After shearing our alpacas Fidel and Ernesto last summer, we wound up with 4 gigantic gar-bags of brown and white fleece. Despite fleckings of weed seeds, burrs, dust and a million little bits of last year’s dry grass, it was lovely soft stuff, and we knew a spinning day was in order if the fleece was to do anything other than sit on top of a wardrobe.
We called on my mum Angela, a spinner from way back who wanted to get back in the habit, a few friends interested in spinning, and asked our friend Mary to lead the day and share her extensive equipment, skills and enthusiasm for the fibre arts (see Local and Bespoke for more on her magical talents in that realm).
Prior to the day, myself and a few kind souls cleaned the wool as much as we could – combing and/or picking out the million flecks and then washing and drying it. If it wasn’t for the time-consuming nature of this job I think a lot more fleece would get spun in the world! Mary also shared some of her pre-dyed sheep fleece to blend with the alpaca wool.
We carded the wool, learnt to spin on a variety of wheels, reminded ourselves that nothing is easy at first and all skills take time to learn and that’s what brings pride to the finished product, and finally Mary plied the spun yarn so most participants got to take home their own skein!
In the meantime, we had a pot of Eucalyptus cinerea leaves on the boil, and dyed some of the white alpaca wool a beautiful deep shade of red, then left more white wool in the pot overnight which emerged an orange tone. So satisfying to dye wool with nothing but leaves from a local tree – a lot more of that kind of magic can be found on Mary’s blog.
I loved the whole experience, doing something that people have been doing for thousands of years around the world, with beautiful equipment that has little changed (in fact the spinning wheel was invented more than 1000 years ago). It certainly felt like something meant to be done with other people, socialising through the repetitive tasks and working together for a shared outcome.
Now we just have to figure out what to do with the remaining 3.75 bags of fleece! We’re open to suggestions!
Many thanks to Mary for her teaching, Angela, Pru and Shani for cleaning fleece, and to the other spinners who came along.
Thank you so much for such a wonderful spinning afternoon. It was absolutely fascinating and I learnt so much from Mary’s wisdom and everyone who took part. Looking at the pictures above, I can see how much time must have gone into cleaning the alpaca wool, so THANK YOU for sharing it with us and being able to take home a skein was very special.
Glad you enjoyed it! And don’t worry, the wool cleaning was actually rather pleasant when time permitted, calming in fact. I’m so happy to be on my way to learning this skill! Soph x
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Hooray for new skills and crafting in wonderful company 🙂 Surely the spinning party will make a comeback any time now?
Hooray for wonderful teachers of such things Mary! Thank you. Well, Ernesto and Fidel are getting their annual shear this weekend, so we may be back with more garbage bags of wool for round two soon!