Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin?

Posted By: Joan541

Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/02/09 06:05 PM

I was wondering if anyone here had used alpaca yarn for spinning and if so, what do you think of it? My husband and I are talking about raising alpacas to sell the fleece and I just wondered how common it is to use.

It's hypoallergenic so I would think spinners and people who do yarn crafts would really like it.
Posted By: Llyn

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/03/09 02:52 AM

Yes, I have. Lovely stuff. But, to sell fleeces to spinners, the fleece must be as clean as possible - meaning little to NO contamination with vegetable matter, dirt, dust, dung tags, second cuts, etc. and also be free of fleece faults such as tippiness, brakes, matting, etc. Alpacas LOVE to roll in the dust so investing in a good blower to clean their coats before shearing is a must.
Posted By: Joan541

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/05/09 08:17 PM

Thanks for telling me! Do you know how I could learn to spin? What sort of place to I look for lessons?

I thought if were going to raise alpacas, it would be nice to know how to spin the fleece myself. I don't crochet but could have someone use my yarn to make me something to wear.

I've watched people spin and it looks so calming! I've done many crafts before. Do you think it would be hard to learn on my own?
Posted By: Llyn

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/06/09 07:20 AM

Spinning is easy to learn but there is a rather steep learning curve while trying to get everything working together and going in the right direction. The easiest and most inexpensive way to get started is with a drop spindle. You can make one of these yourself using an old CD and a piece of doweling. There is an article on the main spinning site her at Bellaonline "Spinning On A Drop Spindle" that gives instructions. Also, you can order an instruction brochure from They have a brochure on learning to spin and another on making the drop spindles. They also have instructions instructions for making a small wheel. These may be downloaded at no charge from their web site.

Not being familiar with Florida, I sure don't know where to direct you for classes. Your best bet is looking for a shop that sells spinning supplies or tracking down a spinning guild in your area. Also, be sure to check out any sheep shows or fiber festivals in your area. These shows attract spinners and they usually have a vendor area and classes.

Posted By: Joan541

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/06/09 04:20 PM

Thanks so much! I just bought a copy of Spinoff magazine and will check their website.

Actually, the land we are looking at is in Texas, where my family lives, so may be moving soon. What part of the country are you located in?
Posted By: Nikkiwys

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/06/09 04:36 PM

Hi All,
Last weekend there was a small fiber festival close to me and one of the vendors there, is not a spinner but raises Llama. She sent her fiber out to be processed and had lovely rugs and all natural colors of yarn (skeins) for knitting. Her booth was very nice but she didn't even process her fibers herself. Just sent off all the fiber to be made into things she wanted to sell. Her displays of yarn skeins and rugs was pretty.

I still have both Alpaca and Llama fleeces so I didn't buy, but her booth made me thoughtful. You don't have to know how to spin or knit or weave to sell your fleeces to spinners.

Interesting I thought.

Posted By: Nikkiwys

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/06/09 04:41 PM

I've never heard of any animal fiber being considered hypoallergenic. I don't know where this idea came from, but I would suspect that the idea is simply not true. Many people assume they are allergic to wool, when in fact they are more likely to be allergic to the soaps used to clean the wool. Don't know for sure, but I will assume that it is too broad a statement, to be true for everyone.

Posted By: Llyn

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/06/09 07:27 PM

I'm in Oregon. And, Nikki is correct - you do not have to know how to spin to sell your fibers. I think many of the alpaca people around here send their fibers off for processing. A few sell fleeces for handspinners but they take great care to make certain that these fleeces are top quality and extra clean. One grower I talked with spent 10 hours on picking a fleece to be certain that it was clean. Lots of work, yes - but she could ask and get top dollar for that fiber.

I think the alpaca folks have a co-op of sorts - they send their fleeces in and get product back. I suspect that they may be paid something for the wool they send in and then pay something for the product they get back for resale but am not exactly certain how this works. I do know that the products I have seen for sale at alpaca shows are not, for the most part, products made by the individual growers. I've heard, but do not know for a fact, that the fleeces are sent to SA for processing into finished goods. Anyway, the products the growers are selling is very good quality and yes, I have bought some of these items in addition to some fleece smile

Nikki - I agree with you on the hypoallergenic thing. True wool allergies are fairly rare. It is much more likely that someone claiming a wool allergy is allergic to the chemicals and/or dyes used in the commercial wool industry.
Posted By: Nikkiwys

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/06/09 09:39 PM

Hi Llyn,

Hypoallergenic is a more recent term.

"Hypoallergenic"- adjective. Definition: non-allergy producing. A term applied to a preparation in which every possible care has been taken in formulation and production to ensure minimum instance of allergic reactions.
(Blakiston's Medical Dictionary)

So by definition this term is ambiguous at best "...every possible care has been taken..."

Interesting, I'm glad mention was made of this term...I will know what it means now.

Posted By: MsMae

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/07/09 11:47 PM

Hello Everybody, Hope you don't mind me butting in it's just that I am so excited to hear about others who are wanting to do what I want to do. Alpacas and llamas are from mountainous areas aren't they. I wondered if they would do well in an area not always cool. I live in Oklahoma which can get rather warm (translated: HOT! HOT! HOT!) in the summer. Doesn't it take cooler temperatures to get the heavy coats so the wool is nice. Do you know anything about vicunas, which are smaller animals and have an even finer wool?
Posted By: Llyn

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/08/09 02:54 AM

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.
Posted By: Apple Blossom

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/08/09 11:40 PM

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 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!
Posted By: Apple Blossom

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/08/09 11:47 PM

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!
Posted By: Nikkiwys

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/09/09 12:52 AM

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 you referenced.

Posted By: Apple Blossom

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/09/09 03:29 AM

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.
Posted By: Llyn

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/09/09 05:56 AM

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.

