Alpaca fiber is one of the world’s best materials to make yarn. Alpaca fiber is stronger than wool and softer than cashmere. Alpaca yarn is hypoallergenic and doesn’t have the itchiness like other yarns. The alpaca yarn making process is simple with the right steps and the right equipment. First, the fleece of the animal arrives at the yarn processing mill and must be washed. As the fleece is put into the washing machine label the different orders so they don’t get mixed up.
Normally a natural, with no chemicals added soap is used to keep the fleece hypoallergenic. After the wash is complete lay the fleece out on a rack to dry for several hours. When dry, gather the fleece and place in a tote and label again. The second step is to separate the individual fibers of the fleece and pick out stems, rocks, and poop. To do this a machine called the picker is used. Simply spread the fleece out on the picker belt and allow the picker to pull the fibers apart and drop into the picker room.
In the picker room there is a large auxiliary fan that stirs the fibers in their cotton candy like form. After all the fleece has ran through the picker, open the door to the picker room and spray a natural anti-static treatment to help in future steps. When the fibers dry, gather and place back into the tote. The third step is the Carder, which is a machine that makes roving. Finally the fibers are beginning to come back together now.
The Carder is made up of seven spinning wheels that combine the fibers into a thin sheet. The sheet of fibers is quickly spun into the first roving. Fiber must run through the carder machine at various speeds depending on fiber grade, which is a microscopic measurement that can be roughly judged by feel with experience. The roving is now brought to a machine called the Draw Frame for the fourth step. The draw frame takes two or more roving and combines them.
While combining the roving it also stretches it. On average the draw frame stretches the roving at a 1:6 ratio, taking 100 yards of roving and producing 600 yards. When the roving comes out it runs into multiple tall, skinny barrels. This step may be repeated to obtain a better ratio if grade allows. Now the fiber is prepared to spin into the various phases of yarn. The roving is pulled out of the barrels and tightly spun into a raw yarn.
This yarn is spun onto cones so that it can be spun with other cones. Yarn cones of various colors or the same color can be spun together to achieve the desired yarn ply. Finally the yarn is steamed to lock the fibers together and is placed onto yarn balls, skeins, or cones. In conclusion, the five basic steps of makes alpaca yarn can be a simple process. Cleaning the fleece, separating the fibers, and carding them back into roving all prepared the fleece for spinning. Then it is spun into beautiful yarn.
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