Never look a gift alpaca in the mouth

I have been in Melbourne at a workshop with India Flint.  It was a great three days and I can’t wait to write about it…. but my phone steadfastly refused to cooperate woth WordPress–or perhaps it was the other way round–and it turned out sharing a computer wasn’t really an option.  So, writing about that will have to wait a minute or two!

In the meantime… maybe the proverbial instruction that you never look a gift horse in the mouth (implying you are checking whether it is an old horse and not a fresh, strong young one) only holds true for horses.  I’ve had gifts of alpaca that were full of moths, smelled of mould or were terribly short and full of guard hairs.  People making such gifts are well intentioned but have no idea what it takes to transform that fibre into yarn or how many hours I’ll spend touching and smelling it!

However, the two I have started in on recently are lovely.  They’re from friends who live in the hills–the people whose community was the former home of Malcolm the Corriedale.  There’s a white fleece that I am dyeing with eucalypts (so far).


I have found that I can take raw alpaca fleece and dye it without pre-washing.  I can wash the fleece in the same step as rinsing out dyebath–saving water and getting the benefit of eucalyptus cleansing.  The dyebath no doubt has earth in it already if it contains leaves from a gutter or bark from under a tree.


Then there is a wonderfully black fleece.  Two kilogrammes of it.  By the way, I believe I did look into the mouth of this particular alpaca, and its teeth were mighty long!  We had enough rain weeks back that we have run the whole house on rainwater ever since.  The weather was still hot and dry most of the time until recently.  So it seemed seasonally appropriate to wash fleece.  Then I had the key thought: ‘I feel as though I could just wash half that fleece right now.  And maybe the rest tomorrow.’ If I ever have a thought like that about housework, I make it a habit to act on the impulse immediately, before it can get away!  Fleece washing is not really fun, but it makes other forms of fun possible, and it is necessary.  Alpaca is filthy because the animals roll and dust bathe, but it is not greasy, which makes washing it far simpler than washing sheep fleece.


So now: let the spinning begin…


Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

2 responses to “Never look a gift alpaca in the mouth

  1. India Flint and alpaca in one post. Woot! Can’t wait to hear more about your workshop.


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