After many long months and countless other projects, I started feeling the itch to get back to spinning yarn. I hadn’t sat down at my wheel since the end of Tour de Fleece in 2017! Pretty sure my Sidekick was starting to feel a little lonely, and I can’t have that. My last project was 4 ounces of alpaca that I’d turned into batts on a rented drum carder. I spun the batts during Tour de Fleece and set them aside to let the twist relax a little before plying. I just never got to the plying part so the singles have been looking pretty on my shelves since then.
Since the singles were the closest thing at hand and the easiest thing to spin (plus I had to clear my bobbins), they went on the wheel first. Not wanting any leftovers, I decided to ply each single with itself which meant winding each into a center pull ball. Happily, not one of the single broke during winding, and I wasn’t particularly gentle with them either. I’m not going to lie here - I was worried that the plies had too much twist because they didn’t pull apart. Weird thought for a spinner to have, I know, but my previous attempts at spinning 100% alpaca didn’t turn out great. At least this batch of alpaca was still soft at this point.
My last alpaca handspun turned out wiry and over-twisted which I did not want to repeat. After all, I only had this fiber in my stash for 10 years because I didn’t want to mess it up. So that I’d have to work to add too much plying twist, I went with a slower ratio for me, 5.7:1. Even though the drafting twist had been resting for several months, which could have skewed things a bit, I still aimed to line up the individual fibers and create a balanced yarn. Mostly pulled it off, and the newly plied yarn was soft and not wiry at all. Whew!
I didn’t wash this fiber before turning it into batts which I probably should have because I was cleaning up dirt and VM, and washing my hands every step of the way. I did my usual 20 minute soak with Eucalan and the water was so dirty that I couldn’t see the bottom of the sink. There was no missing that dirt ring though. It took 3 soaks for the water to finally run clear. After squeezing out the excess water, I lightly snapped the yarn but skipped thwacking it against the shower wall because it already had enough of a halo.
The yarn looked pretty limp and sad when I hung it up to dry, but that changed fast. I suppose this is the reason why you spin samples first.
All 4 skeins bloomed into an airy, plump, and positively luscious yarn. Not one of them was wiry or prickly or over-spun. There’s definitely some thick-and-thin spots but it’s reasonably consistent overall. Plus, getting rid of all that dirt made the yarn even softer which I didn’t think was possible. Washing and setting the twist had some other side effects too. Before washing, 2 of the skeins were a DK weight and 2 of the skeins were about worsted weight. All of them plumped up to a light bulky weight of about 7-8 WPI. Of course, this changed the yardage too. The 313 yds I started with turned into 264 yards, a difference of about 15%. Totally not complaining though.
So now what? I’ve finally spun soft alpaca yarn which is a first for me and a long time goal. Definitely going to knit it into some sort of cowl or small shawl because there’s plenty of yardage to play with. Maybe something based in garter stitch with a simple lace pattern. Or I could just keep wearing it as is. :D It is really soft after all. I’m also thinking about submitting the best skein of the 4 to the handspun competition at a local fiber festival - that is if I can figure out all the rules and requirements.