Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Alternative uses for alpaca fibre

I was at the outdoor sink the other day when I thought I spotted a large spiders nest in the Fiddlewood tree.
Can you see the minute "nest" in the centre
of the 
Upon closer inspection I discovered...
The most adorable little nest positioned
perfectly in the centre of the tree - away
from predators and harsh weather
  ... it was a teeny, weeny birds nest.  Literally the size of a duck egg.

And, to my delight, upon closer inspection, I found this...
The bird had lined it's nest with alpaca fibre
... the nest is lined with scraps of alpaca fibre - and judging from the colour it's all from Kris.  A bird must have collected the scraps when we were shearing the alpacas last October.  It almost looks as though it managed to felt the fibre lol

Wow - those baby birds sure had it good whilst they were growing up.  Alpaca fibre is said to be 7 times warmer than other wool.

I love that - it takes surplus, waste and repurposing to a whole new level :)

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Preparing the alpaca fibre

All the alpaca fibre has to be prepared before I can weave with it on my loom.

First you shear the alpacas of their fibre, then the fibre has to be cleaned of all the vegetable matter (VM) it has accumulated when the alpacas have had a good roll on the ground - a daily occurrence.  (Cleaning the VM from the fibre is a tedious job, and one that would be far easier if the alpaca's are properly brushed prior to shearing.)

Then the fleece has to be carded.  This is done in order to align all the fibres in the same direction in order to produce batts - great clumps of fibres all running in the same direction.

After carding, one can then proceed with the spinning of the fibre, and then, finally, use the resulting yarn to weave :)  There are a couple of washing procedures in between, but you get the gist of the process.

As the drum carding machines are quite pricey, I searched the Net for weeks for a second hand unit - even contacting local spinning / weaving associations, but with no success.  So, in mid-December we finally succumbed and purchased a new carding machine from our local Ashford dealer.  (What we didn't know when we ordered it online was that she was away in France - assisting her mother through her grandmother's passing.  So, delivery of our machine was delayed.)

But, the drum carder finally arrived, and after setting it up, we proceed with the carding of all the alpaca fibre from 2013, as well as the alpaca fibre we had harvested (with the assistance of Helderstroom Alpacas) this past October.
RMan is feeding the fibre into the carder with
his left hand, whilst turning the drum lever
with his right hand
It is quite a simple process - as the handle is turned, the fibre is gently fed into the machine from one end.  This "aligned" fibre then collects on the large drum, which is emptied when it is full.

The seam - visible just off-centre on the drum - is
where the aligned "batt" of fibre is carefully removed
from  the carding machine
RMan used to be involved in the textile industry many years ago.  But, he only utilized the finished yarn, and never actually got to "prepare" it.  Thus he is loving this opportunity of discovering what exactly goes into producing yarn.
Batts of carded fibre - still a couple of
stubborn bits of vegetable matter remain
He's nominated himself as the alpaca fibre carder.

Who will perform the task when it comes to spinning the batts - well, we'll have to wait until we get our spinning machine.  As the supplier didn't have stock, and it had to be ordered from Ashford in New Zealand, it is still on the water...
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