How is alpaca hair transformed into weaving yarn?

Alpaca wool is known to be a fine, soft and resistant wool compared to sheep's wool. But do you know how alpaca hair is transformed into warm and comfortable clothing for the winter? In this article, we will reveal the different stages through which alpaca hair passes to become a ready-to-use ball.  First of all, it is important to know that there are several qualities of alpaca wool depending on the fineness, density, structure and length of the fibre. The finest fibres are the softest but require more work, so they are more expensive. 

The first step in making wool is the preparation of the fleece. After carefully removing the fleece from the alpaca, the craftsmen will sort the fibres into 2 categories: the fibres collected from the animal's back and sides, called blanket; and the fibres collected from the neck, belly and legs. To clean the fibres, the craftsmen place the fleece on a wire mesh and shake it to remove the dust. 

Alpaca fleece

After harvesting the precious fibre, the craftsmen will prepare it for spinning. They will move on to what is called scarfing, which consists of untangling the fibres from each other. For the finest fibres, craftsmen must do it by hand. Otherwise, they use a carding machine: a pendulum machine that allows the fibres to be loosened in a coarser way. 

The next step is carding or combing. With long fibres, i.e. more than 15 cm, the craftsman will use the combing technique. As its name suggests, the craftsman will comb the fibers to align them and make them silky. If the wicks are smaller than 15 cm, he will use the carding technique, which consists in aligning the fibres more or less using a roller carder. Combing allows less fibre loss but is much more tedious than carding, which is why the latter technique is most often used. 

spinning alpaca wool

Now that we have the fibre untangled, the craftsman will be able to spinning the wool. The craftsman can spin with a spindle, i.e. he twists and winds the fibre. This technique is thousands of years old but is not fast enough for professionals. The craftsmen will therefore favour the spinning wheel which makes it possible to create a yarn quickly, and to wrap it around a reel thanks to pedals. The wires are then placed on reels that allow the wires to be tensioned. However, the craftsmen cut the yarns into skeins, i. e. a gathering of yarns, to soak them in water. Then they hang them up to dry them. As soon as they are dry, the craftsmen can store the yarns or put them on a winding machine to finally create a ball. 

There, now you know everything (or almost everything) about the production of alpaca wool. If you are passionate about knitting, or if you are gifted with your hands and interested in making wool clothing, do not hesitate to visit our e-shop where you will find balls of alpaca wool available in different colours.