There’s something really awesome about wool. Its softness and squishiness and fact that you can turn it into pretty much anything makes it one of those materials that I just need to work with! I’ve always found the process of making yarn intriguing and I think we need to learn a bit more about it. Today we’re going to be talking with Caryn Vainio of The Glorious Grazers. Caryn makes her own wool from the alpacas she raises. We’re going to walk through the process of making wool from “scratch”! 🙂 First I have to say, though, that I love the yarn from The Glorious Grazers. The colours are wonderful and I must say that I may just have some on its way to me. The wool I picked out is called Grape Soda and Bubblegum! Can you guess what colour it is? Now, let’s get on with the questions!
1) Can you list your steps for the process of creating wool for sale?
First, it starts with shearing the alpacas, which we do every year on Memorial Day weekend. Once the wool is sheared, I either wash it myself or send it all out to be washed (easier that way!). Then, I process it – I’ll either card it or comb it, depending on what I want the end product to be. If I’m selling carded batts, I’ll card it on my drum carder. Sometimes I blend the alpaca with other fibers first, like silk or Tencel or bamboo. I do spin my fleece into yarn once I card it. I have two spinning wheels and several spindles. I usually spin on my wheels for things I want to finish quickly, but I’ll often have a project going on a spindle for me to pick and work on whenever I have a few minutes.
Skirting Benz’s fleece just after it’s been sheared. Skirting is the process of removing sections of the fleece that are dirty or coarse.
2) How many alpacas do you have?
We have four: Benz, Cinnamon, Silverton, and Indie. We got the first three together from the same farm several years ago, and then Indie joined the family as a rescue about three years ago.
Here’s Silverton, Cinnamon, and Indie (from back to front) just after shearing.
Cinnamon goofing around with Benz behind him.
3) What is the dyeing process like? How many different colours do you make at a time?
I love dyeing fiber! The process is different depending on what you want the end product to be, but frequently I do crockpot dyeing – I have a crockpot I use just for doing that. I fill it with water, put the fiber in, and then add my dye powder and vinegar. If I want to do a solid color, I’ll put one color in and stir it before I cover it and let it simmer on low until the water is clear (that means the dye has been taken up completely by the fiber). If I want to do multiple colors, I’ll sprinkle the dye powders over different sections of the fleece in the crockpot, and the colors will generally stay close to the spots you put them in, but spread just a little bit.
There are other dyeing processes I’ve used as well. I’ve spread fiber out into a foil turkey pan, sprinkled dye powder over it as it sits in water and vinegar, and baked it in an oven until the water is clear. The results are similar to crockpot dyeing, depending on how big your crockpot is. I’ve also spread fiber in a long rope on a table and used squeeze bottles of prepared dye liquid to dye in very specific patterns.
The process is half the fun!
Some of Indie’s fiber combined with silk, being spun into yarn.
My drum carder in my fiber studio, with some fiber I’m about to card.
So, are you with me? Isn’t it cool? Be sure to check out Caryn’s etsy store for some amazing colour combinations and just maybe she’ll tell you which of her alpacas it came from! 🙂 You can also check Caryn and her alpacas out on the following social media: