Cleaning animal fleece ready for processing has to be the most difficult and time-consuming part of fibre work. In fact, for many people, their first encounter with raw fleece, whether from sheep, llama, alpaca or goat, will be their last. Each type of fleece has its own peculiarities and cleaning requirements. Sheep wool is thick with lanolin, awet smelly grease that coats everything it touches. It’s marvellous for keeping your hands soft and smooth, but other than for socks and mittens, you won’t want lanolin in your wool and you’ll have to find a way to get rid of it. The sheep ticks are also a bit of turn-off factor for some folks, who become gibberish after only a brief peek into a raw fleece.
Llama and alpaca fibre on the other hand, is dry and delightfully free of ticks. There is no grease and usually, it has a pleasant smell; this is from someone who likes the smell of a barn though! Unfortunately, these incredibly soft and fine fibres are magnets for dust, hay, twigs, in fact almost anything the animal can brush against. Our particular challenge is to get rid of the sand and veggies in the most efficient way possible. Once the rubbish has
been extracted, the fibre is ready for combing, carding or even spinning, even without washing. If you want to, you can save the washing process until you set the completed yarn or full as a completed soft furnishing project.
Here at Fibre Arts Bootcamp, we’re always searching for the most efficient method for each step in the processing of fibre and today, we want to share with you a short video of what we believe is the easiest way of getting rid of the dust and debris from the raw llama or alpaca fleece. The fibre tumbler has already been described on this blog, but the addition of a high velocity blower has supercharged even that simple process. The blower is a cheap, but high-powered leaf blower, available in most hardware stores. It will work quite well, even if you don’t have a tumbler. A large mesh cage to contain the fibre, but allow them room to move around, is all you need to get started. However, if you have a lot of fibre to process, then the tumbler takes the cleaning to a new level altogether.
Usually, our fleece would have been cleaned before storing, but last year was just a trifle crazy and some jobs had to be shelved for a rainy …or, in this case, snowy day. Actually, the snow has provided the perfect environment in which to demonstrate the fiber cleaning; just watch out for thick carpet of dirt, hay, short, unwanted fibres and even, twigs, stones and the occasional grasshopper. Yeah, I know they don’t get ticks, but some of the llamas are like walking fly-papers!
Here’s the video ….psssst ….it’s not the most entertaining piece of video footage you have ever seen, but then, if you weren’t interested in cleaning llama fibre, you wouldn’t be here now, right?