dirty hank

How to clean a dirty hank of alpaca yarn:

Alpaca are very hypoallergenic animals because unlike sheep, they do not produce lanolin. Because they do not produce lanolin, it is not necessary to process their fiber before spinning. Though they are very clean animals, even defecating in a communal designated area of the barn, they still lay in piles of hay and dirt for months before they receive their annual shear. I often use a wet/dry vacuum on the “blow” setting to blow out any loose dirt before spinning it into yarn. My husband has built me a mechanism to do this based on the chile roaster design. You load the “basket” full of fiber and spin it around as the vacuum hose is moving around blowing out the dirt.

llamaalpaca-processor

Whether you decide to pre-clean your fiber or not, you will need to spin each ply and possibly ply your strands together. After you have wrapped your spun yarn around your niddy noddy to figure yardage, tie bits of yarn loosely around each section to keep your strands in place when it’s floating around underwater.

 

While spinning this alpaca yarn, it left black dirty spots on my fingers and palms where it rubbed—even though I used my vacuum to blow a lot of the dirt out. This yarn still needs a couple of hot baths. To get most of the dirty ick (technically called VM or vegetable matter) out of the yarn, I add about 2-4 tablespoons of dish soap to the sink and fill it with hot, scalding water. It will foam quite a bit. Add the dirty hank. Do not twist, rub, or wring the hank. Gently press it to the bottom, releasing some of the air bubbles and let it soak for 15-30 minutes

img_1785

After soaking time is up, push the submerged hank back and forth in the sink a few times, then draw it up out of the water, holding the hank with your fingers and separating the strands. Do not twist, rub, wring, or scrunch the yarn. It is now in a critical stage and can felt easily. Gently squeeze the water out of the yarn from the top to the bottom. Set it aside and rinse out your soapy sink. Add more water (as close to the same temperature as the first bath). This next rinse will be to get the soap out of the yarn. Do not add anything to the water. Add the less dirty hank to the water. It should sink to the bottom easily. Let soak for 15 minutes.

Again, push the submerged yarn back and forth in the sink and draw the yarn up out of the water, separating the strands. Squeeze all the water out of the alpaca, then set it aside. The mess (VM) that was in your fiber consisted of dirt, hay, grass, and possibly fecal matter, and along with the detergent, it all went down the drain. This time, we want to soften and condition the yarn to bring back the softness that the detergent took out. This will be the final bath, but if your yarn is extra dirty, you should add more soapy soaks and rinses. Fill your sink with hot water and add a conditioning wool rinse, like Eucalan No Rinse Delicate Wash, Lanolin Enriched. Press the yarn down into the water, releasing the air bubbles. Let soak for 15 minutes.

Have your drying method set up prior to this last step. I use a wooden laundry shelf with a bar and attach a towel to it to catch any drips. You could use your shower curtain rod , towel rod, or an indoors clothesline/drying rack.

Squeeze all of the water out of the hank, one last time. Lay yarn on the towel and roll it up, squeezing with each roll. Unroll and place on hanger for drying.

Your yarn should be soft, bouncy, and a little fuzzy. It’s probably curling like ramon noodles a little too. I let my yarn dry in this state, but you could add hangers to the bottom of the hank to weigh the yarn down. Too much weight will take away the memory of the yarn and its elasticity, so be careful not to use too many hangers. Depending on the humidity it may take 24-72 hours for your hank to dry completely.

Living in a small house with a busy schedule, I try to be efficient and clean all of my spun yarn together. Depending on how dirty the yarn is, the yardage, and the bulk, you could wash 2-3 medium hanks at one time. Keep in mind the space you have to dry determines how many hanks you can clean at a time. Your once Dirty Hank is now soft and clean. Its ready to dye, knit, crochet, weave, or turn into whatever your brilliant heart desires!

 

 

Mason Jar Dyeing- Ombre Effect

There are many different ways to dye wool and this is the method that I use. It’s entirely experiment based and nothing is measured to the exact cup or tablespoon. Dye mediums are not always the same brand or even a commercial product. I also dabble in natural dye stuffs, though the end product is never as vibrant or intense as its commercial rival.

Also, there are many different fibers that you can dye ranging from animal to plant. I will refer to fiber as wool, because in this case and these pictures, that is what I will be using, specifically a blend of cheviot and merino sheep’s wool.

IMG_3905

The basic materials needed for dyeing are: gloves, mason jars and lids, dye (liquid, powder, or natural materials), mordant (vinegar or lemon juice), wool, and hot water.

To begin, put your gloves on and start adding your dyes to the mason jars. Mix colors at will. I usually try to at least cover the bottom of the pint and a half jars and maybe a little more in the half gallon jars. Then I add the vinegar, which looks to be about 1/8 cup for pint and a half jars and ¼ cup for the half gallon jars.

IMG_3917

In the yellow jar, I mixed liquid pink dye and powder yellow dye. I’ll make sure to mix it really well in the next step.

Have your clean wool ready. Fluff it apart and try to get as much natural debris out as possible. More will come out when you card your fibers and even when you spin and knit the yarn.

IMG_3939

Fill your jars with a quarter to third of the hottest water possible. I use my teakettle to boil the water. Add wool and cover with lid. If you overstuff the jar, the dye may not penetrate as desired. You can let it sit for a couple of hours or up to a day. The longer sits between adding water will cause a stronger shade variance. Since I use my dryer kind of light another counter top, I take advantage of the heat that it gives off and do some laundry. This heat or any other heat source that you could use helps to intensify the color in the wool. In the summertime or really hot days, I let the jars sit in direct sunlight for as long as possible.

Later, add a third to a quarter more water. Pour the water down the side of the jar as much as possible and not on top of the wool. Cover your jars. In this stage I like to tip the jar upside down, only until all the bubbles have stopped, to soak the rest of the wool. It may or may not start to seep into the un-dyed wool, but all your wool is soaking up water now. You can make sure the color bleeds in the last step.

IMG_3947

The next step you will add a final third or another quarter of hot water. If this is your last step, you can tip the jar over and let it sit upside down for 5-10 minutes. It’s ok to move the jar around to disperse the dye more. Repeat this step again if you were adding water in quarters. You can add water in whatever increment you would like to create even more variegated shades.

Next you will want to rinse the dye out of your wool. You may need to repeat the rinsing step one to two more times if your wool is really saturated. Remember to only use cold water in this stage. Wait for your jar, water, and wool to be totally cooled (room temperature) before rinsing. Refer to this video for rinsing and drying your dyed wool.

If you feel that your fibers are too dry or brittle from the dye or mordant, add a little wool rinse (like Eucalan) or hair conditioner to your final rinse. Most animal fibers are follicles just like human hair and need a little moisture to sit, stay, lay down and roll over.

It will take a day or two for your wool to dry, depending on the time of year and humidity. Again, I use my dryer to my advantage and let it help me dry my wool faster. I always have a towel folded underneath the wool as a barrier and to help soak up the dripping water. Once dry, you should card the fibers to prepare for spinning into yarn or felting.