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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Knitting kits for hats and scarves for sale
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.