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 5. Alpaca Fiber: End to End
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Alpacas of Gettysburg

164 Posts

Posted - 05/15/2008 :  5:18:33 PM  Show Profile  Visit Alpacas of Gettysburg's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I would like to start a discussion about an email we just received (and you probably did too, if you're an AOBA member) about the new American Alpaca Fiber Federation and a large mill that is interested in blending alpaca with denim. The email came from Fantasy Farm in Texas. What do you all think about this?

Helen
Alpacas of Gettysburg
www.alpacasofgettysburg.com

allamericanalpacas

4245 Posts

Posted - 05/15/2008 :  5:36:08 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I went to the website and thought the email was premature, as it says membership will be required but not how much membership will cost, they did not know how much they'll pay for fiber, etc.
Maybe next year, not now.
Just my $.02

Rick
--
Rick & Pati Horn
All American Alpacas
35215 Avenida Mañana
Murrieta, Ca. 92563
alpacanation.com/aaalpacas.asp
http://aaalpacas.com/updates.html
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gatewayfarm

1420 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2008 :  01:25:12 AM  Show Profile  Visit gatewayfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I found this to be interesting:
quote:
Does It Cost To Join American Alpaca Fiber Federation?

Yes, there will be a membership fee to join the federation. It would be similar to joining SAMS CLUB. Without a membership you can not purchase at Sam’s Club. In our case without a membership you can not sell fiber to American Alpaca Fiber Federation.


Strikes me as odd. Paying a fee to get the privilege to shop is a bit different that paying a fee to get the privilege to sell - especially an unknown fee paid up front for the right to sell at an unknown price.

I would want to see copies of things like the "Letter of Intent" before I would "invest" any money into the project.

Gateway Farm
Alpaca, a natural elegance...
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Robynkuhl

49 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2008 :  7:47:05 PM  Show Profile  Visit Robynkuhl's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I have not gone to the website yet. But found the email interesting. I commend them for starting the ball rolling. There is alot of groundwork that needs to happen before you can actually operate.

It isn't like someone will just yell okay we're ready and we hit the ground running. It will take time and alot of preparation.

Some of the questions I will like to eventually (when they are ready) see answered is how much will be paid / lb for raw fiber. I hope by then everyone will know how much it costs them to grow it. It costs us $16/ lb. So obviously for me they would have to pay no less than $25/ lb as a bare minimum.

It will be nice to have another option for people.

There are farms out there who just want a check and have no other involvement. Which is their perogative.

There are farms out there who want the most profit / lb possible and will do everything they need to to get it.

There are also farms out there who are small and want to cater to the local hand crafters market and that is where mini mills come in.

And there are farms who will participate in all 3 of the above.

Life is all about choices and it sure is nice to have choices.

Here is to putting out N. American products with N. American fiber that is consistenly of the highest quality and doing it consistently.

Robyn Kuhl

www.fibersorting.com
www.naafp.us
www.fromtheheartranch.com
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bapackerfan

356 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2008 :  11:14:51 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I was intrigued and contacted them to keep me posted on their progress. I asked if they had samples of that denim/alpaca blend - they said they should have some in about 90 days. I think that would be a fabulous fabric and would love to see it.
Chris Rogers
De Pere, WI

A Paca Fan
Whisper Meadows Alpacas

Edited by - bapackerfan on 05/16/2008 11:15:22 PM
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gatewayfarm

1420 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2008 :  12:17:53 PM  Show Profile  Visit gatewayfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I just received an email from this group via our website's contact page. Kind of rambling, but it raises as many questions as it answers.

" John, With regards to your concern regarding membership, as stated clearly on our web site, we are asking for nothing as an investment or funds in advance. American Alpaca Fiber Federation is financing all development costs fully. Once all testing the our mill in Mexico is completed...if you wish to sell your fiber to us...all participating farms will be required to be a member of American Alpaca Fiber Federation. The reasoning why is clear...we have spent vast sums of time, energy and funding...We are bearing all cost and risk, at the end of the day we want to see some reimbursement of those initial costs."

Most businesses plan to recatpure start-up costs via future profitability. This is an interesting model, where one recaptures start-up costs by charging the supplier.

If Costco is a "Buyer's Club" then I suppose this can be thought of as a "Seller's Club"?

I am still not clear if "Memebership" incurs a one time cost, or an ongoing fee, what the ultimate dipsosition of profits might be, or any number of other salient questions.

Given that alpaca tops are currently going for less than US$30/kilogram on the International market (baby huacaya) - which is near a ten year high - the suggestion of a payment of US$16/lb for raw, ungraded fiber seems more than a bit optimistic to me.

Time will tell...



