Cleaning Alpaca Wool
It is not necessary to clean alpaca before spinning, because the fiber does not have grease
in it. Some spinners find it easier to spin without washing it first. But if you have a really dirty
fleece and want to clean it, follow these steps.
1. Pick out all of the vegetable matter by hand.
2. Fill a sink or dishpan with lukewarm water and a mild detergent.
3. Gently press the fiber down into the water without agitating it.
4. Let the fiber soak for 10-15 minutes.
5. Gently lift the fiber out of the water and squeeze the excess water out with your
hands. (Do not wring the water out).
6. Repeat steps 2 - 5 depending on how dirty the fiber is.
7. Spread the fiber onto a towel and roll it to absorb excess water.
8. Spread the fiber into the open air to dry. It is best to dry the fiber on a screen so
that the air can circulate underneath.
9. Store the alpaca in a paper bag, cardboard box, or a plastic bag with holes in it.
(Storing alpaca in a garbage or trash bag will cause moisture to build up inside
the bag and the fiber will felt.
Preparing Alpaca For Hand spinning
Alpaca is mostly available as a combed top. You can also purchase raw alpaca from
breeders and often at wool festivals.
Alpaca can be hand carded into rolags. It is best to use hand carders with fine teeth. Hand
carded alpaca will spin into a soft fluffy woollen yarn for knitting.
Use a drum carder with fine teeth to create large batts for spinning.
Blending Other Fibers
Adding 20%-50% wool to alpaca gives the yarn more elasticity. Spinning a single of alpaca
and one of wool then plying the two together makes a nice woollen yarn. Wool can also be
added to alpaca using hand carders or a drum carder.
Blending 10%-30% mohair will make a lofty yarn and give it a fuzzy look. Silk lightly carded
into the alpaca will add sparkle in your yarn. Angora rabbit wool with alpaca makes an
absolute luxury yarn. It is extremely soft and very warm.
You can also use a drum carder or hand carders to create various shades of alpaca, such
as blending black alpaca with white alpaca will produce gray. Plying two singles of
contrasting colors will create a tweedy effect in your yarn.
End Uses For Alpaca Yarn
Alpaca spins into a dense yarn, and can be used for knitting, weaving, and felting projects.
Alpaca is a good substitute fiber for people who are allergic to wool, because of it's
softness. A small amount of wool can be added to give the yarn more elasticity. Baby
garments made of alpaca are also popular.
Alpaca is a very versatile fiber often used to knit apparel such as, dresses, blouses, skirts,
jackets, pants, pants, scarves, ties. Miscellaneous items include: curtains, draperies, and
A 2 ply yarn of alpaca will make a good warp yarn for weaving when spun with a tight twist. It
will also work well as a weft yarn to weave pillows, vests, scarves, and shawls.
Felting with alpaca is more successful if there is wool added to it. The batts of fiber are
made with a drum carder. The felted pieces can be used to make hats and vests.
Making A Skein of Yarn With A Niddy Noddy
Skeining is required for both singles and plied yarns in order to set in the twist and if you plan to
dye the yarn.
How to Use a Niddy Noddy
Take the end of the yarn in one hand while holding the center bar of the niddy noddy. If you are
skeining from a spinning wheel, remove the yarn from the orifice of the wheel, and loosen the
tension applied to the spindle, first, to prevent the yarn from rolling Back on itself. Guide the yarn
over the top bar (1) then down to and under the bar at the bottom (2), take the yarn Back up and
over the top bar on the other side (3) then down and under the bottom bar (4), while keeping a
firm grip and slightly twisting your wrist. Continue to bring the yarn Back up to the top bar where
you started. Follow that same identical path on the niddy noddy until you run out of yarn on the
Removing the Skein
Tie the beginning and the end of the yarn securely together, and tie the skein in three other
sections. Pull the skein off of the bars of the niddy noddy, insert your thumbs in the center of the
skein, and snap it open. With the skein on your thumbs twist it at one or both ends to build up
enough twist so that it will twist Back on itself. Loop one end over the other to close the skein.
If you do not have a niddy noddy, you can also skein your yarn on the Back of a chair or around
your arm and elbow.
The Spinning Wheel
These are the common parts found on a traditional spinning wheel.
The arrangement of these parts may vary from wheel to wheel.
A. Fly Wheel The wheel that rotates when treadling and causes the
other various parts to operate.
