Many spinners and crafters use alpaca fiber raw, but it's nice to work with a nice clean fleece. Alpaca has no lanolin and tends to be much cleaner than wool so is relatively easy to wash.
Things You'll Need
- Buckets; at least two
- Mild soap
Skirt the raw alpaca fiber. This means clean the larger pieces of vegetable matter and manure from the fibers. It can also reduce the dust if you shake it on a screen before wetting. Just watch how much dust and small debris comes through the screen. A 1/4 inch hard wire screen works nicely for this.
Fill a bucket with the hottest water that you can stand to have your hands in. Take a reasonable amount of alpaca fiber and submerge it in the water. After doing it a couple of times you'll get the feel for how much you can wash in a bucket at a time. Let it soak in this hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Don't agitate it or stir.
Fill another bucket with the hottest water you can stand again, but add a little soap this time. A cupped handful of Orvus soap works well. Don't let it suds up too much, but some suds are OK. Grab a handful of fiber from the first bucket, hold it above the now muddy water and let it drain. You may squeeze a little but DON'T wring it. Even the squeezing can add some felting. Once all the fiber is moved, let sit in the soapy water for 20 to 30 minutes.
Rinse the first bucket well and fill it with the hottest water you can again. This time, just rinse the soap from the alpaca fiber. Let it drain again; maybe squeeze a little and put it in the rinse water. On the first rinse, just do a quick rinse to get the worst of the suds out. Or you you could let it for the 20 to 30 minutes -- use your own judgement.
Repeat the previous step of rinsing until the alpaca fiber is soap free. You will generally need to do at least two rinses, but some some may require more.
Remove the alpaca fiber from the final rinse and place it on a screen. Make sure to separate any heavy clumps and pull apart as much felting as you can to aid in drying.
Tips & Warnings
- There may be some felting with this process, but you should be able to pull the clumps apart or card them out.
- Beware of chapped hands. Use lots of lotion after you're done.
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