Alpaca Revisited

A Yarn Left Behind~

Alpaca single

Alpaca single

During a vacation to visit home and relatives, I made a side trip to a local fiber mill.  I bought some soft white Alpaca roving.  The plan was to spin a nice yarn, and knit a scarf for my mother.  Once I had a bobbin about half full, I asked her what color she would like it dyed.  She chose a color I already had in a prepared Alpaca top.  I decided to abandon this yarn in favor of spinning the top and skip the whole mess of dying.  Many months later I’m finishing this abandoned yarn.  

Alpaca roving. The fibers are crossed like a web

Alpaca roving. The fibers are crossed like a web

The first thing I notice is the difference between roving and top.  I’m accustomed to spinning “top”.  I mostly spin a worsted type of yarn which top is great for.  All the fibers aligned and flowing together, and it’s easy to take apart to spin in sections.  This Alpaca is prepared as a roving, and it’s fibers are crossed like a web.  Spinning this roving is quite different from what I’m accustomed.  While I want this yarn to be soft, I don’t really want a woolen yarn that’s prone to pill.  I want the yarn to be fine and soft but resilient.  Alpaca lacks the “memory” and elasticity of wool, and I don’t want the finished product to sag out of shape.  So I make do with what I have, and it’s turning out nice.

Drafting triangle

Drafting triangle

The first bobbin was nearly half full when I abandoned it.  That doesn’t sound like much, but this yarn is fairly fine.  I find a small amount of pre-drafting goes a long way, as I’m able to pick out the vegetable matter as I go along.  There’s more of it than I’m accustomed to dealing with 🙁 .  Alpaca needs a surprising amount of twist for its staple length.  It may look perfect, but one little tug and it will pull apart.  I’ve learned to give it both extra twist and lessen the “take up” tension a touch.  

A glimpse of what the finished two ply yarn will look like.

A glimpse of what the finished two ply yarn will look like.

By folding a length of the single ply yarn in half, it twists around itself.  This gives me a good idea of how my finished two ply yarn will look – providing I ply a balanced yarn.  I like the way this looks, and I think it’ll provide a soft and fine finished yarn.  It’s certain to make a nice scarf, or other accessory.  I may spin more than one bobbin of finished yarn, but I plan to hold some back.  The remaining roving will be great to blend with other fibers to add softness.  Alpaca takes on a “fuzzy” type of halo, adding a characteristic softness and unique appearance.  Now is a good time to start visualizing a finished product for my yarn and what color to dye it – if any.

A website devoted to learning, sharing and teaching a wide range of fiber arts. Inkle, Tablet and Navajo style weaving, Spinning, Knitting, Crochet, Sewing and Lace Making. Silver Work, Beading and Tool Making grace my bench as well.

4 comments on “Alpaca Revisited
  1. Kitty Corcoran says:

    Hi Janean!
    I just wanted to say that this post is very interesting. The pictures and your well-written text give a good idea of the many things to think about when spinning. I’ve only done a little spinning, and that was many years ago, but your post has reminded me of it and has made me realize how little I knew about it at the time. I still enjoyed it even without a good grounding, though.
    And also, I always find your posts and tutorials informative and enjoyable. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
    All the best,
    Kitty

    • Hi Kitty, thank you for your kind words. It warms my heart to hear that my posts are read, and people find them useful. I love spinning, and I don’t do it nearly enough. I find fiber arts meditative, but spinning most of all. I encourage you to start spinning again, there is so much information readily available now through the internet. You would be amazed by some of the beautiful yarns I see people spin, and have no idea of the way their fiber was prepared. The fiber police are gone now, and you can do things however you want – no more rigid rules. Knowing a few things can make it a lot easier though.
      Thanks for staying tuned in, I wish you all the best too,
      Janean

  2. Teresa says:

    Janean

    Enjoyed your post. My husband and I raise alpaca and have for several years. I learned to spin with alpaca and have learned I was probably very challenged starting with a slippery, fine fiber. BUT, learn I did. Over the years and lots if videos and websites like yours I have also learned a lot about several different types of fibers, how to spin them or blend them to come out with a terrific yarn. Yup, alpaca will need a fiber (wool-merino) to blend with to help retain shape. But regardless ….. I love spinning alpaca! Enjoy and thanks for the blog. T

    • Hi Teresa, I’m glad you found my post. I love Alpaca! My mother fell in love with alpaca too. She doesn’t spin, knit or crochet, so it’s up to me to create for both of us. You’re so fortunate to have all that fiber grazing so close by. I wish I had enough alpaca to add to everything I spin, I love the feel of it. I use it alone for small things like scarfs. I’ve never used it alone for a larger garment. I’ve used a wool/alpaca blend to make a hat (actually three hats). As for spinning, I think we make due with what we have. You have Alpaca, and you worked at it until you got it right. I think alpaca is worth the extra effort. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog and hope you continue to tune in. Thanks, Janean

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