Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fiber Prep Day

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...


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Where have you been?

I can't believe I haven't posted since June 6th!!! Well, we spent a week in Colorado at Horncreek Family Camp. What a blast that was! We went river rafting, 4 wheeling, out to see the sand dunes (yes, there are sand dunes in the middle of the mountains in Colorado), went down into an old volcano, went water sliding and so much more. If you are interested in a fantastic family camp, check them out.

After we got back, we began serving all week at our church's Vacation Bible Extreme. What a blast! If you haven't checked out the VBX at Chase Oaks Church in Plano, you're missing something! I got to lead worship with my beautiful daughter and my oldest son ran the tech for the older kids. My youngest got to enjoy everything VBX has to offer. The most amazing thing happens, though. By blessing others (ie. the kids), I always find that it is I who is blessed the most. Thank you, Jesus.

We did manage to have our Thursday fiber gathering last week. What fun that was! Kazuko brought three more friends with her... Hisayo, Mihoko and Hikari. Welcome! We had a blast getting to know each of you!

My daughter worked on the knitting machine, making baby blankets for Medical City of Dallas. She was able to complete two blankets on Thursday and later completed another two! Way to go!

While Kazuko and her friends were busy spinning and plying their yarn, Donna and Iris were busy with their knitting.

This picture is what Donna is working on. She needs to use magnifying glasses to see all of the intricate work. She uses extremely small needles to work with...even smaller than toothpicks!

I sure wish you could see this better. Iris makes the most GORGEOUS scarves! This is a picture of what she is working on now. She has a wonderful knack for mixing yarns to bring out the most beautiful colors. I can't wait to see this one completed!

Poor Anna didn't get much accomplished. She spent most of the day helping others...including ME! Anna is our resident expert on crochet. I've decided I'm going to make a hobo bag, much like one my daughter purchased. I haven't crocheted in YEARS (more than you can imagine) so I needed some hand holding through this. :o)

As always, after coming back from vacations, there is lots of yard work to be done. We have spent this week trimming trees and bushes. The gardening is beginning to pay off, as well. I've already gotten quite a few tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. No cucumbers or poblano peppers yet. But, there is always tomorrow...

PS. Here is a picture of our 2009 babies! Look how big they've gotten!