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Monday, January 14, 2013

Now...what?

Around April 1, we sheared nearly 1/3 of a ton of alpaca fleece, and that is no April fool’s joke! Each of the fleeces were placed individually in plastic bags and put in a barn store room to be sorted later. Through May and June, we were off on the road to alpaca shows. Now, however, comes the time to chase the snakes and scorpions out of the store room, and settle down to figure out how each fleece will be used.
The easiest choice is picking the fleeces that will go to competition, setting those aside for this winter. We knew these fleeces when we saw them coming off of the alpacas. After they are judged this winter, they too will be turned in the products.
Now is the best time for the weavers and spinners to come around and look at all the available fleeces to use in their work. The San Antonio society is currently working on a day to look over the fleeces. Probably a third of the fleeces will be used this way.
About 20% of the fiber comes from the legs and the belly. This is courser fiber than in the “blanket” of the alpaca (the blanket is the finest part of the alpaca’s fleece, across their backs, upper thighs, and base of their neck). While belly and leg fiber is still soft, colorful, and durable, it is not soft enough to be used in clothing. It is fantastic for making rugs! We have made large rugs and wall hangings, medium-sized rugs and floor mats, and even place mats for the table. I personally think this is one of the best deals going. These rugs are beautiful, and they are a fraction of the cost of similar products for sale in Austin! I wish my cats didn’t find them so irresistible for rolling and purring, and for claw sharpening!
The rest of the “blankets”, this year, are going to the Pendleton Wool Mill’s Alpaca Blanket Project in Oregon. The name is a double entendre; alpaca “blankets” to create human blankets! This particular mill is world famous for their work with fine fibers. They are determined to use the finest alpaca blankets they can select, to create unexcelled blankets for people. Their goal is to make the best in the world. We are proud that all our retired show fleeces, and most of the rest, have been selected to go to this project, which demands the cleanest, highest grade fleeces obtainable. The results are going to be great!
Later this year, we hope to participate in exciting new way to process our yarn. We are working to become involved and part ownership of a new, and expensive, automatic felting machine! If this works out, expect an article on it this fall!