This hand spun shawl was made from our cria Delta Dawn (cria means baby alpaca 🙂 We shear our herd in the Spring. It takes many hours to spin the fibers into yarn. The fiber has to be washed several times to get all the alpaca dust and straw and other matter out of the fleece. This process is made easy with the right cleaners, but it is still a pivotal step because the fiber can felt at this point. Care must be taken not to shock the fibers together with either too heavy a hand or drastic changes in water temperature. If the fibers are felted you end up with a pretty useless, matted ball of hard fiber.
After the fiber is dried, I hand card and pick the fibers a little to get the rest of the hay and sticks out. There is always more…
I spin the fiber on a spinning wheel and try to keep the size consistent. The hardest part of this process is staying awake. The spinning of the wheel makes a very comforting whirling sound. It usually puts Jim right to sleep and I have to fight to stay awake and treadling. Coffee helps.
Once spun, the yarn is set with hot water and let to dry. At this point shocking the fibers a little is a good thing because it helps keep the twist in the fibers together.
I weave my shawls on either a floor loom or a table loom. My preference has been the table loom lately because I get to watch TV while I weave. We generally watch comedies or epic tales of the heroes journey or something on the history channel. We also love The Office, but i digress…
The weaving is easy, but before you can weave you must warp. Remember being a kid and your teacher gave you two pieces of construction paper and had you cut straight lines in one and cut the other into strips and weave to make a placemat? No? Hmm… Well, it’s essentially the frame of the woven piece. Warping can be tricky. That’s all I will say about that.
After two nights of binge watching Foyle’s War, I have a beautiful shawl. Cutting the thread off the loom is so gratifying. In the end, it feels like a soft alpaca hug.