When visitors come to the farm, they are full of questions about the alpacas: what are their personalities, how you care for them, what sort of shelter do they need, how often do you shear them, and various inquiries about husbandry issues. The one question that I can count on from people who are seriously interested in getting into the alpaca business is, "What do you do with their fiber?" Unfortunately, I am no fiber artist! Alpacas are my interest and mine alone. My husband is quite content to leave them to me, and I have learned to only call on him in times of extremity. (A note here to those of you who may be thinking about getting into alpacas: if you are single, it is certainly doable, but you do need someone you can call on...friends, family, hired help, whatever....for those times when you just need more than one pair of hands! But I digress.) The point here is that I have little time to devote to fiber processing, much less to creating something beautiful with it, even if I had the talent. But creating something with your own fiber, to me, is the ultimate use for it. Where the visitors are a family with plenty of hands to help, I encourage them to consider learning to process and create with at least some of their fiber. And also to consider a farm store in which to sell these and items that they might purchase for sale. This store can be as simple as the stand that the coop produces, which can be set in the corner of a room, taking up very little space. Or if having a store appeals, it can be a room either in the home or the barn where products are displayed. Alpaca products practically sell themselves, and the visitors to the farm provide a ready market. Unfortunately, having any sort of retail outlet is simply out of the picture for me. So, just what DO I do with my fiber?
First and foremost, I believe in supporting our cooperative, America's Alpaca, for I firmly believe that we need to develop this end of our industry. The coop has been working hard and is beginning to show a profit. As our national herd grows, I hope to see the coop able to process more of our national clip within the U.S., but for now, Peru is the place with the mills set to process alpaca, and lots of cheap, skilled labor to produce beautiful products. And the products they produce are outstanding! For the moment, this seems to be the best option, and it is proving to be successful. If I had a farm store, I could increase the profit I realize from the coop by buying products wholesale and selling them for retail. (Long story, but the short version is that I do not have a farm store.) So, I send the bulk of my prime to the coop every year. That takes care of my prime, but what about the neck fiber and all those thirds?
The neck fiber is often as nice as the blanket on an alpaca, but with a less uniform staple length. I send my neck fiber to the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool, to be made into products that I can use, give as gifts, or sell in a local shop on commission. The NEAFP offers to collect and process fiber into blankets, sweaters, rugs, hats, gloves, socks, and many other items. For example, I send in a certain quantity of neck fiber, along with an order for some of the goods that they produce with fiber of that quality. I get back very nice products for the cost of the processing. I also send them some of my thirds for such items as rugs, trivets, or chair seats. Occasionally I have a special fleece (or one that is from a special alpaca) that I save out to have processed into a garment for my own use. There are a number of small mills that will take a fleece, process it into roving or yarn and return it to you. Some even can take the raw fiber and process it all the way to the finished product. Although this is the most expensive approach, the yarn or garment that you get back is made of the actual fiber that you produced and sent to the processor. With the coop or the fiber pool, you get back products made with fiber that has been contributed, but it has all been combined to produce the products. The advantage of the first two methods is in their "economy of scale." It is cheaper to process a larger amount of fiber into finished products. The disadvantage is that the product you receive may not contain any of the fiber that you produced.
Finally, I like to save some of my thirds to play with, such as trying one of the various felting projects available. This year I plan to use some of my thirds to make a quilted material to use as the inner fabric for some cria coats. One year I made angels to hang on Christmas trees as gifts (and they turned out to be lovely, amazingly enough!). I am thinking that next year I may try some of that needle felting I keep reading about...So there you are, even I can't resist doing something with my fiber, but I do opt for very simple projects.
As you can see, what you do with your fiber is up to you. There are a number of things that you can do with it, and the least desirable of these is to pile it into an outbuilding and forget it. Alpaca fiber is luscious stuff, and even the coarser form can make beautiful objects! It is also another opportunity to be creative. Find out what you like to do with the fiber, think of new ways to use it, and then do it! It is just one more aspect of having alpacas in your life that can bring you pleasure.
|Home||Herdsires||Sales & Our Alpacas||Basic Alpaca Care||History of the Alpaca||Farm News, Photos & Such|
We look forward to meeting you!This page © Copyright 2001, Rock Chimney Farm Alpacas.