So I decided to delve into washing my own alpaca fiber. Usually I just send it to the mill for processing but I have so much that will not become yarn or roving, I decided what the heck. Not like i have anything else to do (ahem).
Well…quickly found out this can be an exercise in frustration! I have thus far only washed small batches. However, I did learn a trick or two. Did some research online to see how other people do it and here is what I have found.
The two big obvious no-nos in washing your fiber or wool are no agitation, and no extreme water temperature changes. This is not a problem when you are washing small batches in your sinks but I needed to wash whole fleeces. Takes a lot of time to heat up big batches of water and I have found that most fleeces
require at least 3 water changes. One thing I found online is that people swear by using rainwater. It does not have the minerals and chemicals of most tap water and it is softer. We, of course, live in an area of very hard water. One sheep breeder washes all of her fleeces this way. Cool rainwater, let them sit for several days and voila! Perhaps it has something to do with the lanolin but my fleeces are all alpaca so … no lanolin.
I did a small experiment. I divided one my fleeces in half. This is a super soft, buttery, yummy fleece from my white girl Jasey Rae. Half of it was soaked in heated water with a bit of detergent and some vinegar. Left it there over night. Then I transferred it to a bin with clean (same temp) water with more vinegar. Let it sit overnight. The next day it was very clean with the exception of a few locks.
Just so happens we had a pretty good rain storm so the second batch went into a bin with rainwater and some detergent and vinegar. Left it for 2 days and then transferred it to a bin with same temp water and vinegar. The verdict? The batch that was soaked in the hot water came out much cleaner. Go figure. Maybe the rainwater works better on fiber with lanolin in it.
Final note, I have not figured out the secret to getting suri fiber completely clean. The locks are bunched together tighter. You can pull them apart but unless I plan on carding it, I like to keep the locks intact. If anybody knows the secret, please please let me know!!
And I would love to hear your experiences. What works for you?
Have a wonderful day!