Alpaca fleece or fiber is a unique option for the handspinner, but how you process it prior to spinning will greatly affect your finished yarn. These soft and supple fibers require a little bit of know-how and TLC to produce beautiful results every time.
There are two varieties of alpaca, which belong to the camelid family. 90% of alpacas are huacaya, a breed of alpaca known for its fluffy, crimpy fleece with an average staple length of 2-6 inches. The rarer suri alpaca are known for their long, silky locks which can measure up to 11 inches! For both varieties, guard hair is rare in their fleece; both are known for softness, with most fibers classified in the fine or superfine range (between 20-26 microns). Alpacas are similar in appearance to llamas, but much smaller. They also belong to the camelid family, but as you can see in the infographic below, there are some distinct differences between alpacas and their relatives:
When it comes to working with alpaca fiber, be aware that improper processing of these fibers can result in damage or waste – and it would be a shame to let any of these precious fibers go unused! Even those “thirds” can be made into felted pads or dryer balls, so be sure to gather them together once you remove them from your fleece.
We recommend either the Strauch Finest drum carder or our Motorized Doublewide to efficiently process these exceptional fibers. As you’ll see in the video below, there is no waste during this process due to the unique design of our drum carders: the smooth blades of the infeed drum open and transfer the fibers completely to the large drum – even when carding suri (you didn’t hear it from us, but other brands simply can’t handle those long, lustrous suri fibers).
Newer spinners may wish to blend their alpaca fiber with wool to make it easier to spin; in fact, alpaca blends well with a variety of fibers, including mohair, silk, angora and more. Each one brings a unique characteristic to the table; in particular, the springiness of wool will help balance the “heaviness” of the alpaca fiber. Our universal design also makes blending fibers easier: the combination of the fine carding cloth on the large drum, our “slicker licker” on the infeed drum, and the brush attachment guarantees that you can process any fiber on our carders. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!
Since you don’t have to change drums or fiddle with your Strauch carder to make it work (did we mention it’s maintenance-free, too?), that gives you more time to enjoy processing, spinning, and working with your fiber – and isn’t that what it’s all about?
We’d love to see what you’ve been carding, spinning, and making with your fleece and fibers, share a photo on Instagram using the #strauchfiber hashtag in your post!