In early August, the Benzie area spinners visited the Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm. Chris and David Nelson are the owners. (David Nelson, by the way, is the DVM at Platte Lake Veterinary Clinic who sees my dog, Toby.) Chris gave us the grand tour. Their spread is most impressive, and they have some very beautiful animals. Here’s one of the many pictures that I took:
At the end of the tour, Chris showed us some lovely fleeces. I was immediately attracted to a light fawn fleece that seemed to have a hint of pink about it. The fleece was from an alpaca named “Addey” (short for Crystal Adelaide). Although my photography doesn’t do it justice, here’s a picture of the fleece:
I bought 4 ounces. Yum-EEE! This fleece was quite clean, with very little vegetative matter. Another spinner who also bought some of this fleece was planning to spin it without washing. Well, I decided to wash my 4 ounces….
….Which I did a few days ago. I used some hot tap water with just a bit of added boiling water (not as hot as when I wash Merino). One wash with some Orvus paste, one rinse with a glug of vinegar, and one plain rinse later, I had the loveliest clean alpaca.
Now, I could just pick the fleece open to prepare it for spinning, but I decided to comb it. So I got out my combs. I have a pair of Valkerie 2-pitch combs that I’ve used for years, but only on wool. This would be my first attempt at hand combing alpaca.
I charged the combs and then tried to make a pass or two through the fiber. I quickly realized that my combs were on the tacky side – apparently the tines were coated with a bit of remnant lanolin from a previous combing endeavor.
I had to clean my combs. For the first time. My initial thought was to use rubbing alcohol. It worked ok, but it was a slow process: putting the alcohol on a rag and then trying to wipe every surface of every tine without injuring myself!
My second thought was to use WD 40. So, on the second comb, I sprayed some WD 40 on the tines (outdoors, mind you!). After letting the combs sit there for awhile, I put some clean white wool on the combs and pulled the fiber through to remove the excess WD 40.
Both methods worked fine. The WD 40 was faster, but it was a bit smelly (to my very sensitive nose). I’d love to hear from other folks about their efforts to clean combs. Comments, anyone?