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Journey of Alpaca Fiber: Farm to Yarn to Scarf

Alpaca from Sweet Clover AlpacaEarly this spring, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Sweet Clover Alpaca’s shearing day.  I really got to know these adorable animals and their gracious owner.  I’ve fallen in love with the unbeatable softness of the alpaca fiber.  Look at all that cuteness…Aww!Cute AlpacaI came home with bags and bags of alpaca.  (Bags and bags and bags)  Thinking oh yeah, I can spin this up in no time flat.  Ha!  If only all I had to do all day was spin, then maybe. Look at all the colors and did I mention the softness.  Yum!!!Bags of AlpacaThe idea of being able to spin local alpaca was so delicious.  Alpaca raised right here in Conway and then turned into handspun yarn here too. Talk about keeping it local!  There’s no better way then this.Basket of AlpacaPictured above is a basket of the large variety of the colors found naturally in Alpaca.  I took the basket of fluff and blended it together through my drum carder to mix all the colors.Alpaca Fibers Blending on a Drum CarderThe fibers are blended on my drum carder to become a carded batt.  Carded Batts are easier to spin.  The drum carder lines all the fibers up going the same direction which makes spinning on a spinning wheel faster and smoother.  Plus, although alpaca are a whole heck of a lot cleaner than sheep, the drum carder helps remove excess hay and dirt before spinning.Alpaca Fiber Spinnig on WheelThis is the yarn on the spinning wheel being turned into handspun yarn.  First the yarn is spun directly from the carded batt to fill up the bobbin.  The fiber goes through the spinning wheel once, it can then be considered a finished single ply yarn.  I like to ply my yarn either with a strong thread to add texture, or with itself depending on the colors.Handspun Yarn made from Arkansas AlpacaAbove is the finished alpaca yarn.  After this step, the yarn has is rinsed and the twist is then set.  Being this fiber is directly from local fiber, some hay and dirt is completely washed and cleaned from the yarn.  Although a lot of the extra stuff gets pulled out while spinning, the yarn gets a good rinse to remove any excess dirt and barnyard.Alpaca Handspun Yarn turned into a ScarfHere’s a finished scarf made with the above alpaca.  It was hand weaved. Simply divine to touch!  Wrapping up with this on a cold winter’s day would be the best! That’s the entire journey: farm to fluff to carded batt to spinning wheel to yarn then finally into a scarf.Alpaca Weaved Scarf up closePictured below is Caspian, another Sweet Clover Alpaca.  He was a Cria (which is a baby alpaca) and I was fortunate enough to watch his first shearing and buy the coat.  His fiber was so fine and full of fun crimp.Alpaca into YarnThe yarn spun into what looked like a boucle style yarn, with little wispy curls all around. Handspinning AlpacaSince he was such a little guy, there were only two skeins of yarn made from his gorgeous first coat.20131008-071256.jpgHere are a few more skeins of finished alpaca.  The all natural colors are perfect.Four Skeins of Beautiful AlpacaThis last one has a touch of added bling with sequins on the thread.Handspun Alpaca with added blingPlease let me know if you have any questions. I’m working on putting together a few more “This is how it’s done” type of posts.  I tend to ramble on and on about spinning and carding and felting and realize a lot of you do not know the variety of steps or even what the heck I’m talking about.  Here is a earlier post with a video showing how fiber goes from fluff into yarn using all the tools mentioned above.

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Spinzilla Day One

Spinzilla is a week long competition to see which spinner can spin the most yardage of yarn. I found out about the event too late to join a team, so I signed up as a Rogue Spinner.

Day one started pretty strong with a bright burst of color.

Bright Rainbow Carded Batt by The Twisted PurlUp and spinning at 5:45 am, nothing was going to slow me down.  Sleep is overrated, spinning….not so much!Rainbow Yarn on BobbinThe first skein was complete and I was feeling pretty accomplished.  102 yards under my belt for Spinzilla before 6:30 am.Rainbow Yarn made by The Twisted PurlWith  a pretty large amount of Alpaca from the local Sweet Clover Alpaca farm in town, I figured my best bet would be to tackle this pile next. Tons of bags of Alpaca FiberI grabbed a luscious bag of baby alpaca and let the fiber turn into the yarn it wanted to become.  This cria had the softest, crimpist coat.  Spun, the yarn almost looks like a boucle yarn.  I’m in love. Baby Alpaca going onto the Spinning WheelAfter this skein, I had another 89 yards finished!  Yay!!!Baby Alpaca handspun yarn by The Twisted PurlKnowing I had to get quite a few soaps felted, I had to make the most out of my last spin of the day.  This one reminded me of a Christmas Peppermint.Christmas Peppermint Carded BattI needed lots and lots of yards, so I focus the Spinzilla Force and spun probably the lightest weight yarn that has come off my wheel in years.Handspun Yarn on the Bobbin Christmas Peppermint Candycane196 yards…folks for me and my normal super bulky yarn was an accomplishment.  I really love the look of this one!  Most likely after Spinzilla Week I’ll go back and thread ply it to make it even more fabulous. 😉Christmas Candycane Peppermint Handspun Yarn by The Twisted PurlLots more spinning is ahead for the week!

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Hand Spinning Show & Tell

Below are my recent attempts at hand spinning. I am really showing signs of improvement and am excited about each new yarn. The first one I used some merino roving. Thick to thin in many places and pretty springy in the tightly spun places. Next came the Purple Eyed Monster Roving I had hand painted. The roving was white, blue, green and maroon. It was very tricky to spin. I was not as happy with the end outcome. I still have close to three ounces of this painted roving, so hopefully my next spin will do it more justice.
I love this one! Winter Green. This yarn is a blend of Merino natural roving and a hand painted batch of merino roving. I really love its consistency and the look. There are only a few spots where the yarn is thick.
This roving was an absolute dream to spin. The roving is from a farm in Vermont and is Blue Faced Leicester. The roving was a piece of cake to keep the consistency and the end product is very nice.
This is by far my favorite to date. When I first started painting yarn, I painted a skein named Sanjaya (yes named after that ever so annoying person on that one singing show) This yarn is hand painted roving in a multitude of colors. It reminds me of my Sanjaya yarn, but hand spun. Love, love, love this one!!!

I ♥ spinning yarn! It is the best. Very relaxing and soothing and addictive. It may have replaced my knitting addiction. Very true!
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Cupid Lost his Cookies in my Dye Room

Yes it’s true. Cupid has thrown up all over my yarn. With Valentine’s Day being a little more than a month away, what better than a bunch of Love Themed Colors. I was a crazy dyeing lady today! I hand painted three skeins of yarn, solid red, solid pink, and red and pink together. Also, I did three sets of roving…one 5 ounces in shades of pink and white, the other two one ounce samplers of pink and white. The one laying across the yarns in the pic below is my favorite. It looks like cotton candy.
Enough with the Cupid Puke. I had a wild hair and I knit up the yarn I spun. It turned out pretty nifty. It was a small amount, so I used size 19 needles and cast on only 6 stitches.
I think I may make a cell phone case out of it, just to keep it as my first hand dyed, hand spun, hand knit project. Hopefully first of many more to come! With more consistency and less over spinning. I see a spinning wheel in my near future.
Lastly, I did get some Valentine’s Day Roving up for sale on Etsy. It was so hard, I really wanted to keep it to spin myself…but I have to make money some how! CLICK HERE if you want to check it out.