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Fleece Preparation

    Fleece preparation begins with skirting (which is the removal of any undesirable parts) is essential for producing high quality wool products. It also maximizes your fiber processing investment dollars. Be ruthless in fiber skirting so that you have the very highest quality products from your raw fleece. Encourage your shearer to avoid second cuts as much as possible. Any second cuts left after shearing should be removed as you skirt your fleeces. Belly, neck and hind (britch) wool should also be removed. These heavily soiled wools will not process well in the milling machinery.

    Foreign material in fleeces reduces their value. Examples are heavy tags (manure and sweat locks), seeds, thistles, and burrs. Removal of these items is required before shipping for processing. Please discard all of the wool containing any of the above mentioned examples. Excess water (the result of shearing damp or wet animals) not only reduces yield but may permanently damage the wool from mold or mildew.

    Staple length (individual fibers) is very important as well. Processing to yarn requires a minimum staple length of 3". A percentage of 2-3" fiber can be tolerated for other kinds of processing. Shorter fibers should be skirted out. The more consistent the staple length, the more consistent the end product.

    Reduce foreign material in fleeces by:

  • Shearing only dry animals.

  • Blow out the dust or vacuum the animals before shearing.

  • Remove all belly, britch, and neck wool.

  • Separating heavy tags into separate bags.

  • Use of "clean"  bedding free of excess seeds or chaff.

  • Using hay racks and grain troughs which do not let fleeces get contaminated.

  • Checking pastures for burrs, thistles and other weeds and destroying them before they go to seed.

  • Removing other sources of contamination like greasy machinery.

See this article by Dave Rowe of Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association on Wool Management Practices. Here's another good source of information entitled the Fibre Harvesting Code of Practice from Alpaca Canada.

In an effort to encourage proper fleece preparation prior to arrival at MSF and to maximize our customer's processing investment, we have incorporated a "graded" fee schedule based on cleanliness for our custom processing orders.

  1. Grade A fleeces have no sand, vegetable matter, or any debris. This grade of fleece can be processed into the highest quality end product. Our current fee schedule reflects processing of Grade A fiber. (Grade A Alpaca, Grade A Icelandic)

  2. Grade B fleeces have minimal sand, vegetable matter, or debris. As such they will require dehairing and the associated additional charges. (Grade B Alpaca, Grade B Icelandic)

  3. Grade C has been skirted such that it doesn't have any neck, belly, britch, or leg wool. It has larger amounts of sand, vegetable matter, or debris. As such they will require two passes through dehairing and the associated charges. (Grade C Alpaca)

  4. Grade D has never been skirted and has neck, belly, britch, or leg wool. As such, it is unlikely to be processed into an acceptable end product, and will be returned to the customer at their expense. (Grade D Fiber)

We recognize that not all of our customers will have the time or energy to properly prepare their fiber. We have established working relationships with independent sorting and skirting businesses. Contact us for more information.

Another problem occasionally occurring in Icelandic sheep is flaking or dander. This seems to affect heat or draught-stressed sheep and can also be caused by an over reliance on hay feeding. These flakes cannot be removed through washing and gum up the drafting and spinning machines making the fiber unusable.

When sending us your fleeces, use US Postal Service parcel post. Make sure that your box does not exceed 108 inches girth to avoid a large surcharge. Also, do not seal your fleece in a plastic bag. Just loosely twist the top of the bag closed so that it can still "breathe". You may, however, compress or pack down the fiber to maximize the amount of fiber in the shipping box.

Processing options for various fleece areas

  • Prime (sometimes called blanket or saddle) - Comes from the area of an Alpaca where a horse blanket would fit. Typically the finest fleece from an adult alpaca. Soft with long staple length. Typically spun to yarn and used in blankets, afghans and sweaters.
  • Seconds - Similar or slightly coarser to prime with shorter staple length. Used to produce Socks, Gloves, Hats and Scarves
  • Thirds - Coarsest of all alpaca fiber with varying staple length. Used to make braided rugs, baskets and show leads

Call us if you have first year Cria for special processing options.


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Website last modified: 08/22/2016


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