Our tour began where the dirty fleeces begin--in the washing machine. One does not want to investigate too closely what exactly is in the fleece.
and the now cleaner, fluffier fleece is placed on a belt that moves it into the carding machine. I know how much wrist-wrenching labor this machine saves and my chest and back muscles can easily start aching thinking about it. This was a very touchy, feely afternoon, by the way, since you couldn't help wanting to sink your fingers in this stuff and try out all the changes in texture that take place.
All those drums, and teeth and gears and belts produce roving
And now, to really put the handspinners to shame, comes a machine that takes not one roving but four at a time and turns them into yarn.
The one-ply thread can be twisted with others to form two or three-ply on the above machine and put on cones. The yarn on the cones was wound around the arms of this machine
to make skeins that were washed a final time and hung up to dry. This is undyed alpaca, their specialty, since they own an alpaca farm.
Jen has been doing some beautiful work with felting and showed us one more machine--the needle felter. Remember that large carding machine? It can be set to produce not long, narrow roving, but flat batts. Here Jen is feeding three layers of thin batts--that were dyed in the wool--under the many needles of the machine.
and here's the finished product. It felt like a very soft blanket at this point and Jen will run it through several more times to join the fibers more tightly. Later--perhaps this is already obvious to many of you, but sometimes it takes me a while to find the light switch--I realized that a similar machine must produce the cotton batting that I use that is labelled as needlepunched.
Quite the day! And I got home in time to do about an hour's worth of stitching. And if you are still with me, thanks for the company.