B. Drive Band A cord that goes around the fly wheel and the flier whorl.
C. Flier A U-shaped piece of wood with hooks lined up on one or both
arms. The hooks are used to store the yarn evenly on the bobbin. The
flier is rotated by the drive band which as a result puts the twist into the
D. Flier Whorl A pulley attached to the flier and operated by the drive
band. The different sized grooves on the flier whorl determine how fast
the wheel will spin.
E. Maidens The upright posts that hold the flier and the bobbin.
F. Mother-Of-All The bar that mounts the maidens, flier, bobbin, and
G. Tension Knob Used to adjust the tension of the drive band by
lowering or raising the mother-of-all.
H. Bobbin Rotates on the spindle along with the flier and stores the
yarn. It can operate with or independent of the drive band.
I. Treadle The pedal(s) that operates the wheel by using your feet.
J. Footman The bar the connects the treadle to the fly wheel and
causes it to turn.
K. Orifice The opening at the end of the spindle where the yarn goes
through to connect to the hooks of the flier.
"Setting In The Twist" Of Hand spun Yarn
Setting the twist is a method for relaxing over-twisted, curling singles, and unbalanced plied yarns. The
simplest way to set the twist is to soak the yarn in warm water. After you remove the skein from the
water, roll the skein in a large towel and squeeze out the excess water. Let the skein hanging freely from
your hand to test its balance. If it doesn't twist around itself or at least very little, it is a balanced yarn.
This yarn will be best used for knitting.
If there is still a considerable amount of twist, hang the skein to dry with a little tension applied, like a
small weight. Be sure not to apply to much weight that will over stretch and damage the yarn.
To note, adding tension will straighten the skein, and also remove some of the loft and elasticity.
Tensioned yarns are ideal for yarns designed for weaving. Therefore, it is important to consider how the
yarn will be used when deciding what method to use for setting in the twist.
What to do? Un-spun leader won't wind onto the bobbin
Tie the leader tighter onto the bobbin, and wind on a couple of inches by hand.
The yarn is over twisting
Tighten the tension on the drive band or the Scotch tensioner.
Use a longer draft of the fiber.
Use a larger whorl size.
The yarn is winding onto the bobbin too quickly
Loosen the tension on the drive band or the Scotch tensioner. A slight adjustment is usually sufficient.
The yarn is snapping apart (corkscrewing)
Tighten the tension on the drive band or the Scotch tensioner, for a quicker draw on.
Slow down your treadling.
Stop treadling and draft out more fiber to use up the excess twist.
There are soft spots in the yarn
Loosen the tension on the drive band or the Scotch tensioner, in order to put more twist into the yarn.
Use a smaller whorl size
The joins are too weak, and pull apart
The new lock of fiber must overlap by at least 2 inches; up to 5 inches when using the long draw technique.
Leave at least 2 inches of the yarn un spun. Do not try to add new fiber on yarn that is already spun. If the
yarn breaks, untwist 2 inches of it before joining new fiber.
Pinch the joined area to add the sufficient amount of twist before winding on.
Watch to ensure the joined fibers are connecting.
We wish to acknowledge and thank "the Joy of Hand spinning" for the information included
Spinning is an activity that physically connects us to a long line of ancestor spinners,
mostly women. Throughout history, as E.W. Barber records in her book Women's Work:
The first 20,000 years, spinners have provided the materials needed for survival and
the advancement of civilization. Feeling continuity in this thread of life is a compelling
reason to spin.
Alpaca fiber is measured in microns - a micron is a thousandth of a millimeter. The lower the
micron number, the finer the fiber. A uniform fleece is desirable and is measured by the
standard deviation associated with the micron count. A low standard deviation indicates the
fiber characteristics measured are very consistent.
Some other aspects of alpaca fiber are crimp, density, and staple length. Crimp is the "s" wave
and a tight, uniform crimp is very desirable. Density is the fiber's volume. Staple length can
vary, but an average growth rate between shearing is about five inches. It is important to
consider all aspects when evaluating fiber.
Small mills and local spinners and weavers process alpaca fiber in the United States. There
are also co-ops that pool fiber and create finished products. Many of the garments and other
items made with alpaca are hand-crafted. You will find alpaca fiber knit into sweaters, woven
into blankets and scarves, and made into wonderful pillows and rugs.
Alpaca is 3 times warmer than wool and much finer. It does not contain natural grease like wool,
therefore it is not necessary to clean it before spinning it into yarn. Alpaca comes in a variety of
colors, (22) which allows hand spinners to work with the natural color of the fiber instead of using
dyes to introduce color into the yarn.
