Going crazy stuck at home due to the snow. I have several tonnes (that may be a slight exaggeration) of fibre waiting to be spun but the fibre is at the mill and I can't get to the mill because the mill is in the middle of no where and the roads are impassable (at least I'm guessing they're impassable, I haven't actually tried to drive any where in three days). So last night I looked around to see what I could spin and came across a couple of unpromising carrier bags of alpaca fibre.
I remember helping to shear both animals, a grey and a white, back in the summer. Alpacas are particularly fiddly things to shear. First, you have to catch your alpaca, which means four people running round the pen trying to find something to get hold of on a creature which is all neck and leg. The alpaca then spits in your face, gross. Alpacas aren't as greasy as sheep, they come from South America where apparently it doesn't rain as much as in England so they don't need waterproofing. This means you have to keep oiling the shears to stop them from overheating. It's rather alarming when your alpaca starts to smoke! With sheep, the lanolin in the sheep's wool oils the shears for you.
Anyway, last night I got out the fibre and as I didn't have much from either animal, I decided to blend the grey and the white. I weighed out just over 25g of each colour and ran the fibre through the drum carder. I will spin 50g onto one bobbin, 50g onto a second bobbin then ply the two together and I should get a 100g skein (except it never quite works). By the time I'd finished carding, my eyes and nose were streaming from the dust. It's always a toss up whether or not to wash alpaca before spinning, if you wash it first the fibre goes into 'I'm having a really bad hair day' mode, if you don't wash it, you have to keep stopping to pick out the bits. I'm spinning this alpaca unwashed. It is coming up really fine, the finest yarn I've ever spun, except the time I had a go on a great wheel. The wheel's owner assured me it only spun chunky. Oh well, that's the beauty of handspinning, you can never be sure what is going to happen.
Back to this alpaca, I'm sitting between the laptop and the spinning wheel - traditional craft meets modern technology. I must get on, I can't wait to see what the finished yarn will be like!