A few weeks ago when we were up in the Berkshires, a lovely woman and I struck up a conversation. After telling me that she raises alpacas and we discussed that we were both spinners, she offered me some of her alpaca fiber. We went to her home where she proceeded to give me a whole trash bag full! There were 3 colors -black, white and camel.
I am so greedy that I couldn’t turn it down. And quite honestly I have pretty much zero experience carding wool. There was one time that my spinning group went in on a jacob fleece, but the fleece was such low quality and a nightmare to work with that it scarred all of us for years. Seriously. That was over 10 years ago and it still comes up in conversation.
Anyhow, I emailed my spinning group to see if anyone had a drum carder I could borrow. One woman answered my call, and in fact told me I could keep her carder. This was a huge score, because drum carders are quite expensive and I could never justify buying one and having it sit under my bed most of the year.
Now, I had some deranged notion that drum carders would make the process of carding super quick. Ha ha ha ha. I guess it’s quicker than taking two hand cards (which look a lot like big dog brushes) to card all the fiber. I should have realized that if I’ve slipped down the slope of spinning my own yarn, that speed isn’t really in the equation. I’ve been carding here and there for a few weeks. Today I finished the rest of the camel color (I had finished the black a couple of weeks ago) and just started in on the white. Alpaca is interesting in that it isn’t greasy like sheep wool. You can card and spin it dirty and wash it when it is in yarn form. There is a good amount of hay and debris that needs to be shaken and combed out of the fiber before carding. I am not great at that and keep telling myself that I will spin a “rustic” yarn. That’s code for justifying my laziness in case that wasn’t totally obvious.
Here are some carded batts, which is the term for the carded fiber that you pull off the drum carder. It looks disturbingly like human hair to me. After I card it once, I pull a few of the batts apart, lengthwise and re-card them together. That way if I have a section of shorter fiber, it gets spread out throughout all the batts. I then roll the batts in a little bundle to store until I’m ready to spin them.It’s going to be a while before I get to these. I have a project on my wheel, which has been sitting ignored for a few weeks while I knit baby clothes for a good friend.