Drowning in Fiber

I have so much raw, unwashed wool in my garage right now. I bought it two years ago and although I’m really wanting to clean and process and spin it, it seems so daunting. It’s going to be a huge job and I don’t really have the right equipment. In order to do it right, I need to fashion some screens to dry all this wool. That means a trip to the hardware store and money spent. Not something I’m willing to do right now.

I’m no stranger to making screens. I was an archaeologist for over ten years and building screens was part of the job. For this project, I wouldn’t need to make something as heavy and durable as a shaker screen for digging. Really I’d just like some light weight wood to make a frame and a mesh a little smaller than chicken wire. I want the wool to dry, not fall through and hit the dirt after it’s been so painstakingly cleaned.

Cleaning it all is another issue. I do not have buckets or barrels big enough to manage all this wool. I suppose I can just get two pig tail buckets, one for the cleaning and one for the rinsing. It will just mean a lot of repetition to get through all these bags of wool. I am very curious though to see how the colors come out once all the lanolin, chaff, dust and dirt is washed off. I can’t wait to see how it feels once it’s clean. I’m not one of those folks who feel okay about spinning in the grease. My wheel is not a super fancy one but it’s the only one I’ve got and I don’t want to muck it all up.

I really would like to get this big processing project out of the way this spring because I keep buying yarn and I have a garage full of wool in which to make my own. Granted my skill as a spinner is not so adept that my yarns are uniform. But for certain projects that doesn’t really matter much. In fact, my crazy yarn might inspire a few new designs.

Then there’s the alpaca. A friend gifted me three bags of alpaca; one black, one red and one blonde. The problem? The staple is under two inches. I tried spinning it. It spins alright, but then as soon as you let go the tension, it falls apart. Folks have said, “Just felt it all”, but I’m not that jazzed about felting and can’t even really envision what I’d do with it felting wise. So there it sits, in three large bags. I feel guilty about it. It’s just sitting there. Surely someone would have some use for it. It’s dirty, very dusty with lots of chaff. But it’s easy to clean. I did comb out, with a flea comb that is, about three ounces for a friend. I never wash alpaca because there are no oils to remove. I find it easier to just comb it out and spin it. I know there are lots of different ideas on this though. Apparently, the alpaca these cuttings came from had experienced a very dry year and they didn’t grow much. If I were the owner I’d have let them go another year and skipped a shearing.

Ultimately, I just need to use what I have. I feel like a hypocrite continuing to build my stash of yarns that cost a pretty penny when I could just make my own. My wonderful husband never says anything but I know he’s thinking, “Why in hell is she buying MORE YARN?”

So my plan, if I find the industry to do it, is to get all this wool processed once and for all this spring. I think I can do it. It’s just about making time for it and enjoying the process.