Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Great Alpaca Experiment: Part Two

I hope Part One was informative,  so here is part two.  After letting the roving dry for about 24 hours, I decided to try out making a home made hackle.  I found instructions for making a hackle using plastic hair picks, a 2x4 cut to size, and some screws.  (I will blog another day on how I made it and the results of it.)  I used the new hackle to blend up some of the roving I had just dyed.

I combined dark red roving (light fawn alpaca dyed with red) with the natural black alpaca I had in about equal proportions.  I also combined to two other "weird" colors with the black.  The results of this were pretty cool and I plan to use them in a small project.

I also used the hackle to make thicker roving out of each of the other colors.  I also found that by putting the other colors through the hackle, the few white spots from the ties I had in during the dye process pretty much disappeared.


So I decided to take on a very large nuno felting project using the combination of the natural black alpaca and my newly dyed black/red alpaca mix.  I won't go into gory details - but I made a few mistakes.  I will share them here.

  1. I made a very bad choice of fabric for nuno felting.  I had some fabric left over from my curtains that was a very sheer and very slick polyester.  I thought it being so sheer it would work just fine.  Turns out I was very wrong.  I think the slickness of the fabric prevented the fiber from catching through.
  2. My natural black alpaca apparently had a lot of guard hairs still left in it.  I am not experienced in alpaca and did not really realize this until I went to full the project.  The @#$@#$ thing started shedding.  I mean there were black hairs everywhere!!!  I ended up just quitting after my whole bathroom was full of black alpaca hair at 2 AM on a work night.
  3. Alpaca felts more slowly and I was rushing.  I found out the hard way that alpaca felts much slower than the merino wool I have been felting with.  It is not a project to be had when you start felting at 10PM at night.
The project was a bust, but I learned a lot.  This lead me to do some smaller experiments to try to see exactly what went wrong.


I have been given a lot of fabric scraps over the years - I have been sewing since I was 6.  After my nightmare of a fabric selection on my first project, I searched out some silk from my stash.  It was a sort of "old lady" looking print I had been given as a gift from a coworkers trip to Chine - his mom had picked it out. But, it was the only real silk I had.  I chose the chocolate brown for two reasons:
  1. I wanted to see if the dark chocolate would shed like the black, and
  2. It matched so well with fabric.
I layed out two layers of wool and place on it a wrist cuff sized piece of fabric.  I then used a pretty typical nuno felting process and timed my rolling time.  I rolled the piece for a total of 25 minutes, then fulled it by throwing it in the sink.  To my surprise, it barely shed.  It also scrunched up beautifully, just like I have seen in pictures.  Here it is after drying:


I have a large supply of very thin cotton gingham my grandma gave me from our childhood projects.  I thought maybe it would work since it was not slick and very open weave.  I also wanted to try the black alpaca again to see if I had just made a mistake before.

I layed this out in the same shape, size, and method of the silk chiffon experiment.  This took by far longer to felt and the gingham didn't nuno felt as well.  The piece still shed horribly while fulling, but only slightly after it dried.  It also appears very hairy - like monster fur.  Here it is after drying:


The final experiment was to make a scarflette using my dyed yellow alpaca and the cotton gingham I had used in experiment two.  I laid it out just as I did in experiment two with the change in overall size and an additional two layer strip of white alpaca over the cotton gingham.  Here it is:

I hope you like this post.  My next post will be on dyeing using AmeriMist liquid airbrush icing color.

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