A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 13, 2007

Fleece – what to do with it?

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Fiber, Alpacas, camelids, General — alpacalady @ 7:18 am

Shorn Pacas SunningOnce shearing is completed, you now have a bunch of bald, skinny-looking alpacas and a whole load of fleece in bags.  So now what do you do with it?

There are many options when it comes to fleece.  Some farms concentrate on just one option, others have several options they employ, and yet others put it in a cupboard and do nothing with it.  The “put it in the cupboard” option is definitely not the way to go.  You have spent all year caring for your alpacas and making sure they produce beautiful fleece so now you need to get the maximum return on your fleeces.  Our fleece and end product sales are a vital part of our business, and each person we sell alpaca product to is hopefully going to spread the word about how wonderful alpaca is and help create more demand for alpaca products.

At our farm we do several different things with our fleece in order to gain a return on them.

Our first option is to sell our raw fleeces to hand spinners.  Now eastern New Mexico/West Texas is hardly a thriving fiber arts area, but still we have managed to make contact with hand spinners and other fiber artists who like to buy raw fleece.  This is a great option for us as we don’t have to spend time or money processing the fleeces prior to sale.  We have some fiber artists who will even select a fleece prior to shearing day.

Another option we have is to send our fleeces to the Alpaca Fiber Co-opertive of North America (AFCNA).  We are members of AFCNA and try to send them 50% or more of our clip each year.  The membership fee is not very expensive, we are able to buy end product from AFCNA at the member wholesale price and can then sell those products at retail price.  By putting our fiber into this national pool we are helping the AFCNA fulfill it’s task of creating more awareness of alpaca fiber.

The next option we have is to send our fiber to be processed into yarn, roving or quilt batting.  There are many mills in the US that can do this.  We use Royal Fiber Spinnery in Ruidoso, New Mexico.  Rod and Marilyn Dakan of Royal Fiber Spinnery have put a lot of effort into developing their mill and produce some beautiful yarn in both natural and dyed colors.

Next on our option list is to have a product made from our fiber.  So far we have had socks and duvets made out of our fiber and have been very pleased with the results and sales.

We have also in the past donated fiber to our local K – 12 grade art teacher for her various classroom projects.  The kids have a lot of fun making things with the fiber and we feel good knowing that we are giving the kids something fun to do while also introducing them to alpaca fiber.

There will always be few areas of fleece that are not really desirable for processing, areas such as the lower leg fiber that can be coarser and often contains a lot of vegetable matter.  This type of fleece makes a great fertilizer for your plants and helps retain water in the soil surrounding the plant.  Just dig a little trench around your plant, put the fiber inside the trench, cover it back up with soil and water well.

As you can see there are many things you can do with your alpaca fleeces.  The Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association has produced a Directory of Fiber Resources which is a great place to start if you are looking to do something with your fleeces. 

So do something worthwhile with those fleeces, just as money doesn’t grow on trees neither does fleece sitting in a closet generate revenue!

Rosemary

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