The mail brought a wonderful thing to my doorstep yesterday - this raw Paco-vicuña fleece:
Well, that's really just the blanket, not the whole fleece, but I have the rest, too.
Like alpaca, Paco-vicuña needs to be de-haired before it can be further processed. In this picture, you can see the guard hairs sticking up from the rest of the fleece:
The fleece has a micron count of 16.3, pretty darn fine. The guard hairs are stiffer and thicker and need to be gotten rid of so that they don't spoil the fineness of the rest of the fiber. I don't know how this is accomplished by machinery in a mill, but if you are doing it for yourself, the hairs must be pulled manually from the rest of the fleece. It's not hard, it just takes a while.
Here you can see the bit of fleece from the above picture after it's been de-haired:
All that's left is the wonderful, fluffy, Paco-vicuña fiber. Now it's ready to be washed (soaked, really) and then further processed (I'll probably card it as it's a little short for combing) so that it can be spun into luscious Paco-vicuña yarn.
I also had the chance to dye up some recently spun milk protein yarn. The milk protein was in a wonderfully big box full of spinning fiber that was under the Christmas tree. Milk protein, made from milk in a similar way that bamboo fiber and tencel fiber is made, is wonderfully silky. It breaths well and contains anti-microbial amino acids (which can help with the stink factor in sweat).
I had two 2 oz. skeins to dye up. The pinky-orange-yellow color was achieved by winding the skein into a ball and then squirting pink and yellow weak acid dye (set with vinegar) into and all over the ball. The color was set with heat by microwaving the ball for about 3 minutes.
The golden color of the other skein was achieved with a natural dye made from Tesu flowers, the extract of which I ordered online. I mordanted the skein with alum first, and then plunked it into the dye pot. The golden color, particularly on the shiny, silky milk protein fiber, is luscious and exactly what I wanted:
I'll be using this yarn when I go to a Knitted Knockers Knit-in next week where we all will be knitting prosthetic breasts to donate to women who've had mastectomies. Lot's of these women really like knitted boobs over the silicone prostheses because they're more realistic, breath, can be worn with their regular bras, and can be adjusted by adding or subtracting the amount of fill.
I'll be spinning the rest of my milk protein and dyeing it up in anticipation of the knit-in next week. And then, I'll be concentrating on Paco-vicuña, of course!