It has been a hectic few days sorting through the alpaca fleeces and putting them into some sort of order.
The blankets of the fleece are stored after being separated from the neck and leg fibre.
The next stage will be to skirt them ready for scouring.
Our alpacas are very beautiful – but they are very dusty as they love to roll in the dirt!
Skirting is simply laying the fleece out onto a mesh table with the cut part facing upwards (the part that was closest to the animal’s skin, this allows the dust to fall through. I then work a few inches in, all the way round the edge of the fleece, removing any debris, including any vegetable matter, hay or soiled pieces.
Alpaca fleece on a skirting table
After skirting the fleece I like to scour it. Some folk spin or wet-felt the fibre without scouring it, but as I dye most of my fleeces they needs to be very clean in order for the dye to take effectively.
I break my skirted fleece into smaller sections and scour as follows:-
Fill a washing up bowl with hot water (120 degrees F) Add a few tablespoons of washing soda and a squirt of washing up liquid.
Gently immerse the fibre into the water gently pushing it under the water. Do not rub or agitate as this will cause the fibre to felt.
I change this water before it gets too cold as I prefer not to let the fleece soak in dirty water.
Can you believe how dirty the fleece is!
Carefully lift the fleece out of the water and gently squeeze the fibre. Dispose of the dirty water and repeat the soaking process.
Make sure the bowl is full and ready with the washing soda and washing up liquid already mixed before immersing the fleece as you must not allow running water to fall directly onto the fibre as this will also cause it to felt.
Repeat the process again
By now the majority of the dirt will be removed so you could leave the fibre to soak for a few hours. Remove from the soak and if you are happy the fleece is clean you can now rinse in clean water without any washing soda or washing liquid. Make sure that the rinsing water is the same temperature as the scouring water was when you removed it as extremes of temperature can cause felting.
Remove from the water, squeeze gently – do not wring and repeat the rinsing process again.
The absolute golden rule is – do not agitate and do not use extremes of temperature.
I dry my fleeces by spreading them out on my mesh skirting table outside to allow the air to circulate. I like to do this in the summertime as I prefer to work outside and drying is much easier. Time permitting I also prefer to drum card the fleece into batts before storing them, then I am ready to mordant, spin or felt whenever I wish.