Gateway Farm
Alpaca, a natural elegance...
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Paradise

922 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2008 :  1:01:22 PM  Show Profile  Visit Paradise's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I really applaud them for looking for another outlet for fiber. My concern is with the image. If we are marketing alpaca as a luxury fiber, I fail to see how blending it with denim is going to fit that ideal. I haven't seen any cashmere/denim blends. Or even merino/denim blends. When newbies come to visit and ask about selling fiber, it is frustrating to not have a great answer right now, but I'm not sure I will feel anymore comfortable saying, "Here, buy this $15,000 animal so their fiber can end up in jeans at WalMart".
I agree with John about the 'membership fee', as well. It seems as though they're expecting to make their money off the membership, not off the profits, which tells me they are perhaps not very optimistic about those profits. When they get more specific about the cost and the price per pound we'll know better if this is really viable.
Again, I love that people are thinking outside the box, though.

Laura Hillman
Paradise Alpacas
Hempstead, TX
979-826-9559
www.alpacanation.com/paradisealpacasoftx.asp
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gatewayfarm

1420 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2008 :  3:45:10 PM  Show Profile  Visit gatewayfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
I really applaud them for looking for another outlet for fiber. My concern is with the image. If we are marketing alpaca as a luxury fiber, I fail to see how blending it with denim is going to fit that ideal. I haven't seen any cashmere/denim blends.


I am not sure exactly what alpaca denim is.

In general, denim is nothing more than a double twill cotton fabric - one in whcih the weft passes under two warp fibers.

If this is what is being explored, it is not a "new" idea. Titus Salt made a fortune on similar fabrics, and there are folks doing the same today, albeit without using the word "denim".

From the middle of the 1800's until the rise of synthetics after WWII (what I like to call the Alpaca Century alpaca was a well known and highly respected (even coveted) fabric that was made exactly this way - cotton warp and alpaca weft. This is due to the fact that alpaca yarns are simply not strong enough for the tension they experience on commercial looms, and the fact that they tend to sluff fibers and build up ash (grime left even after scouring) that plug the reeds on the loom, leading to excessive breakage of the warp.

A brushed denim fabric would likely have the feel of 100% alpaca combined with the durability provided by the cotton warp.

I know of at least one company here in the US that is currently making blankets using this technique.

The problem will not be in developing the fabric, but rather in the marketing of it, or so I would suspect.


Gateway Farm
Alpaca, a natural elegance...
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Adobe Park Alpacas

63 Posts

Posted - 05/22/2008 :  12:14:44 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
John,

I really think you should qualify your comments to being those of your own experiences, as they are far from being factual in respect to the industry at large. Alpaca (in both the warp and the weft using 2/45NM yarn)is successfully woven into fine cloth on commercial machinery. In fact I believe we can still go finer when we can gain reasonable supplies of fine micron fleece (say under 14 micron). The problem being the number of fibres within the cross-section of the yarn rather than the tensile strength of the alpaca.

With respect to the ash/grime buildup surely this reflects the problem that the scour being used is just not up to cleaning alpaca effectively, in fact I would suggest that the scour was probably not designed to process alpaca. As suggested previously part of this problem can probably be attributed to the fact that ash/grime is getting trapped under a damaged cuticle structure from the actions of the squeeze rollers.

I believe the situation outlined by John illustrates 2 problems we have within this idustry.
1. Specialised Machinery: There is a need for the development of boutique (mid sized) alpaca specific processing machinery especially in respect to the initial aspects of alpaca processing. For example; fibre cleaning, dehairing, scouring and carding.
2. Knowledge and Understanding: For the industry to be taken seriously there has to be a far greater knowledge of the fibre and its attributes, being developed within the industry. From this knowledge will come the development of premium alpaca product capable of being niche marketed succesfully and able to support a growing fleece industry.


Brian Kitson
Adobe Park Alpacas
Geraldine NZ
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gatewayfarm

1420 Posts

Posted - 05/22/2008 :  09:43:34 AM  Show Profile  Visit gatewayfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adobe Park Alpacas

John,

I really think you should qualify your comments to being those of your own experiences, as they are far from being factual in respect to the industry at large.



Rather than quailifying my comments on my on experience, I would refer you to "The Quality and Processing Performance of Alpaca Fibres" (Wang, Wang and Liu, 2003) which reports the results of an extended study funded by Australia. It does run over 100 pages, and the results support my comments above.

"Scouring is one of the key issues for the alpaca industry. Several alpaca scouring trials have been conducted to identify an efficient alpaca fiber scouring method. Results of solvent extractions, ash contents and fibre yield indicate that there is no significant difference between the scouring regimes in terms of scouring performance. All scouring methods examined can eachieve satisfactory removal of grease. However, no methods can achieve an ash content below 1%..."

In the same paper you will find additional information about yarn strength using different twists - and the effect of the a high twist yarn on the subject feel of softness.

I would say that the results of the paper align pretty closely with what we have seen once alpaca is moved from small to large scale manufacturing. That, I think, may be key. Problems that do are minimal in a small operation dealing with a few hundred pounds of fiber a week become magnified when used in a facility consuming hundreds of pounds an hour.


