Monday, June 20, 2011

Learning to Felt

My favorite thing to do with alpaca fleece is to spin it.  However, not all the fiber that comes off the animal is suitable for spinning, so I'm always looking for ways to use the "seconds".   Felting fibers is very popular right now and I've sold fleece to crafters for this purpose.  I've seen people make purses, hats and even slippers by felting.

I thought I'd teach myself to felt by doing something pretty easy to start with.  I have to admit that although I've seen dryer balls in the stores, I've never been tempted to buy a plastic or PVC ball made in China to bang around in my dryer.   Dryer balls are replacements for liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets.   The action of the ball in the dryer reduces drying time and naturally softens fabric and reduces cling.

I recently came across wool dryer balls which intrigued me.  If a plastic dryer ball can reduce drying time, imagine how much more moisture could be absorbed by a fiber ball.    An alpaca dryer ball with no dyes would also be hypoallergenic and so much safer than something made of PVC.

As every spinner has, I have a stash of leftovers - small balls of singles and leftover plied yarns that aren't enough to make a complete project, but too much to throw away -  along with some badly spun yarn made when I was just learning.  So, I gathered my baskets filled with the yarn remnants and started winding.  I had enough leftovers to wind 3 balls that measure about 9" around.  Then I put the ball in a tube sock and tied each end off with acrylic yarn that doesn't felt.

I ran each through the washer in hot water with a regular load of clothes.   Then into the dryer for at least 2 cycles of high heat. 

The yellow ball at the top left is pre-washing (you can still see the strands of yarn) and the other 2 are finished.   The yellow balls contain a mixture of alpaca and merino wool which was dyed.  This is some of the fiber I learned to spin on that I had stashed, but wasn't worth knitting with.  The brown ball is pure alpaca and this is what I'll continue to make my dryer balls with so there will be no chemicals or dyes in the process. 

Ideally, I'd like to make the balls directly from roving or even washed fiber.  That will be my next experiment. 

These dryer balls are great for drying diapers, too.  Smaller balls can also be cat toys and I'll trying to make those as well.  Stay tuned for 100% alpaca dryer balls and toys for the kitties coming soon!

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