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Posts Tagged ‘alpaca’

I forgot my camera on Saturday when we went to shear my mother’s alpacas. Even if I had remembered, I don’t think I would have gotten any photos. The three(my husband, son, and myself) of us were constantly busy for the nearly six hours it took us to get it done. We were super happy to have help from my nephew and his friend at the beginning of the day when we had to herd the alpacas into a confined space.

This was my first time shearing an alpaca. I’d only done two sheep before. It ended up being much different than sheep. I learned first hand that alpacas really don’t like their legs to be touched. I found shearing the necks to be the most difficult part. I’m not sure if the fiber on their necks is of a different texture or what, but it was the most difficult part to shear on every one of the alpacas, whether they were cooperative or not.

The first one we sheared (Casper) was super docile and cooperative. The last one (Sunsational) cried, screamed, spit, and/or struggled the whole time. Next time he will get done first. It was pretty difficult to deal with at the end of a long day. The other four were somewhat between those two in behavior. One struggled so much that his neck did not get finished, he looks a bit like a lion. It was hard work, and there was definitely a learning curve. I felt like I was much faster and just better at it by the end. I saw some photos today of some alpacas that had been professionally sheared, it made me feel better about the job I did. I was worried about how very ugly the hair cuts were that I gave them, the professionally done ones didn’t look too much better though.

The important thing is that the alpacas are all sheared so should be much more comfortable for the summer. I also have six huge bags of fiber to use to create more fun art.

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Henry House Hob was as excited as I was about my  new fiber combs. He couldn’t wait to try them out.

Picking his color

Picking his color

Henry took his time picking out the perfect color for his first combing experience. “It’s almost fall,” said Henry. “I want to do orange so you can make me a pumpkin.” This alpaca fiber had already been washed and dyed. The combing helps remove organic matter, short second cuts of fiber, and arranges the fibers nicely.

Lashing on

Lashing on

Henry got a small amount of fiber to start lashing on so he could start combing. “To lash on,” Henry explained, “you carefully swing the fiber on to the tines, pull away, and do it again until the comb has enough fiber to get going.”

 

Ready to begin

Ready to begin

Here is Henry, all ready to begin the actual combing.

Combing away

Combing away

Henry started combing the fiber. He was careful not to get the tines tangled up while he was working. “This fiber is already pretty clean.” observed Henry, “I don’t think it will take much combing.” I told Henry that he was right. This fiber did not need to much combing. When the fiber has a lot of organic matter in it, it needs combed a lot, moving the fiber back and forth between the combs.

Nicely Combed

Nicely Combed

This fiber is nicely combed. It is time to pull it off of the comb.

Pulling off the first bit of fiber

Pulling off the first bit of fiber

Henry gently pulled on the tips of the combed fiber. Off came a thin section of clean, straight fibers. “There is still more to pull off,” announced Henry. He was right. Several small layers of fiber get pulled off the comb.

Left over fiber

Left over fiber

Henry got all the long fibers carefully removed from the comb. “This fiber needs to go in a separate pile.” Henry informed me. “It can be used to make the insides of your projects.”

Fiber from the first comb

Fiber from the first comb

“Look!” exclaimed Henry, “Look how much fiber I got with just the first go.” Henry had done a very good job, but there was still more to do. The fiber had to be pulled from the other comb and the whole process started again until all of Henry’s batch of fiber was finished. It is nice to have such a helpful House Hob around our home. I’ll tell you a little secret though, Henry was a bit upset by the mess on the floor when the combing was done. He said it was a good thing that we didn’t do our combing on the carpet. There was quite few weed bits, as well as stray fibers. “That could have caused problems with the vacuum!” Lectured Henry as he went to get the broom.

I hope that you enjoyed Henry’s adventures in combing. You can see more of my creations on my web page. It  also has links to my facebook page and Etsy store.

 

 

 

 

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I hope you are all having a wonderful Monday! It’s a good day here at Woodland Whimsy. Today I am working on completing the processing of some fiber that I dyed last week.

Casper the Alpaca

Casper the Alpaca

This is a picture of Casper. He is the alpaca that provides white fiber that I dye and use in my creations.  Alpaca is the main fiber that I use when  felting.

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Here is a photo of one of the ladies that helps make Woodland Whimsy the magical place that it is.

Ginger

Ginger

This is Ginger. (That is Casper in the back ground) She is an alpaca that provides lovely, soft fiber. It takes darker dyes (I use only food safe dyes) well, creating dark, rich, earthy colors. Her fiber is also quite lovely without any dye.  Ginger spends her days eating, napping, and growing fiber which is sheared once a year in the spring. Ginger lives in beautiful Grass Valley on a lovely 20 acre farm.

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On Friday last week, I had planned to work on a needle felting project. I went to my fiber supply and was quite dismayed to find that I didn’t have the color that I wanted to use. I had my heart set on purple, so the project got delayed while I did a dyeing day. I thought I would take the opportunity to share with you how I do it.

