How To Harvest Your Fleece -
(Llama & Alpaca)

Harvesting your fleece plays a vital role in your end product and also a major factor in the amount of time you will spend on the fleece before it is carded.

  1. First you have to decide if you want this fleece for use or fiber competitions. If fiber competitions are your goal please see instruction listed below.
  2. One the most important rules are to start with a clean animal. Remove debris and if you have a blower use that to remove dust from the animal's fleece. In doing these two important steps you'll be amazed in what time it saves.
  3. Keep your work area clean, sweep or use your blower to give you a clean floor. You may want to lay down tarps for the fiber that may fall. Care should be taken if you use plastic sheeting because it is slippery. Clean bare concrete is your best and safest option.
  4. Next decide the cut you want do on the animal. The prime fiber is harvested in the blanket area which is located from the shoulders to the hips and following the contour of the body until you which the coarser belly fiber, determine that before you start, this will save you from doing more skirting later. I like to collect this area separately and bag separately. If you are doing a Lion Cut, (collecting from upper rear legs) you may want to add this also. This will depend on the fiber quality, which you will have to determine. Often times this fiber also has a finer micron count.
  5. Time to shear! Some shear their animals in a downward motion and others from front to back. The issue here is avoiding the second cuts, if sections are uneven save that for clean up and only continue harvesting of the prime fiber.
  6. It is a good idea to keep separate bags, one for blanket fleeces, one for belly and one for second cuts. Belly fiber can be used for rugs, lead ropes. This fiber is not recommended for felting unless there is enough down type structure fiber mixed in. The straighter coarser fiber, guardlike, does not felt well alone.
  7. After your prime area is harvested and bagged then proceed to do the cleanup by removing fiber where there may be any unevenness. This where most of your second cuts will be harvested, this fiber works great for felting.
  8. These steps can be followed with use of a Fiskars also.
  9. Label your bags! Include animal's name and date when collected.
  10. If there has been enough growth that the fiber comes off in a whole blanket, keep and store it in that manner. This makes any fine-tuning in cleaning a lot easier also. With alpacas that is almost always the case and also with some llamas. It is important when shearing that you support the weight of fleece as you are shearing but remember not to pull as you are shearing, this pulls the skin out and can lead to cuts and nicks.

 

Harvesting Fiber By Brush

  1. This is generally a choice used by some with the more guarded animals such as your classic style llamas. They are apt more to have a coat that sheds so simple brushing can do harvesting. Often you will find a treasure of super downy almost cashmere type fiber under all those guards and this fiber usually has a lot of individual crimp.

  2. As stated in previous steps, start with a clean animal, often just blowing is just done and then surface grooming.

  3. Separate in the same manner. This is a nice way to collect this type of fiber without having to deguard.

  4. If this fleece is shorn, then leaving it as whole as possible is extremely important. Lay the sections out face up and without a lot of disturbance to the fleece gently grab the guards to remove. Generally guards will be darker and stick out and in groups. This is fastest and most effective way of removing the guards. If the fleece is super short think about blending with another fiber or use this for felting. End results are super soft.   

 

Skirting Fleeces

Often alpaca fleeces are harvested whole and then later skirted. Sometimes this includes everything, including neck, legs, and belly. Or it may just be the main prime area with the belly, neck, and leg area removed.

To prepare this fleece lay out entire fleece on a flat work surface, face up. Remove any debris, second cuts, and badly tagged areas. You will want to feel the fleece and determine where the main prime area is and then remove the lower leg, neck, and belly areas.

Again, this is easier done as a whole then to do separate sections. Some of these fleeces will hold together so nicely that after the skirting you may want to literally give a gentle shake motion to remove dust.

If there are any areas, just as right behind the neck filled with small hay debris, remove completely. It is not worth the time to try to clean and leaving it in only results in contaminating the rest of the fleece.

Before washing I open this fleece entirely to assure better washing.

