alpaca fiber that is... I surely don't!
Until I started raising alpacas, I never thought much about where my yarn came from or how much I would love working with it.
Years ago, I taught myself how to crochet using the most economical yarn to learn with: acrylic.
Now that we have our own herd of alpacas, a manufactured synthetic product seems like sacrilege, but synthetic yarn has its value. It comes in a variety of weights, textures, and colors, is durable, washable, and very forgiving to work with; but I'll never forget the first time I purchased alpaca yarn.
I bought two skeins of forest green and mustard yellow twisted together in a tweed design to make a blanket for my sister.
At the time I didn't know what I was buying. I had heard the term "alpaca" before but didn't take the time to understand what an alpaca was or its fiber properties.
I just knew the skeins were squishy and incredibly soft to the touch -- softer than any other yarn I had felt before and I could tell it was something special. The blanket came out beautifully and I was hooked.
Jump ahead 15 years and here we are, raising our own alpacas and making my own yarn.
I know other farmers feel pleased with the products their livestock, produce, but I discovered that it is also very personal for me.
How I feel about my herd's fiber and finished products is similar to the feeling you get when your child brings home their art project from school - in love with what they created -- and proud too.
Turning alpaca fiber into yarn & dryer balls
When shearing is done, what do I do with all that fiber??
Bags of freshly collected alpaca fiber ready to be cleaned
The first step is cleaning all that raw fiber.
The main part of an alpacas fleece comes from around their midsection and it is called the blanket. It is the area that has the highest quality fiber.
Each shorn blanket is laid out on a skirting table so that I can evaluate it for consistent staple length, and remove any vegetable matter, dirt, and small clumps of fiber that are too small to use (called "second cuts").
I also remove the guard hair (coarse fiber) that surrounds the perimeter of the blanket -- this helps prevent an itchy/scratchy end product.
As I clean their coats, I can already imagine the final result...
... and it makes you want to hug it!
Next, I take the fiber that won't become yarn (this comes from the neck, head, legs, and tail called "seconds and thirds") and do a similar process: I sort by staple length, remove vegetable matter, and dispose of any unusable bits.
Tia's seconds and thirds
Once all the fiber is cleaned, I label each bag with its contents by name and grade (1st, 2nds/3rds) and what I want made (yarn, roving and/or batting). I compress as much air out of the bags as possible, and pack it all into a box (or two) & ship it to the fiber mill.
A few months later, when my order comes back, I make personalized tags for all my yarn, so you know who's yarn is who's when you're knitting, crocheting, or weaving into a hat, scarf, sweater, blanket, etc.
The seconds & thirds will come back to me as roving or batting that I will shape and felt into dryer balls by hand so you never have to use commercial dryer sheets ever again.
So, this is how I get my daily dose of fiber!
I love all the beautiful and useful products alpaca fiber lets me create.