where the neck and tail end are. Then, we take out all of the pieces around the leg area, the neck area, and tail area that are full of dirt and debris. It's not worth cleaning all of the really dirty parts. Then, we look for rough, coarse hairs that are not the same softness as the rest of the fleece. We take that out, too. Then we look for second cuts. These are the cuts that the shearer makes when he's gone back a second time across the alpacas body with the shears. They are really short pieces that are not worth using for yarn. Lastly, we try to pick out all of the "guard hairs". These are kind of like little pieces of our gray hair that are straight and wirey. In fabric, sweaters of other clothing next to our skin, they make our skin itch, so we want to take those out, too. We try to select breedings to our alpacas so there is little to no guard hair on the blanket. Its cuts down on the work! :o)
The next phase is washing the fleece. All we use is big 'ole tubs of water with some very gentle detergent to help lift out the dirt. We let it soak for awhile, then drain it, soak again, and drain again. Then we put it in another tub of clear rinse water.
We had a washing machine go out on us this year. Nothing worked, except for the spin cycle. BONUS! I got a brand, spankin' new washing machine and a spin cycle outside for my fiber preparations! Yipee! This old washing machine really helped out when we needed to drain the water out of the fleece in between washings and the rinsing. What a blessing on both my back and my hands!
After all that is done, we place the cleaned fleeces on a drying rack. This nifty piece of equipment was picked up by a friend of mine at a local grocery store. It is used for drying clothing...unless you live on an alpaca ranch! Then, it's the perfect piece of equipment for drying fleece! Tee hee!
Well, now you've gotten a glimpse into the BEGINNING of the process for making yarn. There is still so much more to go, though. Another day, another day. I'll just hold you in suspense...