I stand up and dust the hair off my pants and shirt, and get the Dust Buster to suck up the hair off the chair and the debris off the floor. Every hour or so I have to do this, to take a break, work the ache out of my back, and then sit back down to sort some more.

It was a great kindness, these 21 bags of alpaca scraps and skirt (just a few with skirt, the rest is sorted with the Firsts and Seconds gone). A friend who raises alpacas suffered burn out as she was finishing her yearly sort, and told me to come and get them. I was delighted! It reduces the need to buy colored fleece.

The skirt is just marvelous. I'm currently working through a bag that appears to be principally unsorted skirt, and every dive into the bag pulls up a long section of whole fleece, that produces mostly Firsts, some Seconds, and a little Thirds.

I sort for my own use, so instead of piles and piles of Thirds, I have just a little. I am not counting the unspinnable Thirds. That goes into scrap, for whatever we can do with fleece that cannot be spun without a magic wand and words I do not know (or have been taught not to be naughty and say)!

The first bag I sorted was pre-sorted Thirds. At least, that's what she said. I picked, and picked, and came out with two bags of Seconds, and a bag of spinnable Thirds. One small bit of Firsts, which thrilled me no end. (Ok, so life is kind of boring right now, we take our excitement where we can get it!)

I have bags of all the colors. White, that is prettier before it is washed since it has pink colors in it from the red earth out here. Medium Brown, in two shades. Chocolate brown. Black, with and without brown tips. And a Mottled Black that has dark gray in it.

I'm managing to get through the equivalent of one small bag per day. About half the bags have more fleece than that in them. This is a month long project, at least.

I worked through the dark brown fleece, painstakingly picking and sorting all but one bunch, which was just too difficult to do, so I left it till later. I now know how to work it, so I'll grab it out and work it some time in between bags.

Somewhere about an hour into the second bag I looked at a bunch of fleece clumps that were so dirty they made me want to cry, and knew I'd have to toss all that lovely fine clingy fleece, because there was no way to CLEAN it! And we aren't even talking about WASHING it yet, just getting all that hay and woody debris from it.

I finally grabbed my metal toothed dog brush (I don't have a dog, we got this for combing fleece), and learned to comb fleece instead of picking it.

There's a trick to it. You just can't do very much at one time. One little bit of fleece... Grab it tight by the matted end, and comb the cut end. Flip it, grab it even tighter (combed now, it slips more easily), and comb out the worst end of the debris, along with the mats. Clean the brush, and see if any of the matted fleece in it can be salvaged for Thirds. Sometimes yes, usually not.

You can comb clean Firsts and Seconds, but not Thirds. Firsts are 3" and longer. Seconds are 2" to 3". Firsts are everything shorter than 2". You can hang onto the end of a 2" piece and grab it tightly enough to comb out the other end. It takes quite a bit of strength, and you have to grab about an inch of it to hold it tight enough. So any shorter, and you really can't hold it well enough to comb it without it all ending up in the comb. So we have Combed Firsts and Combed Seconds. The Thirds are just picked, or discarded into the scrap bags.

These bags of combed fleece are so beautiful I just can't wait to spin it up, so that evening I pull out the bag of soft Firsts, and start to spin. Slippery, clingy, satiny, this fleece spins up easily. It has a lot of loft.

I decided to spin lumpy yarn, for the first time ever. From the start, I wanted very neat and even yarn, because I spin what I like to USE. I wasn't thinking about weaving then, I was thinking crochet, and you just can't crochet character yarn easily, the hook gets caught if there are loops or curls (liike with the Mohair I began spinning with), and lumps make it more difficult to work with the stitches. So this is a first.

Problem is, once you spin evenly, you have to really concentrate on spinning sloppy. I determine to master clumsiness!

I'm still looking for flax and cotton to spin, but the windfall of alpaca will keep me in colors for a good portion of the next year.

In the mean time, I'm still sorting, picking, and combing, and trying to keep from raking the heck out of my thumbnail with the wire brush.

Coddiwomple Farm is located the United States.