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Fleece shearing and yarn stories

It’s that time of year when all local alpacas have been sheared and I have been out buying, sorting and preparing fleece, making it ready to send to the mill for processing into yarn.

Tracy Birch sorting alpaca fleeces for Purl Alpaca Design's yarn

My own herd were sheared on the 12th June and as the fibre was wet, I had to lay them all out in a friend’s barn to dry.  After this, I had many a happy hour skirting the fleece which basically means carefully selecting the right quality of fibre to make our yarn, removing the coarser edges, picking out the debris, removing second cuts and giving it a darn good shake to remove as much dirt and dust as possible before bagging ready for the mill.   We’re lucky with The Natural Fibre Company as they attend many of the same wool festivals as us and we swap our raw fibre with the finished and processed yarn. At Woolfest, we swapped my fibre to make Champagne (all from my herd, which is very exciting) and picked up our latest batch of Rain.  We’re really please with a new processing method which seems to compliment the alpaca fibre beautifully.

Tracy Birch demonstrating the beauty of alpaca fleece at a Purl Alpaca Designs knitting workshop

Fibre is measured in microns, one micron is 1,000th of a millimetre – microscopic in fact.  We don’t use fibre if it is over 25 microns and this is why our yarn has such softness.  This week I’ve been working on the raw materials to make our next batch of Copper yarn.

The beauty of an alpaca fleece is in how fine yet dense the fibre is

Lautumne (in the picture below), Havana, Dusty and Iago’s fleece (in the picture above) goes into this colour and Lucky’s fleece I’ve held back because it is so good, I want to show it.  I’ve increased the yield by adding fibre from the herds of Dawn French and Julie Frankland.

Beautiful Lautumne, one of the alpacas from Tracy's herd going into making yarn for Purl Alpaca Designs

Once at the mill, our yarn will be spun into our Fine and Medium yarn.  It’s a long process and takes many weeks to complete.  We’re hoping that this latest batch of Copper will be ready for Alexandra Palace in October, but it is a tight schedule.

Stunning yarn from Purl Alpaca Designs in the shade Copper

For the first time ever the fleece yield from my own alpacas was big enough to warrant making a batch of yarn using their fleece only! The yarn will be champagne coloured and as the fleeces from my animals are so soft (must be all the love and hand fed apples!) it is going to be absolutely exquisite yarn. There will be special labels and as you may have worked out limited stock only as we have to wait until next year before we can make more! Are you excited about this? Do you like to know exactly where your fibre comes from? Let me know in the comments section below!

Lots of love from Tracy and the alpacas xxx




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