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Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: MsMae] #500789 03/08/09 02:54 AM
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Well, temperatures can vary a lot in the mountains. You can have very hot days and icy cold nights. However, if your area gets too hot, there are cooling systems which can be installed in barns. Also, shearing in spring would help the animals stay cooler in summer.

Vicunas: members of the South American camelid family. Very nice, fine, soft wool. However, they are just now beginning to be domesticated after being almost hunted to extinction. They are very shy creatures and quite small - about 3 feet high and around 100 lbs. Because of their shyness, they tended to panic and die when captured for shearing. Conservation efforts have increased the herds, as has recent domestication and a limited amount of fiber is now available. Fibers and items made of vicuna will come with certification that the fiber is from a domesticated herd. Lack of proper paperwork would indicate that the fibers were improperly harvested...which would most likely mean the animal died in the process.

I don't believe there are any vicuna in the States at this time.


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Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: MsMae] #500887 03/08/09 11:40 PM
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Hello, everyone! New to this site and LOVING reading around these forums. I have been spinning for a few years now. I learned because I was living with my friend on her alpaca farm, helping out while her husband was in Iraq. While I had some fiber education back in college, I learned a lot more about alpaca fiber specifically and a lot about farm management thereof. They were absolutely wonderful animals to work with and have around me day to day. I miss the lot of 'em a great deal. Nothing like soft, baby alpaca kisses! Regarding the hypoallergenic debate: As I understand it, it involves the fiber itself, not soaps or chemicals. Some people are simply allergic to the lanolin found in sheep wool. Alpacas have no such byproduct but (again, as I understand it), a single strand of alpaca fiber has no barbs (like multiple split ends on single hair). A single strand of sheep fiber does and THIS is what causes it to be so itchy and thus exacerbate any allergic reaction. Again, I don't know this to be one hundred percent science, but it's also why alpaca and llama fiber is so much softer than most sheep fiber. As a spinner, I learned on a big, big gob of sheep fiber that I bought from the lady who taught me how to spin. I was fortunate to find her through people-who-knew-people kind of thing. I have only recently started to spin other fibers (blends, mostly, little samples I bought at alpaca shows) and have eight pounds of llama roving waiting for me to dig into. Sheep fibers spins a little differently than does alpaca fiber and the only thing I would advise (and this soley based on my own experience) is to practice on something that's a little more plentiful and not as expensive as alpaca fiber until you feel confident to try it out. The standards are much higher in the alpaca world when it comes to yarn so it's good to make sure you've got your technique and rhythms down before moving on to something fancy-schmancier. :-) And as others suggested, I would also go to local alpaca/fiber shows and ask questions. See what people do/think/etc. You'll hear so many different opinions that it might make your head sping, but the information will help you figure things out. You can sell your fiber raw, as roving, or as processed yarn. The friend I lived with sent all of her alpaca fiber off to be processed into yarn (and some into roving) and her standards were very, very high because the show standards are very high, as was mentioned. But then, the lady who taught me to spin was able to process everything by herself. She owned an angora, a sheep, a llama, and one alpaca (who had a cria shortly after I moved back home), so she was a bit of a homegrown fiber superhero. :-) She also did a lot of felting as well as weaving and knitting, etc., so there are a lot of optinos out there. Sorry this is so long, I just get excited to talk about alpaca fiber. Good luck on your new adventure! Keep us updated on how it goes! p.s. You might also check out the website alpacanation.com. You'll find lots and lots of info there, too. p.p.s. And alpaca manure is the BEST fertilizer ever made! It doesn't even stink!

Last edited by Apple Blossom; 03/08/09 11:42 PM.
Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: MsMae] #500888 03/08/09 11:47 PM
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The farm I lived on was in Kansas and summers there were almost unbearable to a northerner like myself. We got everyone sheared around April and that kept them short haired enough for the summer, but we would still spray them with the hose (underbellies, between legs) and gave them a little wading pool to hang out in. It was especially important with the pregnant females so as not to stress them out too much. As far as growing a dense coat, so to speak, I think that differs from animal to animal. In a fiber herd, you go for the quality of fiber as passed down through bloodlines, looking for things like staple length, crimp, etc. Not all of them are born with lucious locks, but even short fiber can still be used for felting. And honestly, if there were unusable third cuts from shearing, they made great padding for pillows or dog beds!

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: Apple Blossom] #500902 03/09/09 12:52 AM
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Hi Apple Blossom,

AS this is the first time I've heard an explanation of barbs on a single hair of a sheep, I find myself quite fascinated with this idea. Do you have a written reference for this information so I can read some more about this subject?? I will look up the alpacanation.com you referenced.

Nikki

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: Nikkiwys] #500924 03/09/09 03:29 AM
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I honestly do not remember where I first learned that but I felt so silly about it, I did what we so often do and Googled it. (My English teachers really beat it into my head about citing my sources!) I just typed in the question "Why is alpaca wool hypoallergenic" and this page had a really good break down of the fiber. It was the website for a farm called Golden Touch. They explain it a little differently (and probably better). I thought I had seen it in some stuff my spinning teacher had copied for me, but I just looked and it wasn't there. I just seem to remember seeing a diagram or something similar. I wish I could tell you more specifically. At any rate, that is how I came to understand it. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure (and I really hope I don't step on any toes here), after having lived with the alpaca industry for a little while, alpaca people are really passionate about touting the qualities of their fiber over that of sheep. However, that first amount of yarn I spun was Rambouillett (sp?)sheep wool and it's very soft and fluffy. I learned later that it's apparently a rather high-end fiber, period. (I didn't know this, I just bought the bag of roving from my teacher!) Alpacanation is a great resource website. There will be all kinds of information and links to farms all over the country. There is a farm quite near where I live now and I keep daring myself to stop by and see if I can just play with their 'pacas. :-) They're just so neat.

