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Alpacas for the Fibers Arts
The idea of a fiber artists investing in alpaca ownership is the
logical extension of purchasing alpacas as pets. The fiber artist will
probably look for an alpaca with a better yield of higher quality
fleece that what the average pet quality alpaca will produce. Given
this, the fiber artist will probably pay a slight premium for fiber
There are many good quality male alpacas that fail to meet the high
standard of being a herdsire. Many alpaca breeders will part with these
animals for $750-$1500 apiece. Such an alpaca might display some minor
conformational defects, or in some cases more serious, but not life
threatening, problems, while producing a very high quality fleece.
Occasionally one will find barren females that fall in this category also.
A good quality fiber alpaca might produce as much as 10 pounds of
sub 30 micron fleece a year. The fiber artist producing one-off hand
made goods from this fleece might well recoup their investment in the
alpaca within the first year.
Alpaca spins easily. It is free of lanolin, unlike sheep's wool.
Many hand spinners produce yarn prior to washing the fleece, choosing
instead to wash the finished yarn. It is not unusual for the
uninitiated to confuse finished alpaca yarns with man made fibers due
to their high luster and smooth hand.
Although not the best material for the task, alpaca fiber can be
felted with amazing results. Many fiber artists choose to felt the
coarser leg and neck fibers, although excellent felted items have been
made from extremely fine blanket, or even cria, fleece.
The fiber artist contemplating alpaca ownership must plan for the
same requirements as the pet owner. Besides an annual vet exam, worming
and vaccinations, the fiber artist must plan to have the alpacas
sheared annually. Also, in some areas mineral and/or feed supplements
may be necessary.
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