Fibre & Products
Fibre of the Gods
Alpaca were bred by the Inca’s of Peru for their wonderfully soft and warm fibre. This cashmere-like fleece was once reserved for Incan royalty and is now enjoyed by spinners and weavers everywhere. Alpaca fibre is one of the most luxurious fibres in the world. It comes in 22 officially recognised colours and every shade in between. Its most remarkable quality is its softness – alpaca fibre is inherently soft. The softness is due to the fact it has less scales on each individual fibre, compared to sheep’s wool which has many, and more prominent scales on each individual fibre. (Suri alpaca have less scales than Huacaya alpaca so their fibre is even softer.)
Properties of alpaca fibre
Huacaya alpaca has a crimpy bright fleece giving a soft look and feel, it contains minimum lanolin so does not always need to be scoured prior to spinning. It can be spun into yarn straight from the fleece and is often washed at the hank (a coiled bundle or yarn) stage of processing.
At its finest alpaca fibre gets as low as 15-16 microns (the mean of the fibre diameters or average diameter) which is very fine indeed, in fact it is often described as a hard wearing cashmere. At its finest it is used like cashmere to produce high quality, luxury garments in both the woollen process for knitwear and weaving and in the worsted process for fine suiting and materials.
Alpaca is a natural semi-hollow fibre with a fineness that matches many of the micro-fibre synthetics. Outdoor clothes designers have invested heavily in the development of synthetic semi-hollow fibre. Unlike synthetically engineered micro-fibre, alpaca is produced by a sustainable and environmentally friendly process.
What to do with your fleece?
Sell your fleece
Several people/organisations buy fleece – see the back of the Alpaca magazine for the latest information. Several organisations and individuals will buy fleece. The price is not what you would achieve if you process the fleece and sell the products yourself and it varies from year to year.
Many local hand spinners may be interested in your fleece and will often pay more than some of the commercial processers. Contact your local spinners and weavers guild.
Process your fleece
It is financially more viable if you add value to your fleece, by having it processed into Yarn and sold as throws, jumpers, socks, or fabric. This will enable you to make a reasonable return on your investment.
You can sell the finished product to friends, through the local paper, have a sale at your premises and let people see the alpacas, at farmers markets, via e bay, at local agricultural shows, fetes etc. or even do a deal with a shop in your area (in a town or a farm or country store).
Some BAS local groups are providing a forum where fleece is sorted and then groups of breeders with small amounts of similar quality fleece and ideas for finished products band together to have fleece processed. It works out quite a bit cheaper to process 20 to 25kg than to have a smaller amount done yourself. Find out whether your local group provide this or perhaps organise it yourself ?
Many people buy alpacas because they want to spin the yarn themselves for making products. There are quite a few craft people out there offering courses on how to spin, visit the Craft Courses website for more information in your area.
Why not “Swap” your fleece at the local farmers market for produce, or with your local spinner for finished products.