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 tumbler vs sorting
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TOWNLINE

58 Posts

Posted - 07/28/2013 :  07:54:21 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm still learning
Question is: What does a tumbler due that sorting does not do? What does sorting do that a tumbler does not do?

Mike
SuCaya Farms
Smithfield me.

Judith

4103 Posts

Posted - 07/28/2013 :  09:13:53 AM  Show Profile  Send Judith a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Ouch! A tumbler mixes up all the grades into one indistinguishable "grade" which will cause your entire fleece to be graded at its worst and unsuitable for many (most?) applications. Sorting separates out the various grades within a fleece so they can be used appropriately. If you tumble a fleece that has not been skirted and sorted, you simply blend all the grades into one - the worst. The ultimate use of the fleece depends on its grade. An unsorted/separated mixed-grade fleece isn't even suitable for rugs because it will have finer fibers that can't stand up to the hard wear that rugs require, and will quickly wear. Never tumble a whole fleece unless you're certain that it's all one grade.

Judith Korff
AlpacaNation Forum Co-Moderator
The Pastel Paca at LadySong Farm
Randolph, NY 14772
Cell: (716) 499-0383
www.alpacanation.com/ladysong.asp
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alpacastarr

688 Posts

Posted - 07/28/2013 :  09:30:38 AM  Show Profile  Visit alpacastarr's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by TOWNLINE

I'm still learning
Question is: What does a tumbler due that sorting does not do? What does sorting do that a tumbler does not do?

Mike
SuCaya Farms
Smithfield me.



Still learning too! Did you maybe mean skirting when you said sorting? There are a lot of words associated with fleeces! Here's my best effort to define a few key words.

Skirting a fleece is the process of laying it out on a table and inspecting a fleece. Then you take away everything that is not consistent with the main body of the fleece and you also take away any contamination such as VM or poop beans etc. When you are done skirting, you are left with a very nice, uniform, clean fleece on the table.

Sorting is sometime used to be synonymous with Grading, but Surprise! they actually mean different things.

Sorting is easy - you sort Huacaya from Suri, your sort brown from white, you sort necks (2nds) from blankets (1sts).

Grading is a skill that anyone can learn but takes a lot of practice to master. Grading is to differentiate fleece by micron range using touch and eye. Now, most of us who have been around alpaca fiber for a while can kind of tell "this is softer/nicer than that" so we can do a little bit of grading but to do it consistently to exacting grade ranges takes time to get good at it. For my home processing, I use my own senses to group like fleeces together. At AFCNA, they have trained graders on staff to ensure that the fleeces that go into each product is very very consistent.

Tumbling is a step in processing fiber. There are many steps in processing a fleece from shearing day to finished product. Fleeces are tumbled in a drum (some incorporate a blower) and that separates dirt, short cuts and VM chaff from the fiber. It makes for a cleaner fleece so that the next step, washing, can do a better job. And getting rid of the chaff and short cuts make the finished product feel much nicer. However, word of caution, if the fleece has a lot of strong guard hair or short cuts, tumbling CAN just mix those in so thoroughly with the nicer fibers that it comes out worse than it went in. If you are going to tumble, I think you will be better to tumble a well skirted fleece than a bag of "as shorn" fiber. Just my observation!

But, tumbling is (again, my opinion) a step that is only needed because you sheared dirty alpacas! When you spend the entire year with the concept that you will be harvesting that alpacas coat, you will keep your barn and pasture cleaner - you don't need to skirt or tumble out what never gets stuck in! And, if you will blow out their coats right before you shear, a lot of dirt and debris will come right out and my alpacas seem to sort of enjoy the air bath. If you put a little work into making sure what goes in to the bag on shearing day is clean, and the shearer is skilled enough to minimize 2nd cuts, you are miles ahead when it comes time to process your fiber.

