Alpaca Yarn – Step 1: Skirting

There is an old saying about the proper way to make a slap of marble into a statue of an elephant that goes, “just chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.” That’s kinda what we are doing here in this first step toward making alpaca yarn. You need to get everything out of the fiber that isn’t yarn. This includes hay, straw, and other “organic material” (if you know what I mean).

Now, I won’t lie and tell you this is a fun part of the process. In fact, I highly recommend some audio books and/or a steady drip of coffee for this part. However, it can also be quite cathartic and help slow down the hectic pace of life.

Let’s get to it.

Sheer the Alpaca

It kinda goes without saying that you need to start by getting the fleece off the alpaca. We don’t use every part of the alpaca’s fleece for our yarn, but instead use the “blanket”.

Blanket section of alpaca fleece used to make alpaca yarn

This is the good stuff. It lends itself best to yarn because it has the longest staple length and doesn’t get abused as much as the leg fiber. When we sheer each animal, we keep the blanket, neck and leg fiber separate.

Off to the Skirting Table

Lots of fiber farms make their own skirting tables, and we are no exception. Ours is simply made from 2×4’s with fencing stretched across it. You can also use netting. The idea here is to have holes small enough so that all of your fiber doesn’t fall through, but large enough so that dirt, dust, hay and other stuff falls through.

Alpaca fiber laying across a skirting table.

Pick out anything you don’t want in alpaca yarn

There is no short cut here. Time to get in there with your fingers and start picking out anything that isn’t alpaca fiber. After this step, we’re are off to wash the fiber.