I am a hand spinner of alpaca. I work the entire start to finish process with my products. I buy in alpaca fleece and I am fortunate to know some lovely people with alpacas. I also select from different breeders so that I can get a good range of colours. This means that the quality and the length of fibre vary. I blend together short staple length fibre with longer ones to give a better yarn and more colour variety. Once I receive the fleece I lay it out and discard the outer edges as these are generally poorer quality. I then manually pick out as much vegetable matter as possible.
The next stage is washing. The fleece is soaked overnight in a gentle organic laundry liquid and rinsed carefully. I air dry it in gardening nets. The next step is to card the fleece to make the fibres easier to spin. The spun yarn is washed again and hung with weights to set in the twist.
I have designed patterns for simple hats and wrist warmers, which I then knit on four or more needles to avoid a bulky joining seam. After the product is knitted I wash it again but despite all this washing it is still possible to find small pieces of straw or vegetable matter in your item.
My yarn I describe as fine and slubby, as I like the effect that thick and thin gives in the knitting. As each fleece is different, the yarn varies in thickness which may make my products vary in size.
Alpaca fibres and hollow which makes the finished product warmer than wool. The products are knitted from alpaca only, with no elastane so they do stretch slightly after wearing for some time. Washing and reshaping returns them to the original size.
I moved to the stunning Isle of Arran in October 23. Having taught myself to spin a number of years ago on a vintage spinning wheel, I was pleased to find a local spinning group where we swap ideas and spin together. Joining the group and trying to transport a vintage wheel made me realise how heavy and bulky it is. I have invested in a lightweight foldable wheel that fits into a rucksack. I am very happy to say I can now walk or go on the bus to meetings.
Sara Spinner - Isle of Arran