It’s a great visual right? When I tell people “I spin”, invariably, there’s a long pause. I can see the wheels in their heads turning. Most of my hippie bean eating friends (love you guys) have a visual of me “indoor cycling” on one of those bike rigs. Others probably visualize me standing in one spot spinning around like a top.
Anyway, spinners who work with sheep’s wool usually work with washed fiber. When they use unwashed fiber, it’s called “spinning in the grease”, because sheep’s wool has a ton of lanolin in it. Lanolin is colloquially called “wool fat” but it is actually a wax secreted by glands in the sheep’s skin. It helps them waterproof their coats. It is exactly as gross as it sounds to work with, but leaves your hands soft and well conditioned.
Alpacas don’t have lanolin in their fiber. It’s one of the things that makes their wool hypoallergenic. So when I’m spinning unwashed fiber, I’m not really spinning “in the grease”. It’s more like spinning “in the dirt”.
Eeeew. I was working with some of our fiber left over from last year, when Mom hadn’t started washing it for me. Thank goodness I have the wheel all set up on a table cloth I can take outside easily, but I forgot how gross it is to get all those dust (& etc.) particles air-borne. I’ll be cleaning it out of my ears for a week.