“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”
Everything I know about fabric and fiber, and alpacas for that matter, I’ve learned from others. I told you that I went to The Fashion Academy of Pittsburgh and learned dressmaking and pattern drafting. I then went to work at The Joseph Lipson Company, an independent tailor supply and Fabric Store where I learned more about fabric and tailoring, from real tailors who were only too happy to share with me when I didn’t know anything! I especially loved when the tailors would say things like, “Don’t you know anything, you stupid girl?” I guess I needed to know more and I drank it all in. Every day for years. I fell in love with alpaca fabric at Lipson’s. Thank you Janet Miller for hiring me! You changed my life for the better. I need to locate that photo album and find a picture of us. It was a wonderful experience. All for $97 a week. After taxes.
Now I go to workshops (one of my absolute favorites was with the dynamo Natalie Redding). I help with others' shearing, I watch how others sort, wash and prep their fiber and try it for myself. Over all the years of doing this, I’ve figured out what works for me for now and it can change at any time if I find a better way. I like to learn and I like to share. That’s why I do these posts. Add to the fact that many mills are short of help or closing and it is just a good thing to know how to do when you have 10 alpacas who all have fiber. I will still send some fiber out though my goal is to make my base materials myself. Wish me luck. I think I’ll need it! Here’s my attempt at corespun rug yarn. More practice needed.
Yesterday I showed you the basics.
Shearing, blowing, sorting and then we are on to washing. I still have many fleeces to blow and will continue as the weather warms up. Yesterday it got nice but it was also windy and that is a challenge in itself when working with fiber. I settled on washing and figuring out my space, cleaning up my work space and just getting back “into it”.
That will take time.
How to Wash Raw Alpaca Fiber
- If you can wash outside, I line big trugs with round laundry buckets along the edge of my patio for easy emptying. You water the lawn that way.
- Fill the trugs with hot water.
- Put a smaller laundry basket inside-or at a local farm store, they now have buckets that are sort of like colanders. They work perfectly and fit inside the trugs.
- Add a good squeeze of Shaklee Basic H 2 cleaner and add about half a blanket (depending on the size of your container, it might be less) to each bucket to soak.
- DO NOT overcrowd the bucket! you want the fiber to spread out and the grit to fall to the bottom of the bucket.
- Let soak for a while. An hour is best.
Lift the fiber out of the bucket. DO NOT pour the water over the fiber. You don't want to pour the dirty water over your fiber. That allows the remaining grit to fall to the bottom of the outer bucket. Only takes one wash and one rinse this way. You'll be amazed at the amount of grit at the bottom of the container. Remember...alpacas like to roll.
Next step? Spin drying. THAT gets even more crud out.