Sorting and Grading Alpaca Fiber

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Sorting and Grading Alpaca Fiber

Why sort and grade your alpaca fiber? The main reason is to improve the quality of the end product. This can make you stand out from your competitors when it comes to sales! Yarn or roving  made from fiber that is uniform in micron and length is consistent throughout and has a wonderful soft hand. Another advantage is that by combining fleece of the same color, as well as length and micron, you can increase the poundage of each color and often get a price break at the mill. While you usually want to keep like colors together, you can also create your own color, for example gray, by mixing black and white. I have often done this when I have a small amount of two different colors but the same grade and by putting them together I have enough to process.

It is generally accepted that keeping the micron variation to within three microns gives the best results. The six standard fiber grades have developed with that in mind. The accepted grades may have different names according to the system being used but the grades themselves are uniform.

GRADE MICRON NAME
Grade #1 >20 microns Ultra Fine
Grade #2 20.0 – 22.9 Super Fine
Grade #3 23.0 – 25.9 Fine
Grade #4 26.0 – 28.9 Medium
Grade #5 29.0 – 32.0 Intermediate
Grade #6 32.1 – 35.0 Robust

 

As alpaca fiber has become finer it may be necessary to further divide Grade #1.

Fiber length is the other critical factor in producing a quality product. Keeping the variation in staple length to 1.5 to 2.0 inches makes the yarn more consistent. Fiber length is also a factor in determining how the fiber is processed. In a commercial mill short fiber, 1.5-3.5 inches, would normally be processed by the woolen method where fibers are arranged randomly in the yarn. This produces a lofty soft yarn ideal for knitted products. Longer fibers in the 3.75-6.0 inch range are processed by the worsted method where individual fibers are aligned in parallel. This produces a light weight yarn which is more tightly spun. Yarn for weaving is usually produced in this way and produces a fabric which drapes well.

Now that you know why you should sort and grade your alpaca fiber, you need to know how to do that. This will be a discussion for another time.

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By | 2017-12-29T20:48:51+00:00 March 1st, 2017|, |Comments Off on Sorting and Grading Alpaca Fiber

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