Shearing Day

You may recall that Marci and I adopted an alpaca last fall, and last Saturday was shearing day!

It’s quite an event, the shearers and the farmers are there, and Marcia (Reba’s farmer) had some members of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine Camelid Medicine Club come to help out, too (which I didn’t even know existed! How cool is that?). The alpacas get their nails trimmed, teeth drilled, and their immunizations in addition to getting sheared, and everybody had it down to a science. The vet students even rotated jobs and never missed a beat.

The shearing itself was different than I expected. Unlike sheep, which I’ve seen shearers just hold them between their legs, alpacas get hog-tied down for their safety and the safety of the shearers (alpacas can jump and kick). There were actually two shearers: one with the clippers and one to help turn the alpaca and watch the head. They worked in total sync without speaking to one another, it was amazing and quick. You don’t want the alpaca uncomfortable longer than necessary.

Some of the alpaca were not having shearing! I found out this weekend alpacas can scream (not like goats, thank goodness). However, Reba was a total champ.

After her haircut, she had her hay snack and a nice nap in the sun. And we went home with a couple of bags of her gorgeous fleece!

bags of alpaca fleece

The first cut of an alpaca is along their back, called the blanket. It’s the highest quality fleece on the animal. After that’s cut and bagged, the go back to shear the legs, tail, neck, and whatever got missed on the body on the first cut. These are called seconds, a little coarser than the blanket (but it’s still alpaca!) and some of the cuts too short for traditional spinning.

We’ll send the blanket off to the mill to be turned into roving, but I still have a whole bag of seconds to play with. I’m trying to come up with some really good ideas for what to do with them. Marcia makes classy felted hats out of her seconds. So far, I thought I’d spin what I could and make a bunch of the duffer slippers for the family. I’ve also thought felted bag, felted wrap, or a needle-felted Reba softie. That could use up the pieces that are too small to spin.

What would you do with a bunch of alpaca seconds? Let me know in the comments!

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