Starr


Starr
Venezia Dream Farm
Candler, NC
http://alpacanation.com/farmsandbreeders/03_viewfarm.asp?name=11404
http://www.veneziadream.com/
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Christiane

2830 Posts

Posted - 07/28/2013 :  5:50:40 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I may be wrong here, but I think a tumbler removes debris and short pieces, while a sorting grades the fiber into

Christiane Rudolf
Tanglewood Farm
19741 Victory Lane
Fayetteville, Ohio 45118
(513) 875-2533
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TOWNLINE

58 Posts

Posted - 07/29/2013 :  06:46:56 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the input and I did mean skirting I will get it right someday. So if one skirt their fiber then tumbering would not need to be done. If one tumbles the worst grade of what is tumbled is the result

Mike OBrien
SuCaya Farms
Smithfield Me.
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alpacastarr

688 Posts

Posted - 07/29/2013 :  08:38:38 AM  Show Profile  Visit alpacastarr's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by TOWNLINE

Thanks for the input and I did mean skirting I will get it right someday. So if one skirt their fiber then tumbering would not need to be done. If one tumbles the worst grade of what is tumbled is the result

Mike OBrien
SuCaya Farms
Smithfield Me.



Yep. That's the way I see it.

There's good uses for tumbling. A lot of people seem to love it. For me, I'd only use tumbling for something like 3rds (legs, chests, bellies etc) which is really heavily contaminated and not intended for next-to-skin final products anyhow.



Starr
Venezia Dream Farm
Candler, NC
http://alpacanation.com/farmsandbreeders/03_viewfarm.asp?name=11404
http://www.veneziadream.com/
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johnson

219 Posts

Posted - 07/29/2013 :  3:47:19 PM  Show Profile  Visit johnson's Homepage  Reply with Quote
From the mill.

Always skirt your fiber. Remove the unwanted large debris and areas of fiber not wanted in your finished product.

Always tumble the fiber prior to processing. You will not believe what you have missed.

Sort and grade if you want to offer specific uses with your fiber or sell by the grade of fiber.

From the shearing and the processing side.
Blowing your alpacas off prior to shearing only blows the dirt deeper into the fiber.

From the husbandry side. Please let me know how you get your alpacas to stop rolling in the dirt. Hence the importance of tumbling.

It is our opinion that every fiber producer should
1. learn to skirt your fiber
2. utilize the best shearing method available to minimize short cuts
3. purchase a tumbler or utilize a mill with one.
4. learn to sort and grade your fiber based on the end use
5. develop a market and use for every ounce of fiber that you produce each year.

Craig


Craig & Jane Johnson Worthington Acres Alpacas
FeltPAC LLC.
Unityville, Pa.
ff1730@dishmail.net
www.worthingtonacresalpacas.com
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bobvicki

2967 Posts

Posted - 07/29/2013 :  9:02:19 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
When it comes to making breeding decisions I would give myself an "A", but for fiber use I am at an "F".

I am terrified of what to do or how to do anything with my suri fiber and I honestly believe there are others in the same fiber category.

quote:
From the husbandry side. Please let me know how you get your alpacas to stop rolling in the dirt.

I have dirt pastures because of the drought here in OK and feed hay all year long. I finally got rid of the small burrs so fleece is back to being decent and usable.

I use the only shearer possible for the time I want to shear, I could shear a few myself but if I tried to shear 50 alpacas I would spend a week in the hospital because of my back and knees. When I had only a few alpacas I got my time down to about 20 minutes per alpaca.

Throughout the years it often seems like Craig offers the best advice, while others offer tidbits here and there.

quote:
It is our opinion that every fiber producer should
1. learn to skirt your fiber

Not a problem here.
quote:
2. utilize the best shearing method available to minimize short cuts

Again doing the best I can!
quote:
3. purchase a tumbler or utilize a mill with one.

Don't have one, and don't know what a mill charges!
quote:
4. learn to sort and grade your fiber based on the end use

Like to do this but courses offered are usually not convenient because of location or time.
5. develop a market and use for every ounce of fiber that you produce each year.
Same thing has been said by many people over the years but the big thing is "how the h*ll do you do that? It seems like those who are successful at doing it will talk about how they have been successful but don't actually present a step by step illustration for those of us that need the "guidebook for dummies". Until this actually happens many small breeders will continue to become disenchanted with alpacas and leave our world. I believe we can help each other make alpaca the premier fiber for small farms and crafts people all over the USA but not as long as people have to continue doing the trial and error start from scratch. Frustration and cost results in quitting.

A few years ago I really thought the "Cottage Industry" people and supporters were going to actually going to help people with the step by step process of developing a fleece business showing people how to develop a program to use the fleece. Personally I feel they have failed miserably in that regard. I contacted a very outspoken person about fleece and got general answers about thing, but when I asked specific questions the "help" stopped.

