Ohio Natural Fiber Network member Marcee Stephenson of Criation Station Alpaca Farm is an alpaca fiber Certified Sorter.
Marcee believes fiber sorting is the key to making the highest quality finished product possible. And while Marcee deals exclusively with alpacas, many of her suggestions can be applied across the board when it comes to creating a beautiful fiber product.
Follow the six suggestions below and you will see an improvement in your finished product:
1) Brush, Vacuum or Blow Out Your Fleeces Before Shearing. Vacuuming or blowing out can be done the night before if the alpacas can be kept in a clean, dry space. Otherwise, do this right before shearing. Brushing out the top layer, if nothing else, will save time at the skirting table.
2.) Proper Fiber Collection at Shearing. Every blanket should be taken off like a show fleece and rolled in a plastic sheet or plastic table cloth. This prevents contamination with coarser fiber when fleeces are dumped into a bag. Collect the neck fleece in a separate bag. It can be as nice as the blanket, but it is usually shorter. It can be made into yarn if it is not contaminated with coarse or short fibers such as belly/chest/leg fiber. Belly/chest/leg fiber is collected in a third bag.
3.) Know the Fiber Your Alpacas are Producing. This can be done by hiring a fiber sorter, or doing it yourself. Document the shearing weight by area (blanket, neck and belly/chest/leg), giving you an accurate total shear weight. Track staple length each year. Know what grade (or micron range) your alpacas are producing. This information will assist you in making processing decisions.
4.) Making Yarn. Yarn customers want to know three things: how many yards are in a skein, what needle size is best for the yarn, and what can be made from the yarn. The mill can give you the yardage of your skeins. Include it on your labels.
5.) How to Make the Best Yarn so Your Customers will Return Again and Again. Watch your staple lengths. Try not to have more than a 1" to 1-1/2" difference from the longest to the shortest. Larger differences will create yarn that sheds and pills more readily. Fleeces with a hairy halo should be de-haired and made into roving, not yarn.
Watch your micron range. Only blend together fiber that is of the same range. Anything over 29 microns isn't good for yarn that will be made into clothing.
Know what microns/grades, lengths and plies are best for a project. Socks are best make with microns in the 23-29 micron range. while a baby sweater would be best with a micron count up to 23.
Weaving yarn should be 2 ply, longer staple length so that it lays flat in the piece.
Bulky/Chunky yarn -- 3 ply or more. Shorter staple length with lots of crimp to give loft.
Lace/Fingering yarn -- 3 ply. Longer staple length for better drape.
6.) Use your higher micron count or shorter stapled fiber to make felted items such as foot insoles, coarse woven rugs or rug yarn.
If you follow these six simple steps, you will be well on your way to producing some of the finest fiber out there.
About the Network
- The Ohio Natural Fiber Network
- is dedicated to supporting Ohio fiber producers and artists, and to developing awareness of the diversity and beauty of Ohio farm yarns and fleeces. Our fiber farmers raise alpacas, llamas, sheep, goats and angora rabbits for their beautiful fiber. Our fiber artists dye, hook, spin, knit, weave and felt the most beautiful fiber art you've ever seen. Knitters, check out our Ravelry group on-line. You can also follow us on Facebook. We're hoping you make 2012 the year you decide to go on an Ohio Fiber Diet by supporting your local fiber producer or artist! We don't think you'll be disappointed. The Ohio Natural Fiber Network -- Our Homegrown for Your Handmade