Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Not What I Planned

I woke up this morning, fully expecting to start on knitted vegetables. It was during my morning coffee wake-up spinning that I realized I hadn't purchased any stuffing yesterday. Plan scrapped. Wednesday is the day Mim and I try to get together, and this time she was coming to my house. Good thing, because I was out of eggs (she's my egg lady) and it was snowing.

She is a fleece judge for AOBA (Alpaca Breeders and Owners Association) and every year she has asked if I'd like to participate and every year I have said no. I said no last week, and then decided it might be a good way to learn about spinning alpaca, so I called her back and said yes.
She brought my samples today and promised to go through the first couple with me. The rules are well defined and the scoring criteria is clear. This is the first sample. I love the color and the crimp. The locks are unwashed but since alpaca is not a high lanolin fleece, the issues are dirt and VM, i.e, vegetative matter - straw and twigs, and worse. The fleeces are marked down for guard hair so I had to deduct a point on this one. I wouldn't have noticed the guard hair, were I looking these gorgeous locks in a sale situation, but the spun skein, after washing and fulling, is as hairy as though I had blended it with mohair. I would not want this fleece.
The second fleece we evaluated had to be disqual-
ified. A minimun 3" staple length is required and no matter now many locks we pulled and fluffed, we couldn't meet that. It was a years growth too - how disappointing for the grower. This the third fleece as I charge the carder.

The color was awesome and it just felt good - already I'm starting to get the hang of it. The lock structure is wretched. I loved this sample at first sight and more when I laid hands on it. What's wrong? The staple lengths are wonky throughout, as though they had picked through the fleece - a little of this, and a little of that. La, la, la, la, la.
The uneven lengths made for an uneven prepar-
ation and an uneven yarn. Perhaps mill carding would take care of that, but I was frustrated to present a lumpy product. The yarn in spite of it's flaws feels awesome, and I could be tempted to buy the fleece, if I knew I were going to pay to have it prepared. What a difference these little things make. I have learned so much in three fleece samples and look forward to what I'll learn with the rest. How different this day turned out from when I laid in bed this morning and planned it.

12 comments:

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

Sounds like a great time :)

Life Looms Large said...

I keep looking at that fleece and thinking you could stuff your knitted veggies with it!

That is really cool to see a bit about what goes into spinning and evaluating fleece.

Backing away from the spinning temptation for now....

Sue

LA said...

I don't spin, but I have friends that do! I really would love to feel the fleece in the picture...it's very tempting.

beadlizard said...

In my 20's I attended every wool judging I could. Learned heaps.

Can you pull the guard hairs? Sometimes they're just a bit longer...

Annie said...

The colours are beautiful! That's tempting. Alpaca is always (I think) dirty. My hands have never got so dirty as when I spin alpaca. (I'll wash my alpaca first now) But guard hair: no. It would take too much time to pull them all out and it would spoil the yarn.

Purple Fuzzy mittens said...

You can stuff your veggies with the neppy wool you have in the garage - might be the best use for it, with needle felting coming in a close second.

Love the chocolate color of the 3rd alpaca, but inconsistent lock length would drive me a bit batty. Shearers should take a spinning class so they understand what spinners want. I also have alpaca washed before I spin it - mostly because I am allergic to the grass pollen trapped in the raw fleece.

Jody said...

There are so many variables when it comes to alpaca fleece and some of the nicest fleeces I have seen have a fine guard hair that is still nice and soft. One of the qualities I do love about alpaca is the halo that develops.

Carolyn said...

Hi Sharon, thanks for sharing your evaluation of the three alpaca fleeces! I learned a lot from you. I've spun all of the above, not knowing if I got a good fleece or bad one... I also figured out how to wash the fleece first because I got dirt all over the house and me with one particular fleece.

Birdsong said...

Wow, you really DID learn a lot!

robinsnest@kerrlake.com said...

That fleece is gorgeous! Especially like the silver one. It just shimmers. I saw the cutest book at Borders last night - Polymer Clay Cookbook. There were directions for making alllll kinds of tiny foods out of polymer clay. It also included some edible recipes. They would have made the cutest stitch markers!!

Kim said...

Seeing the fleece from that side really is different! I have had fleeces that looked wonderful but spun up poorly.... those are the kind of things to learn BEFORE you buy, eh?

Benita said...

Very interesting! I have had the luck of sitting through a sheep fleece judging by Judith MacKenzie-McCuin, and I found it fascinating! Too bad about the one that was too short.