Processing Alpaca Fiber

 

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Alpaca Fleece – Basic Characteristics: 

Alpacas are prized for their thick luxurious fiber.  Most of the world’s alpacas are from the South American countries of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.  This valuable fiber was once used to clothe Inca royalty, and remains a major export to many foreign countries to be made into finished products.

Alpaca fleece is sorted into categories.  The suri alpaca has a straight fiber with no crimp.  The huacaya alpaca has a crimp to its fiber.  About 90% of alpacas are of the huacaya type.

Alpacas are shorn every 12 to 16 months with each alpaca producing 4 to 7 pounds of fleece.  The prime fleece comes from the “blanket” area, which is the back and sides of the alpaca. Alpaca fleece is found naturally in 22 colors.  The fiber can also be blended to produce a variety of natural colors.  Alpacas with colored fleece are generally preferred although white fleece is also highly valued because of its dyeability.  Alpaca fiber is unusually strong.  The alpaca fleece is soft and smooth to the touch.  It also has a finer thermal capacity quality than wool.  Alpaca fleece is very easy to clean, does not tend to stain, tear or create static, and can “last forever”.  Many people who have difficulty wearing sheep wool, usually have no problems wearing alpaca wool, as there is no lanolin in the alpaca wool.

 Processing of the fleece: 

Once an alpaca is sheared, the fleece goes through many steps before it can be made into a finished product.  The fleece is cleaned to remove any debris, such as hay, grass and dirt.  After the fleece is cleaned, it is ready to be carded.  Carders come in hand and drum styles.  The more fleece you have you will need a drum carder.  This process is like combing the fleece, it removes clumps from the fleece and allows the fibers to lay in one direction.  Now the fleece is ready to be spun into yarn or made into felt.

To be spun into yarn, the fleece fibers can be spun on a drop spindle (this is fine for a small amount of fleece) or can be spun on a large spinning wheel.  Once you have spun your fleece into yarn, you can then knit or crochet your yarn into sweaters scarves or any other fashion.

To make felt, place the fleece in overlapping layers (lengthwise and then crosswise and lengthwise again) in a pan or tray or over a mold (i.e. a cookie sheet or hat mold). Hot soapy water is then poured onto the fleece.  To bond the fleece fibers together you work your fingers in a scrunching motion.  It is important to really work the fleece on both sides to get a good bonding of the fibers.   Once you have formed your felt, rinse with clean water (this may take several rinsings) and allow to dry.  Your felt is now ready to use in any felt craft or fashion.

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14 Responses to “Processing Alpaca Fiber”

  1. Brenda Says:

    I have some alpaca fleece that I want to have pillows made out of. Do you know who I can contact about this?

    Thanks,
    Brenda

  2. Jeff & Cindy Says:

    Brenda,

    There are a few options.
    1. Send your fleece to a fiber mill and have it processed
    2. See if someone near you knows how to make a pillow. If you want the pillow to be made out of felt I could tell you how to do that as I make things out of felt.

    If you have anymore questions feel free to ask.
    Erika

  3. Iris Vasquez Says:

    I need to talk about the proccessing of Alpaca in a textile class. I would like to know if you have in detail that information as well the history. I would appreciated your contribution. Thank you so much.

  4. Sam Pickard Says:

    I have 9 alapacs that were just sheared. I need to find a place to sell the fiber or have it proccessed. Do you have any idea of where I can process the fiber or what I can do with it. We are new in the world of Alpacas.
    Thanks for your help.

  5. Deb Faux Says:

    How do you get the smell out? I cleaned the alapac fiber with lukewarm water and mild detergerant several times to get it clean the smell of the animla still lingers

  6. Donna Says:

    I have been looking into making Teddy bears from my fleece, do you know what proccess i need to follow to get the fluffy look for the bear

  7. Javier Goldstone Says:

    This page wasnt working yesterday. i tried viewing it but it timed out 3-4 times now but i can access it now. Why did this happen? Am i the only one having this error?

  8. T. Guest Says:

    Same question as Sam Pickard….we’ve had 2 Alpacas for 3 yrs & have bags of fiber I’d like to sell…..but where? And how is it priced?

  9. sue Says:

    suggest contact your local guild of weavers dyers and spinners. I’m sure they would love to purchase it from you.

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