It was fascinating to see the shearing process up close, and learn more about the different stages of sorting the alpaca fleeces first hand. Every year we work with British alpaca breeders and farms to source the undyed fleeces we use in our Signature Handwoven Collection and Minta interiors line – but have never been there for the actual shearing.
Specialist alpaca shearers tour Britain during the summer and are well practised at working with these leggy creatures. Shearing is vital to stop the alpacas overheating in the warm weather, and also has the benefit of giving us humans something beautiful to keep us warm in the winter!
The alpacas are restrained and the shearing is completed quickly to cause as little discomfort as possible.
First the alpacas are restrained so they don’t hurt themselves, and this also provides the opportunity to give them a comprehensive health check as well as a tooth and nail trim which is difficult to do when they are out frisking in the field.
The blanket section of the fleece being shorn, which contains the highest quality fibre.
The back section of the fleece is removed first – known as the ‘blanket’. This usually contains the finest and best quality fibre, and is what we have spun to weave into our products. The blanket is laid out flat and sorted through by hand to remove the tougher guard hairs and bits of dirt in a process called ‘skirting’. The leg and belly fleece is removed next, followed by the neck. No part of the fleece is wasted, as all the seconds can still be used for natural stuffing and insulation.
Raw alpaca fleece is beautifully soft to touch, and is hypoallergenic as it doesn’t contain lanolin.
It was amazing to touch the raw fibre straight off the animal, it was even still warm to the touch! Raw Alpaca fibre also doesn’t contain lanolin – unlike sheep wool – so it didn’t have that greasy texture.
Bob and Cath were so knowledgeable about each of the animals in their herd, and we discovered that every one has a very distinctive personality. This culminated in them demonstrating the exact place an alpaca liked to be stroked – some liked a tickle under the neck, and other a pat on the back, every alpaca is different!
It was wonderful meeting this fluffy bunch, and we even got to take the alpacas on a walk!
It was a privilege to meet them and their gorgeous herd, as well as learning about a process that is so vital to weaving our products. Bobcat alpacas are right on our doorstep here in Edinburgh, and it was wonderful to find fellow alpaca lovers so nearby. They are spreading this passion with their ‘alpaca experiences’ where groups learn about handling and taking care of them and then go an alpaca walk in the Pentland hills. Needless to say we hope to have another team day out there soon!