by Mother of Purl
Sometimes the fiber tells us what yarn it wants to make, and sometimes we plan a spin from start to finish. When some local alpaca fiber came my way, I was inspired by the shades of natural colors. Maybe for the first time ever, I consciously figured out what I wanted in my handspun yarn. I wanted to make a gradient yarn progressing from light to dark, in a bulky weight, for a knitted trivet that would be nicely padded and could take the heat from hot dishes. Once I nailed down these choices, it was easy to plan my fiber prep and spinning.
Alpacas come in many shades, from cream through every shade of brown to black. Their fiber is less elastic than wool. It does not have natural lanolin and it’s likely to be dusty—alpacas love to roll in the dirt. It’s more slippery so it’s easier to draft than wool, but you may need some practice to produce consistent yarn. Finished alpaca yarn usually has more drape, fuzz, and softness than handspun wool.
I had 6 shades, some already commercially processed into roving and others straight off the alpaca. I would have to clean and card the fleeces. For the colors to stay completely separate in the finished yarn, I would spin fat singles onto separate bobbins, then arrange the colors from lightest to darkest, then chain-ply each bobbin into one jumbo skein. For the singles, I used my Sidekick and a standard flyer. For plying, I set up the Bulky Plyer Flyer and its 8-ounce Bulky Bobbin.