I now have five bags of fleece from three alpacas. As you know we only have two alpacas Bootsy, who is light brown and Albie, who is dark brown. Bert, who belongs to a neighbour, is white. Actually I should say that his fleece only appears to be white as my hands are anything but when I work with his fibre. Bert guards a flock of sheep and as a consequence his fleece gets matted with the various dirt that the sheep leave behind them in the field.
Having said all of that the quality of the fleece depends on which part of the alpaca the fleece comes from. For spinning the best fleece is known as the blanket. This describes the area from the ridge of the alpaca’s back down both sides of its body until you reach the top of the belly and the upper leg…imagine a large saddle that would stretch back as far as the tail. The fleece here is the most dense and in many alpacas, highly prized.
Another way of distinguishing the best part of an alpaca’s fleece is by identifying the fibre which has what is known as crimp. These are the fuzzy soft strands which are a delight to both card and spin as the fibres pull together so well. Above is Bootsy’s fleece. Even though he is eight year’s old it has plenty of crimp, lots of volume and is a pleasure to work with.
Bert’s fleece is a dream to spin. It is extremely dense and comes off the wool carder really easily without much assistance.
By comparison Albie’s looks like it’s just had a soft perm! It is quite fine when it is compared to the others but has a beautiful deep chestnut colour that your eyes can get lost in.
It’s quite interesting that three different alpacas can yield such different fleeces. I can’t wait to start spinning them.