My alpaca fiber comes to me in large bags. It is often very dirty. When it arrives I open up a bag, spread the fleece out on a table and give it a quick once over to remove any large and obvious organic matter. I also give it a bit of a shake to remove loose dirt. It goes back into a clean bag until I am ready to use it.

I do all my dyeing in small batches. I wash and dye my fiber as part of one process. I use mainly alpaca fiber, but this process should work for pretty much any animal fiber.

fiber

Alpaca Fiber

First I take about an ounce of fiber. If you want consistent, repeatable results, you should actually weigh your fiber. I just eyeball it. I know about how much an ounce is, and I don’t need to repeat any color exactly. I spread it out and remove as much organic matter as I can.

Wash Prep

A squirt of dish detergent in hot water

Next I fill a bowl with hot tap water and swirl in a squirt of dish detergent. I use Dawn, but I don’t see why using another brand would make a difference. Add the soap after the bowl is full and swirl gently. You don’t want bubbles.

wash the fiber

Fiber in the Wash Water

Gently place the fiber into the wash water. Press down lightly to remove any air pockets. Let it set in the water for 20 minutes. Don’t poke it or push it around. I still always want to, but don’t do it. You should remove any organic matter that you see. Removing organic matter is an on going step through out the process. When the 20 minutes are up, gently slide the fiber into a colander and drain. Give it a rinse with the sprayer of your sink if you have one. If not, just a quick rinse under the tap should be fine. This step should be repeated as needed for the fiber to be clean. I did four washes with this particular batch.

When the fiber is clean, do a 20 minute soak in clear water. I follow that with a 20 minute soak in water with a splash of white vinegar. I feel that the vinegar helps brighten and soften the fiber a bit.

supplies

Dyeing Items

Here are some of the things I use when I am dyeing. Individual colors are done in the quart jars. Wide mouth jars make the process a bit easier, but you can really use whatever type jar you like. The tool on the left is for lifting the jars in and out of the hot water bath. The white bag is citric acid. I use it with the icing dye to set the color. It can be found with canning supplies in the store. The little bottle is a gel cake icing dye. Liquid food coloring may work(I haven’t tried it) but I imagine you would need a lot of it to get good color. The final item is unsweetened powdered drink mix. This one happens to be my store brand, but any type will work. I stock up when it is on sale.

Mixed dyes

Dyes Ready for Fiber-2 Black, Pink, Purple, Mixed Pink and Purple

The powdered drink mix is used alone when I dye. I use between one and four packages depending on the shade I want.

The cake icing dye is used with the citric acid. I use 1/2 a teaspoon of citric acid and about a 1/4 teaspoon of icing dye. Sometimes the icing dye gives interesting colors. Sometimes the colors in the dye separate out and give a nice variegated effect. I have not had good luck with reds. I get flecks of solid red instead of it dissolving well. Purple does not turn out to be purple in the end, but a streaky blue and pink(very cool, but not purple). The greens and yellows always turn out well. It is fun to experiment with the different colors. When I do black, I use a dark fiber instead of white.

After the colors are put in the jars, add hot (but not boiling) water to the jars to dissolve the dyes. I stir them with a chopstick until they are well dissolved.

Fiber in Dye

Fiber in the Jar Ready for the Water Bath

Place your cleaned, wet fiber into the jar. Push down gently with a chopstick to make sure the fiber is covered. This is another part where I always want to play with it, don’t do it. I put a bit more water in this jar before it went into the water bath.

Pot for Water Bath

Pot I Use for the Water Bath

The water for the water bath should be just a bit below boiling point.

 

Top View

Top View of the Water Bath

The water level should be just below the rim of the jars. The jars should remain in the water bath until all the dye has been absorbed and the water is clear. The pink and orange drink mix tend to have leave a milky look to the water. They never get completely clear for me, but everything else seems to.

Clear Water

The Fiber When Color is Absorbed

Remove the jars and allow them to cool.

I have to apologize for the quality of this photo. I couldn’t get a better one, but I wanted you to see how clear the water is. The chopstick is inside the jar holding the fiber to the side. As you can see, I still have some more organic matter to remove.

Salad Spinner

Into the Salad Spinner

When the jars have cooled, gently pour one into the colander portion of a salad spinner (brand doesn’t matter). They are pretty easy to find and inexpensive as well. Rinse the fiber gently. Then put the colander into the spinner and spin out as much water as you can.

Drying

On the Rack to Dry

Place the fiber on a rack to dry. Again, remove any organic matter that you see. I pretty much always have some fall out during the drying process.

I hand card my fiber when it is dry.

That’s how I do it. I am happy to answer questions that I can.

 

 

 

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Sunsational

Sunsational

This is Sunsational. He just had a good roll in the grass. I use his fiber natural color (it is quite dark, but has a reddish tone in natural light.) I also use it as base for dyeing black. It is already very dark so works out well with a small amount of black cake icing dye.

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