Is this true? "• Alpaca fibre does not require scouring prior to spinning."
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I found that statement in a Rowan magazine article - page 120 of: http://www.knitrowan.com/files/downloadfiles/Digital%20Mag%2056_LR.pdf
I'm not a spinner, haven't woven anything larger than a coffee table runner, and haven't ever deliberately dyed anything. However my youngest sister asked me what I wanted from her trip to Chile, and I said alpaca yarn - not blended with any other fibre. So, she brought back several unlabeled skeins that she'd bought in a small village marketplace. They were supposedly alpaca.
They were awful to knit - inelastic, unevenly spun (ranging from thick as a pencil to thin as button-thread), and utterly filthy! I probably should have washed the yarn before knitting, but didn't think of it. After knitting - an picking out plenty of barnyard debris as I went - I washed the two big scarves I'd made. The water was brown, just like the water when I used to clean my babies' dirty diapers. I washed and rinsed multiple times until the rinse water finally stayed clear. I loved the look of my two scarves! One was white-ish, the other grey-ish. But I wasn't able to wear either one of them! They itched something fierce! Had I known they would itch, I'd have made vests instead! The yarn was too 'hairy' to undo all that knitting, so - reluctantly - I gave them away.
So, seeing that line that alpaca doesn't need scouring, I'm wondering if it's true or not. I certainly wish what I'd had had been scoured before spinning!
May be just me, but I never spin fiber that has not been, at least, rinsed until the water is clean. All animals get dirt, grass, etc. in their wool, hair, fur and I for one do not enjoy getting it on me, my wheel, my clothes, or any where else. It is true that the camelids do not have lanolin to be scrubbed out, but they do have dirt and other things that need to go.
I speak as an owner of llamas, alpacas, and merino sheep for 30 years. I do not wash my alpaca before blending or spinning it. I find (with my alpacas) that the majority of vegetable matter is released in the carding process. Alpacas and llamas are double coated animals---meaning they have both guard hair and down fibers. In alpacas the guard hair is usually very micron friendly and soft. It sounds like the fiber you got was not so, and the guard hairs should have been removed before spinning. I am sorry that your experience with this marvelous fiber was disappointing. Please do not let it influence your further use of alpaca fiber. Alpaca fiber is truly a dream!!!
Does the term "vegetable matter" include excrement or only uneaten vegetation? I don't much mind finding bits of straw in the yarn, but the colour of the water after washing was really off-putting!
My idea of vegetable matter is some alfalfa, hay, or weeds. I skirt all of my fleeces for dung and other non-desirable matter before further handling. Most hay, dirt, and weeds are eliminated during the carding process. Any VM that does not is easily removed during spinning. I hope that you will again try alpaca fiber---this time quality fiber that has the undesirables removed. Unfortunately, your relative was probably drawn into the less honest people just looking for a quick profit. Again, please try quality alpaca fiber. You will not be disappointed. You have my word on that.
My idea of vegetable matter is some alfalfa, hay, ... (
I may someday, if I can first reduce the size of my stash.
At the moment, there is no way I could possibly justify obtaining any yarn, not even free. It really hurts when I have to refuse yarn!
I do wash my alpaca just once to get the dirt off before I spin it. I do skirt it at least 2'xs once before washing then again after it dries just before carding that usually gets most of the VM and dirt out.
As for elasticity alpaca does not have much it could be mixed with some other fiber. If you are allergic to wool alpaca is usually what people can use. I agree some wanted to sell some not to nice wool and that was wrong. I have watched Alpacas roll in the dirt till there was a crater in the dirt it helps keep the bugs off them. It also takes care of some itches to. lol If and when you would like to try it again there are so many alpaca farmers and spinner right here in the USA that have different standards then aboard. I have some wonderful alpaca fibers I love to spin with when I bought it had very little VM and it was almost clean it did get a bath the water was well brown but it is ready to spin, I hope this has not turned you off to using alpaca in the future.
We raise alpacas. I can spin the fleece without washing if I choose. However, we do pick it clean of any straw or grass. I prefer to wash it though because alpacas roll in the dirt and it can be quite dusty. Alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin.
Jessica Jean, as for your yarn from South America, I doubt very much that it was 100% alpaca. Alpaca is wonderful to spin and wonderful to knit, either by itself or blended with another wool. We have a friend from Peru who raises alpacas here in the US now, and he tells us that what is sold on the street in Sputh America is for the tourists. The good stuff is sent to better markets, such as Europe where they make outstanding fabric from alpaca and alpaca blends.
South America does not have a quality control system as we do in the USA, where the fiber content must be listed. Many people who buy things in South America find that they do not like the products, because they cause itching, etc.
I do blend some of my fiber with merino or other wool because it gives the alpaca some "memory". Alpaca by itself is wonderful for scarves or drapey shawls. For a sweater or a structured item, the wool is needed to give it the memory to hold its shape.
There are many good, dependable alpaca farms here in the US who have quality alpaca yarn and fiber to sell. Yes, it will be more expensive than South American goods, but your will also make a quality products from it.
I have sold raw fleeces to many spinners, as well as handspun yarn and millspun yarn.
I only asked my sister to get it, because she wanted to get me something from Chile. At the time, I was still allergic to wool - all sheepswool. Menopause fixed that though.
When buying at a local farmers' market, quality control is non-existent. I'm convinced my sometimes under and sometimes over spun alpaca was alpaca, with most of the guard hairs left in and spun by a spinner's small child.
I'm not put off the fibre. I was just interested in the veracity of the statement. Thank you all for your responses.
I have spun both washed and unwashed Alpaca. I prefer washed. The unwashed spin was messy in that dust and vm dropped out in a noticeable quantity . Had to wash the finished skein twice before the water was clear.
Just because it's technically possible to spin unwashed fiber doesn't mean you should.
Scouring is what removes the lanolin from sheep's wool. Alpaca do not produce lanolin, so their "wool" does not need to be scoured. However, alpaca, like many other animals, tend to roll in the dirt, plus just the life they lead tends to collect VM and other undesirable inclusions, so washing it, such as letting it set in warm water (a bit of soap or detergent helps) to release the dirt is preferable. Can it be spun or knit without washing it? Yes, but it doesn't always come fully clean afterwards. And the dirt collected in the fiber can damage the orifices in your wheels and scratch your needles.
I have sheep, not alpacas - but animals are animal... (
Yup they sure do, my girls (chickens though) dust to keep the mites off. They love it. No itchies.
The alpaca fleece I have was very soft and free of guard hairs. I did not wash it. But I did lay out a small amount on top of a pillow case on my table and pick out the VM, which there was not much of. But it was dusty and sandy. As someone else said, wool has lanolin and alpaca does not so the need to wash isn't as great.. In fact the biggest problem I had was the static which was terrible. I carded it by hand and then spun it. I rinsed it a couple times after plying, and then dyed it. I wrote about it on here. http://www.knittingparadise.com/t-457504-1.html
, and also on my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/theknittingewes/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
I found it much more difficult to spin because alpaca doesn't stick to itself the way wool does. But the yarn is very soft and I am certain I can ware it against my skin.