It's that time of year again where the herd get a short back and sides and the whole team get a chance to be hands-on with these gorgeous animals and their fleece.
The process is very labour intensive as we skirt, grade and sort every fleece as it comes off the animal. An initial separation of the coarser leg and tummy hairs from the premium 'blanket' fibre is done on the shearing table as the fibre is coming off. The fleece is then carried across to a wire mesh table upon which the really important job begins. Handful by handful we separate and marginally coarser fibres out to ensure that only the finest fleeces go into our yarn bactches. All fleeces are also checked for strength and condition (but I am proud to say every fleece from our herd passed this one with flying colours, so the animals are obviously in tip-top condition). Any foliage contamination is also removed by hand at this stage and lots of care is taken to ensure that all fibre is over 5cm in length as shorter fibres can cause inconsistency in the yarn. Following all of this fibre is weighed into one of four grades which will determine the yarn weight that he becomes. Until now most of this process has been relatively scientific, but the colour blending now required can only be described as artistic.
As TOFT do not use dyes on their alpaca yarns the ten shades we offer need to be achieved through colour blending. Greys are made of black and white fleeces combined (there are not enough grey alpacas to go round), an our most complex colours are mushroom and stone as these involve every colour combined together.
Thrilled to say that the first three batches of yarn are already in production down at The Natural Fibre Company. Back on the shelves soon.