For my second sample skein of alpaca spun from a recently acquired fleece, I prepped the fiber by combing it. (Find the first sample skein experiment here.) This opens up the ends, separates the strands a bit, and disengages any leftover bits of hay that might still be stuck in there after skirting. The strands are all still running in the same direction.
Here’s where I’m running a little bit of a risk. With wool, having the individual fibers running in the same direction is generally fine. Each strand has little barbs along it that grab onto neighboring strands, which helps them tend to stick together rather than slipping along each other. Alpaca isn’t really a fiber known for it’s stick-together-ness. This smoothness makes it really lovely to touch, but can be a bit of a hassle when spinning. My first experiment worked because the action of carding the locks caused the strands to tangle with each other a bit, which helped them to hold together during the spinning.
Once I tried a few different techniques for drafting the fiber consistently, my singles spun up quickly. Pre-drafting helped here – without it, I was either pinching too much or too little fiber with each pass.
Once again, I plied the singles back on itself to make a 2-ply finished yarn. My first clue that there was a problem came when I wound off the singles to prep for plying. As I was winding, the singles slipped apart in a few places. Not breaking, kind of like fraying or unraveling. Normally, I would look at this as a sign that there isn’t enough twist in the singles. (Too much twist and the singles can snap, too little twist and the fiber separates.) But that isn’t the case here – there is plenty of twist, including in the sections that were slipping apart. I observed that the strands were simply sliding right past each other. The fiber doesn’t have enough grip to hold itself together consistently.
I salvaged what I could to make the final yarn, and dropped it into the bathwater. The finished yarn is light, lustrous, soft, and drapey. Perfect, except for not being strong enough to use.
So I’m calling this experiment a bit of a failure, insofar as the end goal would be a usable yarn that I could knit into a garment. Otherwise, the experiment taught me quite a bit – which is a win in my case, because I do love to learn new things.
Next up, the third and final sample experiment – carded, but spun worsted. Will it be as fluffy as the first sample, or a little smoother?