Because there are so many variations of alpaca and llama patterns and colors, indigenous peoples in South America have dozens of complex ways to describe them. North American breeders recognize sixteen standard alpaca fleece colors in show rings and sorting sheds. Here are a few of my favorite methods for spinning naturally colored alpaca fiber; experiment to find your own.
Prepare the different colors independently into roving or top, then hold them side by side and draft them together. This will give you a heathered effect that looks great in a two-ply yarn.
Spin one singles one color and a second singles another color, then ply them together for a marled yarn.
Place two or three colors side by side on handcards or a drumcarder, then card them to preserve the colors. Spin the roving or rolags from one end to the other, then chain or Navajo-ply the singles to preserve the color repeats.ADVERTISEMENT
Flick locks of multiple colors, then spin three colors at random. Repeat with a second bobbin (affiliate link) and ply both together to obtain a variegated yarn.
Tailspin suri locks with different-colored tips; this will preserve the lock structure as well as the color variation. One of my favorite yarns is spun from a raw suri fleece so that the tips are left protruding, making an art yarn.
Insert the cut ends of very small suri locks into the ply twist when plying to get a tufted yarn.
When creating a two-ply yarn of one color, tease fiber of a second color and allow it to be grabbed by the ply twist to obtain a fluffy yarn.
Spin a thick, low-twist singles of one color and a thin, moderately high-twist singles of another color. Ply these together for a spiral yarn.
How do you like to spin your naturally colored alpaca fiber? Tell us in the comments below!
—Donna M. Rudd
Donna M. Rudd earned a Master Spinner Certificate from Olds College, and she continues as an instructor there. She is also an Olds-certified fleece sorter/grader and wool judge. She has worked extensively with alpacas and received the Judy Steele Suri Network Creativity Award for the promotion of suri alpaca and its fiber.
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Donna M. Rudd’s article “Spinning Alpaca’s Natural Colors,” which was featured in the Summer 2018 issue ofSpin Off. Download a copy to learn more about all the many colors of alpaca fiber, and use your handspun, naturally colored alpaca yarn in Eileen Lee’s “Timberlane Cowl,” which is also featured in the Summer 2018 issue.
Featured Image: A few alpacas from the growing herd at Belvedere Fine Fibers, based in Berthoud, Colorado. Photo by Joe Coca