Have you tried spinning alpaca fiber that has been commercially processed and pin-drafted? It looks like this:
This is how my alpaca fiber looks when I have it processed into roving at Rach-Al-Paca Fiber Mill. It is a dream to spin. It drafts so smoothly and effortlessly. But for some time, I’ve been wanting to dye my roving. I have dyed raw alpaca fiber and lots of alpaca yarn, but the roving is so delicate, I was afraid to try dyeing it. I asked questions, got ideas, listened to opinions and was still scared. I just didn’t know if it would hold up during mordanting, heating, and rinsing. Would it fall apart? Would it felt?
Finally, I decided the worst is that I would fail. Maybe I would have a small pile of ruined felted fiber. I could be careful not to burn the house down, so I screwed up all my courage and just tried something.
First, I very carefully finger chained some roving. I was hoping this would help it hang together. I made 3 short lengths.
Then for scary part, I put citric acid in water and let the chains sink into the water for a half hour. I planned to use commercial acid dyes which need either citric acid or vinegar to set the color.
When I scooped the fiber out of the water is was like mush in my hand. I could not see any definition of the chaining. I very gently squished out some of the water and put the fiber in a pan.
I squirted some dye on the fiber. I think I left too much water in this one and the dye got diluted and ran from the fiber.
I squeezed out a bit more water from the other chains and squirted on some dye. At this point I was not very concerned about the results of the dyeing in terms of the resulting color. I felt confident I could rectify any issues with the color. Then came the really scary part! I put the aluminum pans in my oven and baked the fiber. (hence the concern of burning the house down!) My reason to use the oven was that no agitation would be required. I had never tried dyeing in a regular oven, so I watched it pretty carefully. I didn’t want it to get dry and scorch.
When the fiber had cooled from the baking, I gently rinsed it and laid it on a towel to dry. It was pretty flat and lifeless. I had my doubts that it would be spinnable, but…
by the next morning it was dry and had fluffed itself to its nearly pre-dyed state. I was able to gently un-chain the first chain and it seemed like it had not felted.
That was my first attempt and I considered it a success. I did decide that I didn’t like using the oven. I could achieve the same lack of agitation if I steamed the aluminum pans in my roaster as I do for the felting fiber and yarn.
A few days later I got a suggestion and tried again. But you will have wait for another day to hear that story!