Most people will tell you that a cria fleece is usable only as a fiber sample placed in a zip-lock bag and given away to farm visitors as a memento. Not true! With lots of patience and the skills of a master spinner, you can turn your cria coats into gorgeous yarn. Because this is a labor-intensive process, you must have some kind of emotional attachment to these crias or have seen the end product to be driven to such lengths. Although I have an emotional attachment to all our Rita Dee Farm crias, the real incentive is the high-end designer yarn that can come from careful processing. After all, this is the best micron count these animals will ever produce, so make it special.
First, you must send this Velcro-like stuff through a picker or hand-pick it into a semi-clean state. Per Carolyn Penny, fiber artist, she doesn’t care about staple length, but check with your spinner to see what their staple length requirements are. Also, don’t worry too much about the cria tips at this point. They will turn up on the small drum (also called the licker-in) along with dirt, short-cuts and other “nubbies.” Keep this drum clean, because it will fill up quickly. You will need to feed small amounts of unwashed fleece directly onto the main drum for the first run allowing the teeth to grab from your hand. This fine, fragile fleece tends to be extremely “fly away,” so work with small bundles, moving your hand back and forth along the drum. I have a brush on my carder that keeps the fleece tight in the teeth, and my hand protected. Run this fleece three or four times through the carder making sure to use the tray for the final run. At each doffing (taking the fiber off the large drum), I pick any visible vegetable matter out as I break the batt into small 6-inch pieces. My fourth run through the carder is from the tray and when I doff this stuff off, it is a well combed batt that looks like silk. Now you are ready to hand it off to a master spinner who will, no doubt, thank you for making their job a lot easier. They too will be seeing some “nubbies” as they spin and will have the option of removing them or making it a part of their designer yarn.
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