Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A Gift of Alpaca - Phase 1

Some of you have heard the story of how I came to have 10 oz (approx 300g) of Alpaca fibre in my stash. For the rest of you, this is what happened.

Several years ago, I took a half day spinning class at a local shop. At that time, I bought a new-to-me wheel and seriously thought I was the king of the hill. Look at me everyone - I can spin. I actually kept what I spun that day that I was so proud of.



It's a good reminder, both in humility but also to see just how far I've come.

I went to work the following Monday and told my then-boss about what I had done, and how pleased I was with what I had learned. She was thoughtful for a moment then said, "There is an Alpaca farm near my timeshare in Vermont. If I bought fibre, would you spin it for me?" Being so pleased with myself (and not having a clue what I was committing myself to), I said "Sure!"

So, true to her word, the next time she went to Vermont, she picked up three large bags of alpaca fibre and gave it to me at work. Two bags were for her, one for me as a thank you for doing the spinning.

That is about when the enormity of what I had committed myself to really sank in. I was looking at (what appeared to be) pounds and pounds of alpaca fibre and I knew that I didn't really have the skill to spin it. Not properly.

Thus started the my spinning education. I have the good fortune of living very close to the Wool Grower's Co-op Warehouse in Eastern Canada and was able to pick up small bags of roving for very little money.


I spun, and spun and spun some more. I learned to ply - no small feat when you only have one bobbin!

I ordered fibre online and spun that. This is where I learned that you have to be really careful with dyed fibre. Some is great, some, well - not so much.


I bought a new spinning wheel and kept trying.


I kept spinning and every once in a while, I would take a small amount of the alpaca out of the bag and test spin it - just to see if I could. Most of these experiments were abject failures and just when I thought I was going to have to admit that I really couldn't do it, I did it.  It wasn't great, but I did it.  I bought a bag of Alpaca fibre, and spun that. And it was lovely - if you ignore the catastrophic error I made while doing it.

So a few weeks ago, I took one of those lovely bags of fibre out from the bottom of the bin and started spinning. And spun, and spun and spun some more.  And then spent a day plying.

And this is the result.



That my friends, is 600 yards of 2-ply laceweight Alpaca.  And it's divine. But mostly, I'm so happy to be able to make good on my promise.

14 comments:

  1. Speaking as someone whose only attempts at spinning produced something very much like the first two photos, this is a truly inspirational story. The two finished skeins look so neat and beautiful. Since the title of this post includes "Phase 1", does that mean there's more to come?

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  2. Hi Kaiya. Thanks very much. I admit I spent some time admiring this and showed it to anyone who would look. And yes, there is more to come. This is only one bag of the three that I was given. The next one is a lovely mahogany color.

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  3. That looks fantastic and what an inspirational story!! I don't spin, but can definitely appreciate those that do.

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    1. Thanks Lucy. It was quite a learning curve but I'm really happy with the results.

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  4. I have some black alpaca that needs to be spun for a few years now. I've started it but time is limited these days. I think I'm going to just have to start at 10 minutes a week, and eventually it will be finished. Spinning is fun but time consuming.

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    1. There are a lot of things that are like that - time consuming I mean. Knitting in general is time consuming, especially when I insist on using sock yarn for sweaters....
      But yeah, a few minutes a day/week and soon enough it will be finished and then you'll have something new!

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  5. I've tagged you in my blog hop - to take part, simply answer the same four questions, link back to my blog as the person who tagged you, and nominate three more people to answer the questions :) have fun!

    http://butterflysparkledesigns.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/creative-process-blog-hop.html

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  6. This is such a great story! Maybe one I needed to hear right at this point in time. You see, I thought it would be a great idea to buy a wheel at sheep & wool one year, never having really spun. Yeah, its still sitting in the corner. I keep telling myself I will use it soon....

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    1. If you're serious about spinning, you may wish to consider learning on a spindle and then switching to the wheel. I know, there are lots of people who will disagree with me, but this is why - with a spindle, especially if you learn 'park and draft', you do one thing at a time. First you put twist in the yarn, then you draft the fibre, then you let the twist that you put in travel up the newly drafted fibre. It's exactly the same as spinning with a wheel in terms of the mechanics of what you're doing but this way allows you to focus on each step as you do it. I found it made learning to spin on a wheel much easier.

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    2. Oh, and thanks very much. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. :)

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  7. Awesome job Alison. I'm so proud of you. I always have been. Now I'm looking forward to seeing the knitted product. Will it be a shawl?
    Pam
    Your "then-boss". :)
    P.s. no rush at all on the other bags of roving. Only do it when it feels like fun, not work.

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