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Alpaca - The production process

posted on 26 July 2010 | posted in Alpaca

This blog is dedicated to describing the cycle required between shearing the alpaca fiber and achieving a ready to wear garment. This is the method followed for Kuna products.

The average time between shearing the fiber and producing a finished garment from it is about 150 days. The timescale is as follows.

1.BREEDING: The breeding of Alpacas in Peru goes back some six thousand years. Today hundreds of thousands of families spread over the vast territory of the Peruvian Andes at heights ranging from 3000 to 5000 meters (9800 to 16400 feet) above sea level are engaged in this activity. There are some three million Alpacas in Peru, representing about 80% of the world's population.

2.SHEARING: Alpacas are sheared once a year, each animal yielding an average of about five pounds (2.3 Kg) of fiber. In Peru, Alpacas are sheared by hand and only between November and march, which is the summer season.

3.SORTING: Sorting is the process where the Alpaca fiber is classified according to fineness and color. Fibers are measured in terms of their average diameter in microns, one micron being a thousandth part of a millimeter. Alpaca is manually sorted by ladies. In a single Alpaca fleece different grades of fiber may be present: Royal, Baby, Finca, Superfine, Huarizo, Coarse and Mixed Pieces. Alpaca fiber is sorted into 8 basic shades.

4.DEHAIRING: In this process the coarse fibers, or guard hairs, whose diameter is greater than 30 microns, are removed from the fine material. In the Grupo Inca this operation is carried out manually and is used mostly to eliminate the coarse fibers, hair by hair, from Vicuna and Guanaco fleece.

5.SCOURING AND DRYING: The scouring process eliminates excess grease, dust, and some of the vegetable impurities from the alpaca fiber. Biodegradable detergents are used and are applied at very low concentrations. The fiber goes through up to five scouring bowls containing water and detergent at different temperatures.

6.CARDING: Carding eliminates certain impurities, very coarse fibers and short tufts, while predisposing the fibers for sliver formation.

7.COMBING: After carding, the fiber is combed so that short fibers "neps"- very small masses of tangled fibers and remaining impurities are removed. The combed fiber is produced as a thick sliver wound into packages known as "Tops". The tops are the starting point for producing different kinds of yarns.

8.DYEING: Alpaca fiber can be dyed to an infinite variety of shades. However, in order to dye it to most colors, especially light ones, only white fiber can be used. It is possible to dye Alpaca as scoured fiber or in the form of tops, yarns, skeins or cones.

9.SPINNING: The sliver of fiber is attenuated and converted into yarn through drafting, twisting, and setting the twist. A yarn free of faults and knots is obtained and is packaged in different forms such as cones or skeins. Yarns may be 100% Alpaca or blends with other materials.

10.KNITTING: There are three ways of producing knitted structures: by use of either a crochet, kintting needles or a knitting machine. In all of them, the basic operation is to construct a mesh by interlacing a yarn or yarns.

11.WEAVING: Weaving is the production of cloth, on either hand-operated or mechanical looms. In both cases, the fundamental principle is the interlacing of wart threads with transversal weft yarns to produce a fabric. The thickness of the yarns determines the weight of the cloth.

12.MAKING UP: This is the process whereby bolts of cloth are turned into garments such as coats, jackets, capes and many others. The cloth is laid out on long tables where the patterns are drawn with the aid of computerized systems and cut out with electronic scissors controlled by a single operative. Once the pieces for the garment are obtained, they are sewn together. The made-up garment is then pressed, labels are applied, and it is packaged.