What is the fibre like?

Traditionally the llama is considered to have a two-coated fleece although many breeders these days are breeding for single coated fleeces and these compare favourably with the finest alpaca fleeces.

The two-coated llama has a guard hair with a fine undercoat which acts as protection from cold and heat. This undercoat sheds from time to time and may be brushed from the animal. The undercoat has a low micron count whilst the guard hair (outer coat) is much coarser. The guard hair allows moisture and debris to be shed. Some samples of various colours from a few of our llamas are shown in the illustration below.

Often referred to as fibre, as it is not wool, it is technically hair and has a hollow (or medullated) core. The finest llama and alpaca fibre has an interrupted medulation or none at all. This structure creates warmth, and gives insulation and strength to the fibre.

The two wild species of the camelid family, the vicuña (below, right) and the guanaco (left) have fine fibre. The vicuña is brown with a white bib and underbelly. Its fibre is one of the finest in the world with a micron count of six to fourteen microns. This is a protected species and for many years no vicuña fibre was available. Now some is being shorn but the annual shearing produces only six to eight ounces per year from each animal.

Vicuña fibre was reserved for the Inca nobility and commoners were not allowed to wear it. The colour of the guanaco, the wild llama, is brown with a white underbelly and grey face. They also have a fine fibre of sixteen to eighteen microns.

The domesticated llama and alpaca fibre comes in an amazing array of natural colours with twenty-two internationally recognized shades and seven grades.

The coarser fibre is used for utilitarian products and the finer fibre for clothing. Some fibre has a good crimp, although not as much as sheep. Whilst some fibre artists blend a small percentage of sheep to give more memory to the finish product, llama and alpaca fibre can be used alone very successfully. Merino and Polworth are the best sheep for blending.

Harvesting the fibre

Two-coated llama (with guard hair). Clean the animal as much as possible by hand picking the debris, using a blower and brushing the surface. Discard all the dirty fibre. Then the clean fibre may be brushed with a bristle or wire brush such as dog brushes. Brushing may be done any time the animal is shedding or as often as you want. Brushing will give you just the undercoat with little or no guard hair. The two-coated llama may also be shorn if desired.

Margarita, on the left, is getting introduced to the blower while on the right, young Mourning Dove isn’ too impressed with being brushed a bit for the first time.

One-coated llamas (little or no guard hair) and alpacas can be shorn annually or as often as the fibre is a desirable length. Alpacas are usually shorn annually as they have a more dense fibre and have no ability to shed. Llamas and alpacas can be shorn by hand with sheep shears, or even scissors or with electric shears. Be sure to have an experienced person help you the first time and be sure to tie the animal to the fence or in a chute and have someone help hold the animal at the head to calm them. Some breeders shear to the skin whilst others leave one to two inches of fibre on the animal to prevent sunburn or if they are shorn later in the year and there will not be much growth before winter. Try to avoid second cuts. These are caused by going over the animal a second time to even it up and if they get into the prime fleece, will downgrade it.

Remember, a clean fleece is worth far more than a dirty one. Throw away any dirty or matted fibre. Skirt and grade your fibre and make notes for the future.

You can be guaranteed that as soon as you have brushed out and cleaned up your llama one of the first things it will do is to have a nice dust bath as young Pamella is doing in this photo

A freshly shorn llama such as this one will often get really frisky, they seem to enjoy feeling cool. As they are being shorn you can often feel the body heat under the thick fibre.

Neck fibre is usually much shorter than the body fibre and it can be used for felting or can be spun if the spinner can handle short fibre.

Reasons for Shearing

  The reduced chance of heat stress
  Animals will have more energy
  Animals can be inspected for skin problems and parasites
  Better performance in breeding
  Conformation can be checked more easily
  Fewer premature crias due to the heat
  Fibre can be a source of income


The fibre can be teased and spun directly from your shearing, carded on hand or drum carders, or sent for processing into batts, rovings or as spun fibre.

The fibre can be used in any type of fibre art. It can be used to knit, crochet, weave, stitchery, wall hangings, locker hooking, felting, rugs, lining for hanging baskets, ropes, braids, etc. Fibre can be dyed, blended with any other fibre. In other words it is up to you and your imagination!

Suggested books

The following links will take you to our “Book Store” page where you can read a description of the books and order them if you wish.

Andean Folk Knitting
by Cynthia Grevelle LeCount,
Don Tejedores Fine Arts Publications, 1990

Felt. New Directors for an Ancient Craft
by Gunilla Paetau Sjoberg and Patricia Spark
Interweave Presss

Hands On Dyeing
by Betsy Blumenthal & Kathryn Krieder
Interweave Press, 1988

Hands on Spinning
by Lee Raven
Interweave Press, 1987

Hands on Weaving
by Barbara Liebler
Interweave Press, 1986

Homespun Handknit
edited by Linda Ligon
Interweave Press, 1987

Sling Braiding of the Andes
by Adele Cahlander
Dos Tejadoras Books, 1980

Spinning Llama and Alpaca
by Chris Switzer
Switzer Land Enterprises, 1994
P.O. Box 3800, Estes Park, Colorado 80517

Spun llama yarn for sale

Knitting kits for hats and scarves for sale

Felting pictures

Dyeing llama fibre with Kool-Aid

Knitting pictures and llama knitting patterns

Mount Lehman Llamas Directory A guide to the rest of our web sites.

Brian and Jane Pinkerton

29343 Galahad Crescent
Mount Lehman
British Columbia
Canada V4X 2E4

Phone: 604-856-3196
e-mail address:

Mount Lehman Llamas Home Page       •       Farm Page       •       Llama Question and Answer Page