Last edited by Apple Blossom; 03/09/09 03:30 AM.
Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: Apple Blossom] #500941 03/09/09 05:56 AM
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Actually, sheep's wool does not have barbs. It does have scales.
The size of the scales varies from breed to breed and fibers from breeds with smaller scales tend to feel softer but do not reflect as much light so have less luster.

The main factor to consider in whether or not a fiber might feel somewhat "picky" or "itchy" is the micron count. Alpaca fibers have a fine micron count which does not vary as much as that of sheep's wool. The micron count of sheep's wool varies considerable by breed, with Merino being at the fine end of the scale right up with alpaca.

Yes, some people are allergic to wool be it the fiber or the lanolin. However, modern commercial wool processing techniques do not leave lanolin in the wool. Spinning oils, used to hold the fibers together during the spinning process are added back to the wool after it has been scoured.

To find out if someone may be "allergic" to a particular wool fiber, have them tuck a bit of the fibre or yarn into their bra or waist band so it rests against their skin and leave it there for the day. Then ask if it bothered them at all. This only tells if they will react to that particular fiber. I react badly to mohair but haven't found a sheep's wool yet that bothers me.

As far as quality of goods, good craftmanship is good craftmanship no matter the materials used and no one group has a lock on turning out a quality product.

Alpaca has many wonderful qualities. But it does not have the elasticity and memory of sheep's wool. Each of these animals has much to offer to the handspinner.



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Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: Apple Blossom] #500969 03/09/09 01:13 PM
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I understood that sheeps wool had scales on the fibers. I've also spun alpaca fiber. I've 3 alpaca fleeces sitting in the wool room now, but alpaca is simply NOT my favorite fiber to spin. I really love wool and I like the elasticity of wool. Alpaca just doesn't have those same qualities that I love so much when handling wool. Alpaca is a nice fiber, but in my mind it doesn't hold a candle to wool!

Nikki

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: MsMae] #501047 03/09/09 06:54 PM
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MsMae, My husband and I actually are thinking of raising alpacas in Texas as sort of a retirement income. We went to a presentation at an alpaca ranch near us this past weekend.

Texas has 42 alpaca ranches at this time and we were told they do well in our weather but they live in open barns so they get the breeze and the owners of this ranch did hose their tummies down in the heat of summer (not getting the fleece wet).

Alpacas don't have "wool" but fleece. They are usually bred for the finer, softer fleece as opposed to coarse fiber fleece.

I read that if alpaca owners want to go to shows and sell their fleece, it is a good idea to be wearing or showing something made from the yarn. I am interested to learn spinning so would like to process my own fleece into yarn but I realize I couldn't do this on a large scale.

They did tell us this weekend that alpaca fleece makes excellent socks and horse blankets as it does not absorb sweat. This particular ranch did a good business making horse blankets.

They do send their fleece out to a coop to be processed and it's sold as a group thing and they just get the proceeds back in money.

Not sure if everybody does it this way or not. I've seen some websites where you could buy fleece directly but I guess you couldn't be sure of the quality.


Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: joanj] #501137 03/10/09 01:26 AM
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SCALES! That's what I meant! Not barbs! Man! That's what comes from not remembering your sources and only having partial memory to boot! Sorry, gang! :-) And I completely forgot about the micron count thing! Jeesh! How quickly one forgets. I haven't spun enough of anything yet to have a favorite. Truthfully, I think I'm more in love with the sheer motion and action of it all than the fiber itself. I don't even know how to crochet or knit yet! But I do love making yarn! Alpacas are really, really wonderful animals. I wish you luck in your venture, JoanJ. Of course, the only sheep I ever knew personally were more like friendly farm dogs, so my experience is completely stilted!

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? [Re: Nikkiwys] #502704 03/14/09 11:38 PM
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Having raised alpacas I love the animals and am totally taken with their fleece. The hypoallergenic features of their fleece does come into play, and have been told by some people I have come across that they can wear alpaca but not wool. So, I decided to look further and found some information on the fleece at - ideal-alpaca.com/article/alpaca-fibre-170.htm

It states that it is the fineness of the fleece that affects the 'prickle', which is usually what causes the itch and the irritation. (I cannot wear coarse wool next to my skin either, but even coarser alpaca is fine). Also, the scales on alpaca fleece lie down flat against the hair follice whereas with sheep fleece they stand out more. That also goes towards to soft feel and handle of the fleece and less prickle. When one actually sees the alpaca and sheeps wool hair follicle side-by-side, the difference is evident.

As to spinning, I find blending the alpaca with a fine sheep fleece works well as it gives some elasticity to the completed garment. But I love spinning just alpaca, it glides out of your hand and onto the wheel.

For those who are interested in buying and breeding alpacas, this report on their fleece is very interesting

delphialpacas.com/evaluating-alpaca-fiber.php

The U.S., same as Australia, will have an Alpaca Association for information on buying, breeding and caring for alpacas. I dont know if there is more than one, but if you try - alpacainfo.com - it might help a little.

In Australia we have the Australian Alpaca Association that covers everything needed to know about alpacas, and then some.

I hope this is of some help.

Linda

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