 

Washing Your Fleece for Fiber Preparation (carding)

Lama Fleece Washing

This is some novice's biggest fear, afraid of felting their beautiful fleece when washing. Personally, I donít find that camelid fleeces felt that easy from the washing process. The key is moderate temperatures and avoid extreme agitation. And fluffing the fiber as it dries makes a fleece that is nice to card.

I wash my fleeces in my top loading washer, you can place the fleece in a mesh bag but be sure not to overcrowd, and the fleece needs room to get thoroughly clean.

Fill tub of washer with warm water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent, I use Dawn. After tub is filled it is advised to turn off the machine, avoiding accidental agitating. I then immerse the fleece and gently move the fleece with my hands, being sure it is totally saturated. I then let the fleece rest in the warm soapy water; length depends on the dirtiness of the fleece. With lama fleeces I usually do one soap bath. I spin out the fleece, turn off washer, gently moved the fleece over away from the fill area. I then fill with warm water for the first rinse. After tub is filled, turn off washer, gently move fleece in a back and forth motion, spin out and repeat rinse as directed above. I find this is usually enough wash and rinses to properly clean most lama fleeces.

Occasionally I have had a greasy feel or heavily grooming aid covered fleece, you may have to repeat the wash or use slightly warmer water. Do not let the greasy feeling fleece sit in the wash water the first time for a long period, if the water is allowed to cool down to much the agents that are causing the grease feel reattach to the fibers. Often best handled with one fast wash and one wash where the fleece sits in the water, rinses the same as above.

Drying the fleece-generally best if done on a screen, as fleece dries, gently fluff fibers. Do not tear fleece apart, as it dries it will become easier. This helps opens the fibers which only benefits the carding process.

 

Fleece Preparation for Competitions Ė Blanket Lama Fleeces

The ideal way to harvest a fleece for competition is choosing and selecting before shearing time. Although using a fleece that was not intended to be a show fleece but later wanting too can also be accomplished but may require some extra preparation time.

1. An ideal fleece for competition is sometimes selected before shearing, a couple of weeks before shearing the animal is groomed as for show, bathed (removing any grooming aid products), this allows the structure of fiber to return to itís natural state before being sheared. This is the ideal way to collect that fleece but many times it is harvested and then selected.

  1. Lay your fleece out on a large table; this is time to take that extra look and skirt any remaining fibers look near belly areas, wither area, and towards the rear of the fleece.

  2. You may want to gently turn your fleece over to expose the cut ends of the fiber. This is where you may find those second cuts, the small clippings that often hide themselves in longer fiber. Be sure to remove these, judges are trained to find these. You must gently look through the fleece trying to keep the fiber structure intact.

  3. Fleece should be placed gently into a clear plastic bag for show entry.

  4. Follow directions for identification, class entered, date harvested, etc. Some shows vary with requirements so carefully read and follow each show's guidelines.

 

2 Oz. Fleece Competition

  1. Same guidelines apply as listed above. However, you will want to view the entire fleece and find the nicest representation of that fleece and enter that. Be sure you enter at least 2 oz., you may get disqualified if it is less. Place in clear plastic bag.

Helpful hints-select fleece that has nice structure (uniformity of how the fleece lays naturally), fleece should be odor free, also no strong perfumes that may be caused by creme rinses, skirt well and remove 2nd cuts (a must), display in clear bags keeping as much of the fleece intact as possible. Do not remove any guards from these two types of fleece competitions.

 

2 Oz Handspinners Choice

This is usually harvested from the blanket area. Do not wash this entry, guards are generally removed, although I have seen some request two samples, one in the raw state and one after deguarded, read entry rules carefully.

This sample should be unwashed, and should be free of any debris or vegetation matter and any second cuts.

Be sure to have at least 2 oz, place in clear plastic bag and include all information that the show requires.

In this class, the judge will spin a sample skein, sometimes two, one woolen and one worsted, all part of the scoring process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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