Yesterday The Farmer and I headed down to Hoosier Heartland Alpacas again for a fiber processing clinic.
It was a beautiful day, though chilly and a little windy. Everything was set up outside on a long table.
They had a new "toy," a fiber tumbler that gets out some of the dirt, dust and vegetable matter from a raw fleece. You run it for a half hour or so before starting the picking process.
The next step is the tedious one that I have been afraid of. On a hardware cloth rack, you can shake out the fleece a little more and let any other loose veggie matter and second cuts fall through the wire. It is suggested to have the shorn side facing up toward you. Then you separate the fibers enough to get the rest of the non-fleece items out of it. That's it.
Next, the cleaned fleece gets a little bath. Use warm water with some dish soap incorporated first, then add the fleece and make sure it doesn't just float on the top. Let it soak for a 15-30 minutes, then put it on top of the grate (looks like a cooling rack to me) and press the water out. The key is to not agitate the fleece in this step so that it does not felt. Repeat the washing one more time in the same temperature water.
Next is the rinse step. It needs to be rinsed twice as well in water that is the same temperature. Add a little vinegar to the second rinse to help get the soap suds out. Again, not agitating the fibers is key.
Next is the drying. They have these great racks with hardware cloth bottoms that they made for this step. It looks like a drying rack. Fluffing the fibers throughout the day helps dry them quicker.
Finally, the drum carder lines up all the fibers to create roving. Since Suri fiber is so long, it gets added to the top of the drum so it winds more easily around the larger wheel. This process is repeated three times to create a clean and smooth batt. You can blend different fibers at this point as well.
Now you are all ready to spin! It will take a while, but the processing no longer seems quite as daunting. Unless I think about the 30 pounds of fiber upstairs...