Remember the alpaca-in-a-bag I brought home with me ? The fleece only– the actual animal still lives on a ranch!
I enjoyed peeking into the bag every few days (ok, hours), but it was awfully dirty dusty, and didn’t seem quite as appealing in a bag as it did on the animal. I knew I would have to wash it sooner or later, but the memory of schlepping gallons of water, then sloshing the resulting dirty water out into the garden made my back twinge in fear. If you recall seeing the “Meryl the Merino” post, you will remember that I ended up washing only about 8 oz. of the entire 7 lb. fleece. And that took me all day, and I used up quite a few ibuprofen in the mix.
The alpaca is only about 2 lbs, but since alpaca isn’t as easily felted as merino, I thought I’d try washing in the washing machine. Not only would it save my back, it would use far less water, which is a huge consideration for those of us in Southern California.
After much internet consultation, I determined that the best way to execute this maneuver was to separate about 1/2 lb of fleece into several mesh lingerie bags.
I then filled the washing machine with hot hot hot water and a squirt of Dawn dishwashing liquid.
After soaking the fleece without agitation for about 40 minutes, I drained the machine, pressed out water from the lingerie bags, took them out of the machine and into a waiting plastic tub, re-filled the washing machine with hot hot hot water and some more Dawn (this fleece was DIRTY!!), repeated the soak, then went through the same steps with plain hot water to rinse. I did use the washing machine to spin the excess water out of the final rinse. By choosing this method, I was able to remove most of the water from the fleece, leaving me with fairly dry fleece. I spread this out over my drying rack, and soon had beautiful, soft, clean alpaca.
After bringing a bag of clean fleece over to my friend as a thank you gift, carding it into a batt, then meanly bringing it back home, I have spun it onto a bobbin to show you what it looks like:
Because my mama didn’t bring me up to have bad manners, I will sweetly bring my friend a replacement bag of fleece. But this time, I won’t even LOOK at her drum carder.
Even though it’s such a nice drum carder….