Gateway Farm
Alpaca, a natural elegance...
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Heidi Christensen

4211 Posts

Posted - 05/22/2008 :  10:01:49 AM  Show Profile  Visit Heidi Christensen's Homepage  Reply with Quote
John,

Any idea what the difference was in processing reseached by the Australian's and how Sir Titus processed the fiber? It seems like he figured it out 100 years ago, so why is it that we would have problems with commercial processing now?

Heidi Christensen
WingNut Farm
Graham, Wa
(253) 846-2168
http://alpacanation.com/wingnutfarm.asp
http://wingnut-alpacas.com
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gatewayfarm

1420 Posts

Posted - 05/22/2008 :  2:51:51 PM  Show Profile  Visit gatewayfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Heidi Christensen
Any idea what the difference was in processing reseached by the Australian's and how Sir Titus processed the fiber? It seems like he figured it out 100 years ago, so why is it that we would have problems with commercial processing now?



I don't know that there was any real difference. There haven't been "huge" technical innovations, with the exception of the ring spinner, although everything is certainly running with much closer tolerances and at higher speeds these days.

As I pointed out above, Salt made fabric with cotton warp and alpaca weft, for much the same reasons that it is done today - alpaca yarn is difficult to make with enough strength to withstand the tension placed on it in a power loom. (I have heard the same complaint fairly commonly from people using hand looms.)

This is a result of some fo the very traits that make alpaca an otherwise desirable fiber - the low scale height, smooth shaft and relative suppleness of individual alpaca fibers. The result is they simply don't "lock up" like many other fibers (e.g. wool). Increasing twist will add strength, but also creates a "hard" yarn that just doesn't feel as soft.

"The twist factor of single alpaca yarns affects the yarn strength and fabric handle. As the twist factor increases, yarn strength increases (up to a limit), but fabric handle gets worse. Low twist yarns break easily during spinning and knitting. In addition, when using yarns with the same twist factor, knitted alpaca fabrics shed more fibres than wool fabrics. " (Wang, Wang, Liu)

Sirofil yarns, which are basically a single strand of synthetic fiber oround which the alpaca tops are spun, has been used with some success to make a stronger yarn that maintains handle. I dn't believe, however, that it solves the problem with ash or shedding.


Gateway Farm
Alpaca, a natural elegance...
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tmalpacas

40 Posts

Posted - 05/23/2008 :  2:34:09 PM  Show Profile  Visit tmalpacas's Homepage  Reply with Quote
My question is about suri alpaca fiber. It is closer to silk than sheeps wool, or so I've been told. Silk is spun into many different types of yarn and made into very fine garments. What about the suri alpaca fiber makes it so it cannot be processed like silk? The problems stated about processing alpaca, especially suri, seems that silk would have the same problems.

Very fine alpaca fabric has been made for quite some time in other countries. Why can they do it but we cannot?

Thunder Mountain Alpacas
tmalpacas@aol.com
www.ThunderMountainAlpacas.com
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gatewayfarm

1420 Posts

Posted - 05/23/2008 :  4:19:08 PM  Show Profile  Visit gatewayfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tmalpacas

My question is about suri alpaca fiber. It is closer to silk than sheeps wool, or so I've been told. Silk is spun into many different types of yarn and made into very fine garments. What about the suri alpaca fiber makes it so it cannot be processed like silk? The problems stated about processing alpaca, especially suri, seems that silk would have the same problems.

Very fine alpaca fabric has been made for quite some time in other countries. Why can they do it but we cannot?



Silk is commonly blended with suri (as are several other fibers such as bamboo, Tencel, etc.).

It is my understanding that even Peru has problems working with 100% suri. Again, the speed that the equipment is running is one factor. The large mills in Peru are alos under total environmental control, with constant temperature and humidity (around 80%) maintained at all times. I also suspect, but don't know for sure, that SA processors are using proprietary sizing formulations and perhaps other techniques. (For instance, I have often heard that due to differences in "truth in labeling" laws that they can sell blends as being 100% alpaca, though I tend to doubt that particular rumor.)

Remember, Peru, et. al. have access to 100 years of experience and low cost labor.

Suri and silk share lustre as a trait, and that is about the end of it. Silk is nearly synthetic in its structure, being a single long smooth strand. Silk does not have a scale structure that traps microscopic dirt (ash), which is the major contributor to static electricity buildup when processing alpaca.

One of the things that surprises me within the alpaca community is the aversion to anything less than 100% alpaca. It seems to me that blends that emphasize both the attributes of alpaca and the blending fiber should be seen as superior, not inferior.

After all, no fiber is "perfect" nor really "best" or "better" than any other. Each has their strengths and weakness. I often say my wool sweaters itch, my cashmere sweaters pill and my alpaca sweaters shed - and all three will shrink if not cared for properly!

As a group we need to learn to see alpaca fiber objectively, and work towards positioning it in the most advantageous niche that we can to insure producer profits.

Gateway Farm
Alpaca, a natural elegance...
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