ABC - Alpaca, Blending, & Color
Continuing with Alpaca - The Mini Series, today's topic is blending; blending two fibers, in this case Merino wool with alpaca, as well as color blending to achieve a tint (lighter) color.
I have a lot of photos to share, so let's get started.
Last Fall, I wrote a post on washing alpaca fleece and gave a little mini tutorial on combing alpaca fiber. Today's fiber prep method uses a drum carder.
I'll be using beautiful white alpaca fiber from this fellow, 'Regalia', who we've met before and blending it with commercially dyed Merino wool top.
The first step prepares and aligns the alpaca fibers by running them once through a drum carder. I use a Strauch Finest Single Wide drum carder. Drum carders are a fairly expensive fiber tool, but like any handcraft, your tools can really make a difference in ease and efficiency. That said, if you don' have a drum carder, you can still accomplish similar results with a blending board or hand cards.
I am using 2 ounces of white carded alpaca (divided into 1 ounce portions) and 1 ounce each of red and blue Merino top (the latter is the cyan & dresden blend from Paradise Fibers February Fiber of the Month Club).
Why did I choose these two colors? I wanted two colors that were complementary. In color theory, complementary colors are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel. In this case, although I love the brilliant hues of the red and cyan merino top, I wanted softer colors. I achieved this by blending with the white to make a tint of the original colors. (Besides, this post is about blending . . . hard to demonstrate if you don't blend!)
The following are a series of photos of my fiber and color blending process accompanied by a brief description.
Layer of cyan and dresden Merino top.
Follow with a layer of carded alpaca. Repeat layers until all fiber is loaded on drum carder; finishing with a layer of blue Merino.
Blended fiber after one pass through the drum carder.
Split the blended fiber lengthwise into six or so strips and send it through the drum carder again for further blending of the fibers and color.
Blended fiber after second pass through the drum carder.
Repeat same process for a third and final blending.
The fluffy sheet of fiber that is removed from the drum carder is called a batt. I then split the batt lengthwise into 12 slivers and rolled them up into nests to await spinning.
And I repeated the whole process using the red Merino!
So let's go back to that color wheel. We still have the same complementary colors, just a subtler tint of the red and cyan.
Back in January, I gave a preview of some of the projects I planned for 'Alpaca-The Mini Series'. One of them was a necklace created with two colors of alpaca-wool blend handspun as a thick and thin yarn.
I took all those cute little alpaca-merino blend nests and split them further so I had 48 pieces (24 of each color). I spun an uneven yarn with thin and thick parts, making nice slubs by drafting bigger amounts of fiber. I alternated colors . . .
. . . and then plied the single handspun yarn with itself and . . .
. . . ended up with 108 yards of this fun textured yarn! I wish someone would create "virtual touch" so you could feel how incredibly soft it is!
Once spun, I decided not to make the necklace. Although quite a charming project, it's just not my style. I love the finished yarn more than I thought I would and, honestly, I wanted to make something that I would use. I found the perfect idea, however, it's part of a Guild challenge that is in progress and so I've got to keep it secret until after our August 11th meeting.
Until I can share the finished project, I'll give you an incognito teaser: