Our 100 Percent Llama Fiber
is from our animals raised here at the farm in central NY. We have made a conscious effort to harvest our llamas’ fiber as stress free for the animals as we can. Prior to shearing, we lightly brush them and for those that don’t mind the sound of the blower, may gently blow their fiber to remove a lot of the dusty dirt and bits of weeds from them with a blower specifically made for this purpose. Viv shears our llamas with them lightly tied and standing up – first one side of the body, then the other, then the rear of the animal (from the hind legs & toward the tail), and finally the front including the neck if needed.
While some of the lighter wooled, classic style llamas (they have minimal wool on their legs & necks) may not need to be shorn in certain environments, we usually shear each individual llama at least once every two years. With our herd living on a hill in a relaxed environment where a breeze is usually blowing and with continual access to shade, they do quite well without an annual haircut. Those with much heavier coats are sometimes shorn yearly but later in the season depending on the weather. When the llamas are shorn, Viv makes sure to leave on a good 1/4 to 1/2 inch of fiber to prevent sunburn in the summer and to give them a bit of covering for the winter. This is about the same amount of fiber on a newborn cria (baby llama). Even with this amount, our llamas have continual access to full sided barns in the winter with deep bedding. Many even wear coats made especially for llamas but similar to horse blankets.
During shearing, Viv picks off the larger pieces of hay & weeds that the llamas seem to attract. Any fiber that is too short, too dirty, or just not up to par is rejected and thrown on our compost heap. The good fiber is sorted into 3 bags – body, rear, & front. The next step is called skirting and is usually done by Bob although Viv gets her hands on some fleeces periodically. Any missed “bad” fiber is removed but primarily the majority of the prominent guard hairs that extend out beyond the undercoat are pulled. This is all done one handful at a time. Only strong healthy quality fibers are retained for further processing.
The fiber in the 3 bags for each animal is sorted according to color, fineness and other fibery attributes, and either kept separate or combined with other llamas’ fiber for further processing. Each batch is then evaluated to determine it’s best use considering it’s characteristics. We have teamed up with a couple of local family-run mills that gently custom wash and card our fiber, and follow a policy of never using harsh detergents or chemical methods that would impair this natural fiber. If they spin our fiber, only the least required amount of environmentally-friendly oils are used. Whether our llama fiber is further dyed, mixed with other fibers, and/or spun into a variety of yarns that are either offered for sale or specifically targeted for Viv’s handwoven projects, we try to highlight the distinctiveness of our individual llama’s fleeces.
We usually have Carded Llama Roving in a variety of natural colors. We do not usually make braids out of our roving but prefer to leave it lightly wound into balls to keep from compressing the fine fibers. The colors and quantities of each will vary yearly as it is dependent on which llamas are getting shorn, if the fiber will be made into yarn for Viv’s projects, left available for sale, or is simply not up to our standards due to its condition. Our fiber is NOT commercially dehaired; as noted above, only the prominent guard hairs have been removed during our skirting process. Since our herd is older now, their fiber no longer gives the super soft/close to the skin feeling it once did but it still makes the most wonderful outer garments where that extreme softness is not needed. In most cases, we can mail you a couple of small samples; let us know which colors interest you.
Costs: Natural Colors – $4 per ounce Note: No sales tax on this product.
Be sure to indicate in the shopping cart how many ounces you want for each color. We’ll weigh out what you need. The two colored rovings are 2 individually carded rovings pindrafted next to each other into one roving – they are usually spun together but can be separated. Licorice Twist is Cream & Grey, Timberwolf is Taupe/Brown & Grey, Cinnamon Toast is Chestnut & Grey,Vanilla Fudge Twist is Taupe/Brown & Cream, and Caramel Twist is Cream & Fawn. The colors are in order in the photo below. Note also that the Chestnut color is a reddish brown and the Dark Brown/Black and Grey colors are the most limited in supply. If the color is crucial to your project, please email me to discuss getting samples.
Costs: Special Blends – $6 per ounce These may have some glitz, other fibers like Merino or Bluefaced Leicester wool, mohair, or may have been dyed – something special has been done. Right now we have available 2 Special Blends:
Special Blend #1: CocoBerry: 90% Natural & dyed llama with 10% Firestar added for fun. CocoBerry Llama Roving Special Blend #2: Noelle, Perot, & BFL: Natural colored grey & grey/brown Llama with Bluefaced Leicester Wool – 50/50 blend. NoellePerot&BFL Roving
|Special Blend #1 CocoBerry||Special Blend #2 Noelle, Perot, & BFL|
We often have a few skeins of Llama Yarns that are 100% llama and some that have been made with our special blends of carded fiber. We usually have worsted weight yarns made but occasionally do have bulky weight too. Since availablity can vary considerably depending on the size of the initial batch, the yarn composition, and the quantity remaining as Viv continually weaves or knits, it would be very hard to try to put down costs and which yarns are available on this webpage. Instead, please email us and let us know what you might be looking for and we will do our best to see if we have something that would be appropriate. Otherwise, check out our display at Mill Artisans in Sherburne, NY or see us at one of the fiber festivals listed at the bottom of our Home page.
ABOUT LLAMA FIBER
Considered the Truck of the Andes, llamas were not initially created for their fleeces (as were Alpacas) but for their tractability and load-carrying attributes. However, in this country especially, great leaps have been made by dedicated llama breeders to selectively breed for quality fleeces perfectly suitable for luxury fabrics.
In the fiber world, Llamas are expected to have guard hair besides a down undercoat, (alpacas are not) but there is a great variety in individual animals for both the quantity of guard hair in terms of percentage of fleece, as well as for the fineness or diameter of those guard hairs. Guard hairs are strong, thicker in diameter and longer than the undercoat, are often straight, & sometimes wiry. They tend to resist spinning, dyeing, and felting but the level of resistance depends upon the degree of thickness and straightness of the fibers involved. Guard hairs left in with the down undercoat produce a textured yarn perfect for rugs, outer garments including socks, & woven items requiring this characteristic.
Llama down: 1) is strong, 2) has no heavy lanolin or grease & need not be washed prior to spinning, 3) is hypo-allergenic so only a gentle washing with hair shampoo or dishwashing liquid is sufficient to remove surface dirt rather than needing to use strong detergents or acids that leave a chemical coating on the fiber, 4) has generally minimal to no crimp, 5) is warmer than most fibers including sheep wool, & 6) comes in a large array of natural colors.
Llama fiber is one of the most versatile fibers when individual fleece selection, processing, and spinning are matched to the desired final product.