Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I've washed some of the alpaca Erin brought back from McMinnville, OR, for which trip report we still anxiously await. Hint, hint.

(A lock of alpaca on my palm -- see how fine it is!)

I don't know much about the alpaca fiber, so I did some research -- to wash or not to wash and how. Many online sites state that since alpaca fiber doesn't have any lanolin, it doesn't get dirty and many prefer to spin unwashed. If you decide to wash before spinning, the method is pretty much the same with sheep's fleece, but more emphasis on "gentle." No need to scour, again because there's no grease in the fiber.

So I took just a handful from one of two ziplock bags, hand-picked the vegetable matters, and gently lied them over the sink-full of soapy water. I did try carding them to remove the VM, but soon realized that carding really isn't necessary -- the fiber is well aligned, and intact. The VMs are pretty large (and very little questionable contents) and are easy to pick out.

And after sorting out the fiber I thought was just a handful, it expanded -- fluffed up, it's a lot of fiber. Gently swished it in the water, and after a while the water was cloudy-brown. It's fine sand/dust that was in the fiber, that settled down at the bottom of the sink. I think it was a good idea to wash it first.

While washing it, the fiber looked so much like fine hair -- of a read head -- maybe of a child. It was eely! At the wet state, it's all tangly and unruly, and I can now sympathize mothers with fine, long-haired girls! So I gave it a little fiber softener, hoping that it would help detangling. No whining from the alpaca, lucky for me.

Now it's all nicely dried and gently teased by hand, sitting on my kitchen counter. I have to run my fingers through it whenever I walk by. I've been resisting with all my might to spin it -- I have tasked myself to finish some knitting UFOs before I can start spinning it. Now I am on the Brooke's Column of Leaves scarf. If I can knit three leaves an evening, I should be able to get to the alpaca this weekend! See, it's a carrot dangling in front of my nose. It's really hard as I'm not a good lace knitter, and this is a complicated pattern -- well, to me at least. Luckily this is in alpaca too, and makes me fancy about how wonderful spinning the read head alpaca would be!

Pretty fall colors -- We drove to Calistoga on Sunday.

We drove behind a truck with a full-load of grapes through St. Helena. Hmmm, Cabernet or Pinot? Can you see them?

It was quite a sight to witness the bouncing piles of grapes right in front of us!

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