This is the time of year when breedings and births are over for a couple of months and so we concentrate on getting ready for shows and spinning and knitting up our show fleeces from last year.
First we have to do any last minute preparation to this Fall's show fleeces. Here is a clue, when you roll your show fleece out to examine it for any pieces that should be skirted, don't let your dog help.
Do try to skirt off the edges and then lay out your fleece so that you can roll it in one nice piece with the cut edges facing outward.
Sometimes there is a "mystery blob" of fleece that has just gotten handled or felted itself a little and, even though it does belong to that fleece originally, it looks funky and wrong now. Just get rid of that - it doesn't weigh THAT much that it will matter on your fleece weight and it makes the whole fleece look like you didn't know how to prepare it correctly. (Yes, the judge DOES give you a score on preparation and some shows have "Best Prepared" although I'm not a fan of that award.)
blob - remove it!
I would weigh the fleece too. You can zero out any postal scale with a book or container on it and then add the fleece to get the correct weight. Not every person has a postal scale but you really do need it if you are going to sell fleeces or partial fleeces to spinners or felters because we sell by the ounce and you should know the weight of your show fleeces too in case there is a mistake in the weight assigned by the judges of a show. (As I know from bitter personal experience.)
Some alpaca people are done at this point but I always enter hand spun skeins and (if they have this class) hand made alpaca articles.
I used to be able to knock off a couple of skeins without even breaking a sweat but those days are gone thanks to the problems with the Hand which I discussed in a previous post
But, I am getting through it slowly, trying not to overdo it and agravate the hand.
So my next step is taking one of last year's show fleeces and putting it through the drum carder.
After all of the fiber is on the drum, you break the connection at the location of the little gulley in the drum (is there an actual WORD for this???) and turn the drum backwards to peel off the roving.
This first pass, opens up the fleece, lets some stuff fall out of it and aligns it into a roving. However, one pass is never really enough in my opinion so take that same "roving" and put it through the drum carder at least one more time.
This is a little more like it. Now you will have a reasonably good roving from which to spin.
I like to do up a whole bunch of rovings and I usually twist them a little bit when I take them off the drum carder and I store them all in empty ice cream containers so that I have a good supply from which to spin. Make sure you do up at least 2 and 1/2 oz. if you are going to enter a contest.
Don't think you can just blithely spin on now though! If you have a very fine fleece from which to spin, you are still going to have to remove some junk from it WHILE you are spinning. This is why I am NOT one of those alpaca breeders who thinks, "If fine fleece is good than even finer fleece is better." You hear many of these NON-spinner alpaca people talk about how they want to produce a 17 micron count fleece or even, God Forbid!, a 14 micron count fleece. GOOD LUCK GETTING THAT CLEAN! This fleece is a case in point. It is a very fine, baby fleece and despite careful cleaning, prior to shearing, it still has little bits of hay in it like one sticking out on the left side of this strand:
That makes a bulge in the yarn, that we hand spinners call "a slub", if we don't get it out before the spinning. And slubs don't win contests unless we are talking about "designer yarn" where the slubs are regularly spaced enough to look like a design element.
So we spin and we stop every so often and pull out the junk that would create the slubs, not just hay but also 2nd cuts from the shearer and any tips that may have broken off from that fine, baby fleece and we lay the junk on our jeans until there is enough of it to roll up together in a fluffy ball and throw on the floor.
Sometimes we just get to a point where we realize that we suddenly spun a couple of yards that was a different diameter than the rest of the yarn. This frequently happens right after we adjusted the wheel or when we come back to spinning after a break. Either way, that piece has to be thrown out too. No spinner is perfect but we try for even diameter, not over or under spun, not too many slubs and at least 2 oz. per skein for any contest. This skein will be entered Un-Plied (ie: as a single) so it has to be done carefully. Plying hides a multidude of sins but singles are out there buck naked with all their flaws exposed. It takes guts to enter a singles skein but why enter skeins at all if you don't want a challenge?
If we're lucky, you may end up seeing this skein at the Great Frederick Fair with a pretty ribbon on it.
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