I have been hand-processing my Alpaca's fiber since 2006. I thought I would share with you how I do it. Alpaca fiber does not have any lanolin in it, but it does have a lot of dust and dirt from them rolling in their dust bowls as you can see in the picture below.
During the shearing process we collect the fiber in three different bags. The main blanket, is tagged with the alpaca's name and number 1. The neck and some of the other fiber as number 2 in a separate bag. Then the leg fibers go in a bag numbered 3.
I take the number one bags and place on my skirting table. From this I pick out any hay, pickers or whatever might be in the fiber. I also pull out any shorter fibers. As you can see in these pictures my alpacas fiber is very dirty from rolling in their dust bowls.
After skirting we use a homemade "blowout box" and a leaf blower to blow out most of the dirt and dust. This helps with the next step of washing.
I place the fiber into laundry bags that you can close up with a drawstring. Depending on how much fiber I usually have it separated into 3 laundry bags. Now it is ready for a soak. I like to use Orvus Paste. It is a non PH shampoo (typically sold in farm supply stores). Horse owners like to use this to wash their horse with. You may also purchase smaller quantities in quilt shops as it is used by quilters for washing their quilts. It also can be used to wash your delicate clothes. A little Orvus Paste goes a long way. I scoop out a half a ladle for a full wash load for my fiber.
I have an older top loading washing machine that does not agitate (I was given this machine free because it won't agitate). I use this for washing the fiber. I fill the washer with HOT water and my Orvus paste. I then place my laundry bags of fiber into the washer (after filling). I close the lid and let the fiber bags soak from 30 minutes to an hour or more. (It depends how busy I get doing something else). Then I spin out the dirty water. This washing machine does not spray water as it spins (that is important to prevent felting). After spinning out, I fill again with HOT water. I let the fiber soak for 15 minutes or so, then spin the rinse water out. I fill again with HOT water for a second time and soak for another 15 minutes or so, then spin the rinse water out. Usually my fiber's second rinse water is clear.
I then take it out of the bags and place in this herb/seed dryer trays. This is hanging in my basement with my setup for washing and processing the alpaca fiber.
So this is how I do it. I have never felted any of my fiber by washing with hot water. If you were to agitate with the hot water and soap, then yes you could have a felted mess. If you try this, please remember no agitation allowed!
Hi, my name is Liz Fagel and I love to blog about our ranch located in beautiful Northern Michigan. I write about the alpaca's and of course the fiber arts.