Friday, October 20, 2006

Spinning a fine alpaca yarn...

As I mentioned earlier, my sister gifted me with a gorgeous slate grey alpace blanket to spin. Thanks to Michigan grey days, I haven't been able to get a decent picture of the raw fiber. However, those same grey, rainy days gave me a good excuse to stay inside and play with the fiber. There's about 2.5 lbs. of fiber in the blanket. I'm not sure how much to subtract for alpaca before processing since there's no grease, but plenty of dust.

The fiber in the blanket is somewhat variegated from a silver to charcoal. There are dark tips on the longer fibers. Staple length ranges from 3.5-5". The fiber is very soft, I doubt it's "baby alpaca", but I would bet that it's a pretty young animal. The fiber is sound and there is a faint crimp from cut end to about 2" in on the fiber. My guess from the loft of the fiber is that these are huacaya alpaca.

I washed a good handful of the fleece in dish washing liquid, maintaining fiber alignment, then laid them out to dry overnight. The next day I used the Forsyth 2 pitch handcombs and pulled the fiber into sliver from the combs. The yarn was spun on the Schacht Matchless wheel, using scotch tension and a 9:1 ratio whorl. Drafting was worsted, short draw. The singles was plied using the same ratio.

Below is the two ply alpaca yarn before washing. The shank of a T-pin is used for size comparison in the photo. As you can see, it's pretty fine, but I thought it might full out in washing.

Below is the same yarn after washing in warm water and allowed to lay flat to dry. The yarn on the left is commercially spun Alpaca With A Twist - Fino yarn, which is laceweight. I don't see much difference in the grey handspun alpaca from the before washing photo. Without pulling out the McMorran balance, and from comparison with the commercial laceweight yarn, I'd guess that the alpaca yarn is closer to gossamer than laceweight.

And here's what it looks like knitted up in a couple repeats of "Print of the Wave" pattern. The dime is for size comparison. The whole piece is knitted from only two combs full of yarn.

I don't think I'll process the whole 2.5 lbs. like that. But it would only take about 6 oz. spun like this to make enough for a nice stole or shawl.

As is often the case, I like the handspun yarn better than the two different commercial alpaca laceweight yarns I've been knitting with. I'm not saying that my handspun yarn is perfect, but it seems to be more lively and has more character. And that's what keeps me spinning my wheels.


  1. Anonymous4:55 PM

    That swatch is GORGEOUS!!! I can easily imagine a shawl out of that yarn.

  2. Anonymous10:26 PM

    Glad you're enjoying your fleece. It came from this farm. take a look!
    the swatch is beautiful Val.

  3. As usual, I am very impressed with your gorgeous gossamer spinning. I loved the description of the alpaca fiber and how you are working with it. Cant' wait to see some photos. And you used combs! Very exciting as I have some alpaca and want something else to try on my new combs.

  4. Lovely! I have alpaca fever again and a fleece with my name on it.

  5. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Hi Valerie- Thanks for leaving the helpful comment over at my blog! (I don't know your email address, so I'm just responding here- sorry!) Layering fine singles with tissue paper while spinning is great- I've used it in the past, but always seem to forget to put in the tissue. I've also had good luck using low-tack tape to "reclaim" a lost end the one time it got buried on me.

  6. Oh my! That is beautiful.

  7. Wow! That is gorgeous yarn and the sample is lovely. I still haven't done anything with the alpaca I bought this spring. Maybe I'll try combing.

    Oh, I downloaded the new ebook and thought the name sounded familiar! I didn't see the card insert though.


tie in the loose ends...