June 2015

Cooling off for the summer: my alpacas are ready for shearing!

June is the month my alpacas get to lose their warm winter coats ready for all the lovely weather we hope is coming our way.

My shearing date is 24th June, and my animals will be expertly sheared by Colin Ottery from Devon, who was one of the first alpaca shearers in the country. Colin has been on the scene since alpacas arrived in the UK back in the late 1990s, so I know my animals are in safe hands when he visits us.

Shearing alpacas is a specialist job, as the animals are laid on their side, and the technique is a little different from sheep, who sit on their rumps while they are shorn. The alpacas look very skinny when they have been relieved of their famously thick and fluffy fleeces!

I have Huacaya alpacas (the ones that look like teddy bears) and I send my fleeces off to a mini mill in Lincolnshire where they are processed individually.

Alpaca is a dry fibre and contains very little lanolin, the waxy substance which abounds in sheep’s wool and causes skin allergies or sensitivities in some people. That’s why alpaca wool is so wearable and well tolerated by almost everyone.

The low lanolin content means it does not need to be scooured before spinning, and can be spun straight from the fleece. It is washed at a later stage of the process.

The Luxury of Alpaca Fibre

Alpaca wool is very fine and ideal for producing high quality knitwear like ours. It’s one of the most luxurious fibres in the world. Once you have felt its softness you’ll be hooked, and won’t want to wear anything else or knit with any other fibre.

It’s sometimes described as “hard-wearing cashmere”, which means you get the softness and durability – a wonderful combination for knitted products.

Alpaca wool comes in a very fine palette, with 22 officially recognised colours, and every shade in between. In its home market of South America it is frequently dyed, while here in Europe it is treasured for its vast range of natural shades. In its natural state it is both rich and subtle, and very attractive to the environmentally aware.

Alpaca garments have been very popular among the wealthy since the reign of Quenn Victoria. In those days Alpaca coats and gowns were highly prized and so hardwearing that they were bequeathed in the wills of the deceased to the next generations.

If you want to talk to me about alpaca yarn, and see (and feel) the quality of out knitwear, you can find me at Ludlow market on the following dates:

Ludlow market on Thursdays 4th & 18th and Sunday 28th
Ludlow Farmers market Thursday 11th

I hope to see you there!