Spinning Alpaca Wool
Before alpaca wool is spun into fiber, it first goes through a carding process wherein the wool is disentangled, cleaned, and mixed again to form loose strands that are ready for spinning. Indigenous weavers naturally use hand-carding while more contemporary alpaca breeders and alpaca wool manufacturers use drum carding or other modern equipment. Once the wool has been carded, it is now ready to be spun into fine yarn.
For Andean weavers, spinning alpaca wool into strong, fine threads is so integrated into everyday life that it is common to see almost everyone hand-spinning while watching over their children or talking to neighbors and friends, or even while walking along the road. In an Andean village, even young boys and girls know how to spin. Spinning alpaca is, in itself, an art form and even takes years to gain proficiency.
The tool used in hand spinning is a drop spindle or what Andeans call “pushka” and looks like a wooden top but with a long axis. A normal puska is used to spin single strands of threads and a larger pushka is used to spin multiple-ply threads.
Besides hand spinning, alpaca wool can also be spun on mini-mills which are also used by some local alpaca breeders. Mid-scale and large-scale mills are used by more modern alpaca fabric manufacturers.
Unlike other kinds of wool, alpaca wool is washed after it is spun, and not before. Andeans use plant detergents such as Sacha Paraqay or Illmake to clean alpaca wool. After it is spun and cleaned, it then moves towards the dying and weaving processes.