Posted By: Nikkiwys

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/09/09 01:13 PM

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!

Posted By: joanj

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/09/09 06:54 PM

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.

Posted By: Apple Blossom

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/10/09 01:26 AM

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!
Posted By: Sorcaress

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/14/09 11:38 PM

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 -

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

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 - - 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.

Posted By: MsMae

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/22/09 01:00 AM

Hi JoanJ and everyone!
I find this all so fascinating! Loved our sheep when we had them but didn't know anything about spinning. Did know the sheep needed to be sheared in a special way to keep short cuts out but didn't know how to find someone to do it.

Now I'm wanting a little menagerie. I'm thinking about alapacas, sheep, angora rabbits. I even read about a pygmy/angora goat mix called a pygora. Does anyone know about them?

I want to keep my animals on the smallish side so maybe I can do the shearing myself and take my time. By the way, does the fleece have to be kept in one piece?

Then there are vegetable fibers. I've read cotton can be spun straight of the seed.

I could sit here for hours reading what all of you have to say. I think I'm becoming addicted and I haven't even taken my first class. The one in my area isn't till April 25. Can hardly wait!

I've written down the different web sites so I will be gathering information, which is something else I can get lost in.

Difinitly want to thank everyone for their input. Lynn your articles are so informative. I could go on and on and on but guess I better not.

Posted By: joanj

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/22/09 01:11 PM

thanks so much for all the great websites and info!

I have another question since I'm new to spinning. How much yarn can you get from a typical fleece from an alpaca or sheep? I realize the answer probably depends on many factors but just a ball park answer?

Also, how much roving would I need to buy to get enough yarn to weave a scarf, for instance?

Posted By: Llyn

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/22/09 06:14 PM

Hi Joan,

Wow! Your questions are impossible to ball park smile
The answer is - it depends. It depends on so many different factors that it simply cannot be ball parked with any degree of accuracy. For Sheep, I recommend the book "In Sheep's Clothing" which gives average fleece stats for a good number of popular breeds of sheep, along with much info on spinning, selecting fleeces, processing, etc.

As to how much roving you need to buy to weave a scarf - again, it depends. First, you have to know how much yarn you need to weave the scarf. Which means that you need to know the on-loom dimensions of the scarf + your allowance for take up, shrinkage, and loom waste (which will be less if you use a dummy warp for the waste portion). Once you know the yardage needed for the scarf, then you have to figure how many yards of that sized yarn you can spin from an ounce of the chosen fibers. Then you can figure out how much roving to buy.

There are 2 articles on the main Bellaonline spinning site to help you through the process of figuring it all out:
How much Fiber Do I need? and How much Yarn Do I need? Another article, Spinning to a Size, gives info on how to spin yarn to the exact size you need.

Or, there is the quick and dirty "eyeball" it method smile
First, spin the yarn. Then measure how many yards of yarn you have. Determine the width and length of the scarf, adding extra for takeup, shrinkage (I figure this at 10% of length) and loom waste (or plan to tie onto a dummy warp). My average loom waste is 27 to 36" depending on which loom I use. Remember to add more length if you plan fringe, or you can plan to use loom waste for the fringe. Then figure your sett and calculate how many yards you will need for the warp. Now figure how much yarn you will need for the weft - the length of each pick plus allowance for takeup and shrinkage (I use 10%). Add total yardage needed for warp + total yardage needed for weft and you have the total amount of yarn needed. How much fiber you need to spin that amount of yarn depends upon how you spin smile

Posted By: joanj

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 03/26/09 03:30 PM

Llyn, Thanks so much for the info! I'll take a look at the articles on Bella for sure.

I subscribed to the magazine SpinOff and it had a great project in the current issue for weaving a scarf and then felting it. I haven't done any weaving in a couple years so I'll have to remember all the finer points.

Posted By: icartaxo

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 05/19/09 01:58 PM

Does anyone knows a good way to prevent moth? I work with the wool of my sheep but I have this problem every year.....
Thank you very much
Posted By: Deb - ALASKA

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 06/28/09 05:18 AM

This looks to be an old topic by the date, but since I was interested n it, I've been reading through it. Just as a side note, a good friend of mine is seriously allergic to nearly all the camalid family of critters, including alpaca. She is miffed because she is a spinner and can hardly bare to be in the same room as alpaca fiber. It's also not really noted as a good "beginner" fiber for new spinners. Lovely stuff though it is, it's darned slippery for beginners. A "grabby" Coopworth or Shetland wool (or something similar) will be less frustrating. Once you have the hang of spinning, then try your hand at alpaca and see what you think. :)
Posted By: Lorna L. Leight

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 10/05/09 01:41 PM

Last year I demonstrated with a group of spinners at an Alpaca ranch for Nat'l Alpaca Day(or maybe week). This took place in N.W.Arizona. This place gets desert hot....because it's the Mohave! But it gets pretty darn chilly too. Most fur~babies get sheared in the spring, so they won't suffer in the heat of summer.I don't own any myself, so I could be wrong. I just spin them...;~)
Posted By: joanj

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 10/05/09 02:18 PM

An update on our alpaca plans. We've decided we're "too old" to start a business like that. However, I still do love alpacas and just this week, when visiting my family in Oregon, I bought some beautiful Alpaca yarn.

The yarn shop had a yard outside and had some real llamas and alpacas there for demonstration. they sure are cute! In fact the yarn I bought came from one of them.

Guess instead of raising my own, I'll just have to buy yarn others have raised and spun.
Posted By: Llyn

Re: Have you used Alpaca Yarn to spin? - 10/05/09 07:45 PM

Or, you could buy alpaca fiber and spin your own yarn smile
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