Monday, June 23, 2008

S is for silky suri spinning.....

Photo of Que Cee courtesy of Flagstaff Alpacas.

Part 1. – an Overview.
I have dallied with suri fibre now for three years plus, ever since I found some sources of regular fibre. During this period I’ve researched by google, library, alpaca breed magazines and from the Suri’s mouth so to speak. There’s nothing quite like the hands on knowledge of touching the animal as it grows it’s fleece.
There’s always a thrill in seeing Suri alpacas in the flesh. I think they’re so graceful and beautiful with the sunlight reflecting off their lustrous coats.
How I’d love to own a few.
So it’s no surprise that there are several sackfuls of raw suri fleece in my garage, and carding room. All different colours, styles of ringlets, and weights. All with the names of the individual animals on them. In many cases, the name conjuring a picture of a place each calls home and a quick stroke of the fibre on the animal’s back. The surprising cool slickness through my fingers before the Suri moves off to graze or join the rest of the herd.

Converting raw suri fleece to yarn is not for those in a hurry for several reasons:
1. There is no crimp, only slippery, shiny waves and curls. The fleece lacks cohesion unlike sheep’s wool, so once off the animal, the locks lie individually on the table and separate.
2. Tight ringlets are not easy to pick open into a fluffy mass. Opening by hand is still the best way of creating a fluffy cloud ready to be carded.
Opening and fluffing with hand cards does a really nice job too, then I drumcard.
Putting them through a mechanical picker is less satisfactory,particularly if the locks are
fine with tight locking.They go straight past the teeth.
3. Suri fibre needs to be fed into a drumcarder at a relatively low speed,it builds static easily
and can be very flyaway.
4. Lack of crimp means there is no ‘bounce’ to the yarn, it does not shorten in width once it is washed, and will make a heavy yarn if spun thickly. However, it makes lovely, sleek, soft, fine yarn. Think silk……..
5. It is not like spinning wool at all, more like mohair.

Initially I began combing raw locks by hand using a pair of Majacraft hand combs.
The locks being relatively long create luxurious hand combed top which is so easy to spin, however, there is at least 40% waste, some of which can be carded,but comes off the comb all mixed in with debris, dust and very short fibres.The top is well worth the effort and spins into a really sleek, silky yarn.
Hand combing is time consuming and can be hard on the hands and wrist.
Spinning hand combed top is easy and fast. The subsequent yarn needs plenty of twist but will be strong and less likely to shed(all the short fibres have been removed).So I comb suri for my own yarns,but the method of preparation is too time- consuming to make it a viable product for our shop.

Drum carding on the electric carder needs the fleece well washed and opened(usually by the hand method, and hand cards).Again the finished batt reflects the amount of work put into sorting the staples,removing the debris and opening the fibre well and feeding the suri into
the carder slowly.
Dyeing suri can be done at the fleece stage or as yarn.Dyeing raw locks is easy, the fibres don’t felt readily.Tight locking structure in the fibre can resist dye, so soak fleece well before dyeing
and bring the dyebath up from cold, or better still soak the locks for 20 minutes or so in the dyebath prior to heating it. Suri take natural dyes well too.

Suri blends well with wool (I usually use merino for softness),silk of course, tencel, mohair, bamboo etc.The choice is yours. The silk and Suri blends are gorgeous.
Suri adds lustre and shine to the matt merino.The merino gives the Suri some ‘tooth’ and elasticity to the mix.70/30 or 50/50 make good blends, the Suri properties are visible even at 30%.

Spun fine, a little suri fibre goes a long way and is ideal for lace scarves,wraps etc and in woven cloth.I’m keen to brush some to make a light ‘mohair’ style shawl.I have noticed that a nap is raised and the 100% Suri yarnsfluff readily if the skein is handled a lot.
I also think suri would make a great boucle yarn and perhaps cabling a yarn
for added smoothness and shine. Handspun Suri yarns and blends below.