Every farm visitor and or customer at one of the many events we attend always asks .....
What do you do with the Fiber?
So here is a bit of info on shearing the alpacas and what WE do with our fiber.
DISCLAIMER: Everyone has different abilities and limitations on skills and time. So what we do with our fiber may not be what you want to or can do.
Every spring we hire a shearer with a team of handlers that come to the farm, usually in April, and shears the fiber off the alpacas. They manage the alpacas, bringing them into the barn for shearing, lay them down and secure them SAFELY with the pulley ropes. They talk to them, console those that are scared and keep them safe from the clippers during the shearing process. They also get spit on, peed on, kicked, knocked around and beat up .... these guys work hard and they deserve every penny they get.
Question: Why do we hire someone and not do it ourselves?
Answer: We are not young chickens anymore. Paul has trouble with his knees. We are not experts and if you wants a good harvest with fiber that is worthy of processing to yarn and other products, you need to have is shorn off in the most efficient manner while also keeping stress to a minimum for the alpaca. Although we are pretty healthy, we prefer to pay the experts their due wages for the work they do. The shearing is all done in a matter of a few hours and we are good to go till next year. It's a day of hard work, but organization and preparation is the key.
For more information about preparing for shearing read "The Yearly Harvest" in our article listing.
Once the harvest is complete and the guys have gone off to shear for someone else, we take a DEEP breath and relax for the rest of the day and evening. Then our real work begins ......
1. Add hot water with a little bit of gentle detergent to the sink.
2. Add the lingerie with the fiber to the water. Push it down to Soak
3. Let the fiber soak in the hot water for about 10 minutes.
4. Drain the water, squeezing the bag ( DO NOT WRING )
5. Add more hot water to the sink and soak again for another 10 minutes, Drain
6. Soak and Drain until the water is clear.
7. Add COLD water to the sink, soak and drain.
QUESTION: What kind of dertergent do you iuse to wash your fiber?
ANSWER: We have used a variety of things such as Dawn Dish Liquid, Woolite or All Free and Clear. It really does not matter which one you use, they all do a good job. Alpaca fiber is not like Sheeps wool and does not contain lanolin. Sheeps wool requires VERY HOT water and a detergent that is an excellent degreaser.
8. Once the alpaca fiber is washed it is placed into hanging net bags and hung outside on the porch for drying. These bags have sections in them and are zipper closure. So the wind can blow all it wants, the fiber stays right in the bag. Every once in a while we go outside and fluff it up in the bags to help it dry. These bags were made for horticulture and drying herbs. You can get a couple at a decent prince on Amazon.
9. Clean and dry fiber is then bagged and labeled. Each bag starts out with an index card inside. As the fiber goes through its processing the card is updated with the latest status. This is a BIG HELP if several months go by between each step.
Fiber that is going to be processed here on the farm into yarn is then fed into the carding machine and combed into a large BATT. Sometimes it's blended with other fibers such as silk, merino or bamboo. The batts are also bagged when ready for spinning to keep them neat and clean. Spinning is done on a Schatch Ladybug. Margie mostly spins a nice even sport weight yarn. Some fibers are plied with other fibers that she buys from other farms. OR she may include accenting threads and beads.
CLICK HERE to visit our farm store and see all the yarn, rovings, batts and fiber for sale.