The season for spinning: alpaca experiment

Merino and alpaca

Since the spring I have been learning how to spin yarn on my partner’s spinning wheel. I have a large project in the offing, but want more practice first. The Guelph Guide of Handspinners and Weavers has given us a challenge for the year, and it is just what I need to develop some skills. Thursday morning I got started.

The fun challenge is called spinning poker. We are also playing weaving poker, but that is another story for another time. For the spinning game we were dealt five cards, each specifying a colour, a fibre, a feature or a technique to be used in making the yarn. We were allowed to discard one of our cards and draw another, which I did. Here is how my hand ended up:

  • purple
  • orange
  • fine wool
  • alpaca
  • homogenous blend

It was a lucky draw for an inexperienced spinner like me.

This morning I determined my strategy. I would spin a homogenous blend of 60% white merino (one of the finest wool breeds) and 40% alpaca. Later I will hand paint the yarn shades of orange and purple. The fibres will take up the pigment differently to give a heathered effect. In the end I may choose whether to make something out of it or simply show off my unique yarn.

Danny gave me some white alpaca fleece and merino roving from his stash. The alpaca was slightly matted and needed some pre-carding to open it up. Then I weighed the fibre: 1.2 g of wool and 0.8 g of alpaca went into each pile (photo above). Then I spread out each 2 g quantity evenly on a hand card and carded it to create the homogenous blend. I rolled the fibre off into rolags (photo below): 10 of them gives me 20 g for the project. The next step is spinning.

This time of year my energy tends to shift. Call it Seasonal Affective Disorder if you must, but it is a natural phenomenon and there is nothing wrong with it. The only thing wrong is a rigid structure that forces consistency and discourages us from adapting. The intense concentration and cognitive exercise of writing does not come as easily now. I find myself drawn more to the visual, tactile creative process of working with fibre. Sometimes while spinning I find the ideas and inspiration required to write.

So I have started this project. It will be my first attempt to spin alpaca, a favourite fibre. It puts me in a good mood—handling these soft lovelies. Morning sunlight falls through the skylight, flooding our craft room with glory and warmth. Life is good.


3 thoughts on “The season for spinning: alpaca experiment

  1. The only thing wrong is a rigid structure that forces consistency and discourages us from adapting.

    It’s long been a contention of mine that the traditional workday and the go-go-go expectation is simply for the convenience and the comfort of those who (think they) make the rules. It’s not a sustainable pace, and I think we will see, soon or late, a fundamental shift. I often wonder what form it will take.

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