May 12, 2021 How I Wash Alpaca Fiber

“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”
Oscar Wilde

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 other’s 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 every day. 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. Here’s my routine as far as washing goes. If I’m able to do it outside, I line big trugs with round laundry buckets along the edge of my patio for easy emptying. I fill them with hot water , a good flight of Shaklee Basic H 2 cleaner and add about half a blanket to each bucket to soak. After it soaks for a while I lift the fiber out of the bucket. That allows the remaining dirt to fall to the bottom of the outer bucket. Only takes one wash and one rinse this way.

Tomorrow I’ll show you my spin drying. THAT gets even more crud out!

It’s only 30* so far and the alpacas aren’t sure what to do. Stay in? Graze? What to do? Oh, the decisions!

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