I love to process my fiber at home in small batches by animal. It saves me quite a bit of money since I don’t have to ship my fleeces to and from a custom mill and pay for processing fees. Hand processing does take time though! I will include videos with some of the 5 steps 🙂 There is also a pin image at the end to summarize the steps. Enjoy!
This is one of the most important steps. You want to get the fleece as clean as possible in terms of dirt, dust, and vegetative matter. You also want to get rid of second cuts which are super short fibers since these will create lumps in your yarn and lower the overall quality. At this step, you also want to batch the fleece into similar lengths and fineness. Keep your prime fleeces separate from the neck, rump, and other usable areas. I usually put one alpaca’s fleece into 3 batches- prime, seconds (different from second cuts which are just short pieces of fiber created during the shearing process) which includes the neck and rump, then thirds which include the belly and other coarse fibers.
Once your fleeces are cleaned, you are ready to wash. You will need some buckets and dish soap (or shampoo). For Suri alpacas, use lukewarm water and keep the temperature consistent. Do not agitate the fleece since this will felt them together. Soak and squeeze a few times until the water runs relatively clear. Then set it outside to dry on a skirting table so there will be airflow beneath the fleece as well.
Once the fleece is dry, you will need to fluff it up with a wool picker or by hand. You can take out smaller vegetative matter as you fluff. If you want to handspin art yarn, your fleece is ready at this point.
This step is difficult to do without a drum carder so this is one of the items that may be worth your investment if you plan to handprocess your fleeces. The drum carder aligns the fiber and creates a batt. The batt is ready to use for felting and spinning. A custom mill will be able to take it a step further and create roving for you from batts. I just split the batts into strips if I plan to spin at this point.
This is the most fun step of the process 🙂 You can create handspun yarn with a spinning wheel or a drop spindle (if you are super patient and don’t have much fiber…). You can then use the yarn for any project you like!
Bonus Step- Dye Your Fiber!
The two times that are easiest to dye your fiber:
- Right after you wash your fiber
- After you have spun your yarn