In April, one of the local alpaca farms gathers alpacas from the area to participate in an annual shearing day event. Each alpaca gets their teeth checked and a bit of a mani/pedi before their hair cut! To help out, fellow FSWG member Michele and I bagged and sorted fiber. Each alpaca’s fiber is bagged separately, with the exception of the “thirds,” which are all thrown into a communal bin. It is fascinating to watch the fiber come off the animal – sometimes the coloring of the fiber closest to the skin isn’t what you would expect. The quality of the fiber also varies by age, breeding, and a number of other factors. Throughout the day, the alpacas are shorn by color, from white/light to black. This is to help with the bagging process.
The llamas are done very last. While alpacas are shorn laying down, the llamas are done standing up. We didn’t stay long enough for the llamas this year, but we did get to see them before the shearing started. (Here is a bonus picture of Megan the guard llama!)
This is my second year assisting with shearing day with Michele. Over the past year, she has been processing all the fiber from her alpacas on her own to get a feel for the process. (I helped a little bit – mostly as a way to see the alpacas!) Now we both know more about alpaca fiber in general, all the work that goes into each step of the process, and what makes for good spinning material.
Michele has nine adorable alpacas and the most recent addition to the herd is Beatrix. We took pictures of her before and after shearing. She is rocking what is known as a “lollipop cut” in her “after” shot. We also took pictures of her blanket (from her back), her “seconds” (from her neck), and some of her “thirds” (from one of her hind legs) as they were shorn. Beatrix has very dense, soft fiber, and there was an impressive amount of it! Her blanket alone weighed 4.6 pounds!
Thanks to Michele, I’ve been able to get a glimpse behind the scenes of this process. We are both just beginning to spin (thanks to Lori and Mary’s excellent spinning classes!) and we have been using some of the fiber harvested from last year’s shearing day in class. It has been really cool to try to spin the fiber from one of Michele’s herd (Sparkle) into yarn and see the process come full circle.