FIBRE, YARN, TEXTILES
We have fibre available in the form of raw fleece, handwashed and carded batts or handwashed and picked noil. Fibre is available in different qualities suitable for home spinners and felters, for items intended to be worn against the skin or not and as a natural alternative to craft poly-filler.
Our own yarn is prepared from only the best fibre.
Handspun yarn from our own alpacas is produced entirely on farm. We also send some of our fleeces away for milling .
Our premium range of textiles are handcrafted from yarn produced from the fleeces of our own alpacas. Additionally, we handcraft items using commercially available alpaca yarn. All textile items are produced by hand using traditional methods on the farm.
Alpaca fibre has so many wonderful attributes.
Alpaca fibre has a hollow core which gives it incredible thermal properties while being incredibly lightweight and breathable. Alpaca fibre is the one of the warmest fibres known and is 3 times warmer than wool. The insulative properties of alpaca fibre are effective against both cold and warm temperatures.
Alpaca is strong yet supersoft and feels cozy against the skin. Alpaca is hypoallergenic as it does not contain lanolin and doesn't requiring harsh chemicals to be cleaned.
Alpaca fibre comes in a beautiful range of natural colours – from the brightest white to true jet black with fawns, browns and greys in between. The fibre can also be dyed. Alpaca fibre is both fire and water resistant.
The surface of alpaca fibre is smooth in contrast to sheep wool which has tiny scales along its length. Alpaca feels beautiful against the skin in contrast to the prickly feel of sheep wool. The smooth surface of the fibre also reflects light giving it a glorious lustre.
Alpaca fibre has been utilised by the Inca people for thousands of years. In England, the discovery of alpaca fibre is attributed to Sir Titus Salt in the mid 1800's. Titus was a textiles magnate who created a lustrous alpaca blend cloth called 'alpaca'. Queen Victoria, who had her own alpacas, began to wear alpaca dresses making it very fashionable.
Alpaca fibre is renewable – after shearing alpacas regrow a full thickness fleece each year.
The saddle, running along the back and sides of the animal, is where the highest quality fibre is found and is the portion of the fleece used in quality yarn production. A trained eye can identify a quality fleece from its lustre, crimp, density and style.
A mid-side fleece sample is sent off for laboratory testing to determine the fibres characteristics such as micron and comfort factor. Micron is a measure of the diameter of the fibre – the lower the micron the finer and softer the fibre. Comfort factor (CF) is the percentage of fibres ≤ 30 microns – fibres more than 30 microns feel prickly as they are stiffer due to their thickness – so the higher the CF the more comfortable the feel. The fibre used to make items that are to be worn against the skin should have a CF no less than 95%.
Alpacas with ultrafine fibre that stays fine for much of their life are prized for breeding.
Preserving the skills of the past
Spinning involves drawing out loose fibres and twisting them into a long strand of yarn. Spinning is carried out using a drop spindle or spinning wheel.
Spinning yarn on a spinning wheel involves one hand holding and drafting the fibre while the thumb and forefinger of the other hand pinches the drafted fibre to control the amount of twist entering the forming yarn. At the same time, one or two feet are used for treadling which makes the wheel turn and generates the spin. Spinning requires a degree of coordination and improves with practice.
Plying involves twisting 2 or more threads of single yarn together in the opposite direction to their original twist. Plying increases the strength of the yarn and balances its twist. Textiles made with balanced yarn lie flat and drape nicely. Plied yarn is skeined using a niddy noddy and washed to set the twist by allowing the fibres to relax into each other.
Spinning can be used to produce fine consistent yarn or textural yarn full of character.
Weaving uses a loom to produce a piece of fabric made up of threads running up and down the length of the woven item (the warp) and threads running side to side (the weft). There are a number of different types of looms – I use a rigid heddle loom.
Warp threads are strung up on the loom between a front and back beam and remain stationary under tension while the weft threads are passed over and under them. The warp is initially wound onto the back beam of the loom. As sections of weaving are completed the fabric is wound onto the front beam to reveal more unwoven warp until the desired length is completed.
The warp threads pass through a heddle between the front and back beam. The heddle creates the space, known as the shed, between upper and lower warp threads through which the weft is passed.
Plain weave is the simplest weave, where the weft alternately passes over and under the warp.
When the desired length of weaving is reached, the fabric is removed from the loom. The beginning and end of the weaving needs to be finished to keep the weft threads in place. This can be done with hem stitch or by knotting the warp threads as they emerge from the woven fabric.
Knitting is a technique that uses knitting needles to create rows of stitches that intermesh to form a textile. Active stitches (of which there may be many) are held on the needles and worked in rows, either flat or in the round (as a tube).
All knitting consists of two basic stitch – knit and purl. It is the combination of these stitches in different ways that results in a variety of fabrics including stocking, garter, moss, ribbing, cables, and lace. A knitted item is started by casting on, which involves creating a foundation of stitches on the needle from which the knitting grows. Once finished, the stitches on the needle are bound off to prevent the knitting unravelling.
Knitting needles take a variety of forms including straight, circular, double pointed or cable. They may be made from wood, metal or plastic and come in a range of sizes based on their diameter (thickness). Other useful tools used in knitting are: scissors, tape measure, stitch markers, stitch holders, point protectors and yarn needles.
Crochet is a technique that uses a hook to interlock loops of yarn to form a textile. In crochet there is only one active stitch on the hook at a time.
There are a number of basic crochet stitches including chain, slip, single, double and treble crochet which can be combined to form a variety of patterns and textures. Granny squares are a very traditional form of crochet used to make blankets, scarves and bags.
Crochet hooks, like knitting needles, may be made from wood, metal or plastic and come in a range of sizes based on their diameter (thickness).
Knitting and crochet are tactile and rhythmical crafts, known to relieve stress and stimulate the brain, that are extremely versatile with endless possibilities.
Different textures and colourways can be used when weaving, knitting or crocheting to produce beautiful and unique designs.
CARING FOR YOUR ALPACA TEXTILES
All textile items have been washed and are ready to wear.
If your item needs washing in the future, gently hand wash it in warm water (I add just enough warmth to be comfortable) using a mild wool detergent. Wet alpaca items will stretch, so support them well and gently squeeze out the excess water. Wrap the item in a clean towel and spin in your washing machine then lie flat in the shade to dry.
Do not wash in hot water, agitate, scrub, wring or tumble dry.
Alpacas love to roll - so despite the many steps involved in processing, bits of vegetable matter (VM) can still be found in finished yarn and even finished textile items. If you do find a piece of VM in your item, gently tease it out from the fibre – all the while being confident of the authenticity of the paddock to product path it has taken.
Always take care with jewellery, clasps and zippers.
If treated with care textile items made from alpaca are durable and long-lasting.