• Natural, Animal Fiber
• Lightweight, Soft Luxurious
• Very durable
• Hand-washable or dry-clean
• Little static, no pilling
• Dyes well
• Blends extremely well with other fibers
Types of Alpaca
Alpacas are from the camelid family. They look similar to Llamas but are smaller in size.
There are 2 breeds of Alpacas: Huacaya and Suri.
Suri - wool locks can be long and curly or straight fibers that are silky, very fine and very soft.
There is a wide variety in the color of the fiber such as, white, fawn, reddish brown, gray, dark
brown, and black. Suri Alpaca fiber is ideal for making soft loftier yarns for knitting. It can also be
used for felting.
Huacaya - (pronounced wuh-kai-ya) wool is denser than the Suri alpaca. It is soft and very easy to
spin. This is the most common breed of alpaca found in the U.S. and Canada.
SPINNING.... AND ALPACA FIBER
SOME TIPS FOR SPINNING WOOL
From "The Joy of Hand spinning"
To begin, I need to state that making hand spun yarn is not just simply twisting fiber. Once you start
spinning you very quickly realize that there are many ways to spin and different techniques are used
to create a yarn that is suitable for a specific purpose. With this in mind I am sharing some things you
might try to incorporate into your spinning when designing a yarn for knitting.
Did you know that there is a right end and a wrong end to spin from when using drum carded fiber or
fiber that is commercially processed? Yes, this is a fact. There is definitely one direction that pulls out
more easily. The test is simple. Break off a length about one inch in width and gently pull on each
end. Yes, one slips more easily. This is the proper end from which to spin. You will be amazed to find
how easy it is to draft from the correct end. Your yarn will be nicer as you have greater control since
there is no drag or resistance during the spinning process.
For knitting we need to allow air to be a part of spinning the singles to make a lofty yarn. This is
achieved by spinning long draw. In other words, pull out the fiber with one hand, allowing it to twist
without interfering or allowing it to feed through the orphus and on to the spool. When you have
drawn out about 30 inches in this spinning process, clamp two fingers with your other hand down
about half way on the length of singles that you have made, continuing to treadle and allow that
amount to feed slowly on the spool. These two steps are repeated over and over to make the yarn.
Note that once the air has been allowed to be part of the process by drafting with one hand it does
not make a difference if you pinch down and put more spin into the yarn. It just makes the yarn
stronger. We should always do just a bit of over spinning of our singles to compensate for the
amount of twist that is lost in the plying process.
You can spin wonderful singles, but if you ply incorrectly all is lost. There is a right way to ply and a
wrong way. Here again we are dealing with direction of the twist of the singles. When using a ball
winder do not take one strand from the outside and the other from the inside of the ball and ply. Do
not ply directly from two spools from your spinning wheel. Both of these methods are very wrong. You
must always ply in the same direction as you have created your singles. So wind the singles from
your spool on the spinning wheel into balls. Now you will be starting to ply from the same direction as
you spun your singles. The plies will happily interlock. If you do it any other way the singles repel one
another and make for a much less desirable finished yarn.
This last tip has to do with washing the finished skein and setting the twist. Once you have your yarn
made into a skein it is ready for final processing. Since we do not wash llama or alpaca before
spinning, we need to soak our skein in cold water to remove the field dirt. I let mine sit for about an
hour. Then I rinse it several times in cold water. Next, fill a container with water as hot as you can get
from the tap. Add soap or detergent (I prefer Dawn dish soap since it is a de greaser). Stir. Push your
skein into this hot soapy bath. No, it will not mat. Do not touch it until the water has cooled down to a
comfortable temperature that you can put your hand in. Rinse in warm water as many times as
necessary to remove the soap. Now, here comes the wonderful trick and most important part. Fill
your container again with water as hot as possible from the tap. Plunge your skein into that water for
about 1 minute (you'll need gloves). Wring out all the hot water possible and then immediately plunge
the skein into water as cold as you can get from the tap for another minute. This is called "shocking
the wool". Again, it does not mat, but releases all the little ends. You will be amazed at how beautiful
and special your yarn looks.
If you incorporate these four things into spinning yarn for knitting I think you will find that your finished
yarn will definitely be soft, lofty, and most importantly light weight.
I think you will be pleased when you start knitting with yarn created in this fashion. HAPPY KNITTING!
|A BIT ABOUT ALPACA FIBER
SPINNING ALPACA AND A LITTLE WOOL TOO.