Regarding the cottage industry group, I even joined the organization, got one email from them and never heard from them again. Maybe my fault for not being the "squeaky wheel" or they are so successful they don't care now that they have shows adding cottage classes.

How's this for an idea, someone make folders like the fiber color books except with fiber divided into micron categories so people can feel their fiber and learn to sort. Do it for huacaya and suri both.

I would like to reduce my herd over the next few years, using the fiber would be much more important to me then. It would make a difference in my decision to keep more than just my favorites as "pets" at that time.

Bob


Bob & Vicki Blodgett
Suri Land Alpaca Ranch
10371 N 2210 Road
Clinton, Oklahoma 73601
641-831-3576
alpaca@htswireless.com
www.alpacanation.com/suriland.asp
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wsantus

72 Posts

Posted - 07/29/2013 :  9:29:04 PM  Show Profile  Visit wsantus's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Bravo! Bob. Couldn't have said it better myself. I have loads of gorgeous fiber and micron stats to boot. I just don't know what to do with it.

Diane Santus
More Than A Glance Alpacas
3030 E. Valley Rd.
Adrian, MI 49221
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Judith

4103 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  08:02:30 AM  Show Profile  Send Judith a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
While nothing substitutes for a good hands-on clinic or workshop, I've learned much (most?) of what I know about fiber on Youtube. There are videos of everything from shearing to skirting to sorting/grading to washing to dyeing to spinning to felting, etc., etc., etc. You would probably be surprised to realize how much you already "know" just from working around fiber for many years. I've taken a couple of classes on evaluating fiber and was very gratified to find that I was often able to distinguish the grade of a sample by eye just from having handled fleeces over the past 12 years. It takes lots of practice to be able to do it every time, but I bet you're much closer to seeing grade than you think. All the other things that you can do with fiber, you can learn from videos and practice. I've found that dyeing has become my new passion, despite the fact that I procrastinated and procrastinated for years, out of fear that I'd ruin a fleece. What the heck. Even if you "ruin" a fleece, you'll probably find a way to use it, and even if it's a total waste, aren't you going to get another one next year.

Judith Korff
AlpacaNation Forum Co-Moderator
The Pastel Paca at LadySong Farm
Randolph, NY 14772
Cell: (716) 499-0383
www.alpacanation.com/ladysong.asp
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alpacastarr

688 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  08:47:25 AM  Show Profile  Visit alpacastarr's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Bob, You and Craig both had such great posts! Craig is the expert on the processing side so let me offer a few ideas on the husbandry side of your post.

How do you keep alpacas clean when they love to roll in the dirt? Dirt is not that much of a problem. Dirt will blow, shake, tumble or wash out!

From a year round husbandry perspective, what we need to focus on is keeping VM and other contamination that "sticks" to fiber - out. So that it doesn't get in in the first place.

And it's not hard, doesn't require expensive equipment or specialized training, so anyone can do it. Just THINK about your fiber harvest every single day as you take care of your alpacas. Do you have cockleburs and thistle in your pasture? Try to eliminate them or restrict alpaca access to them. Do your alpacas pull the hay all over the floor and then roll on it? Rake it up and haul it off or improve your hay feed design so they can't. Do you use high mounted hay feeders so that when one is cushed the one eating drops chaff on the lower ones back and neck? Change to feeding down low. Is your hay full of timothy seed heads or other prickly sticky stuff? Try to buy cleaner hay next time.

We've all heard the expression - Groom your pastures, not your alpacas? I've got one exception.

Cria tips are notorious for attracting junk and some little young'uns end up just crusty. It is like impossible to skirt that fleece clean after it's shorn!! However, that cria fleece is the nicest fiber each alpaca will ever produce, right? So how can you keep it clean enough to process? As long as the weather is safe for it, cria's should be tip sheared. However... If the weather is not safe, I've been known to literally brush my crias to "open" those twisty little tips so they can't grab and lock up everything they touch. And actually, most of those tips will break off as that's a tender point (stress break from birth?) in the fleece anyhow. Brushing is a bit of a challenge but if they're young enough, I can do it! And I don't try to groom them all over, just the prime blanket and neck area. It works and if the cria has nice fleece - I think it's worth it.

Suri locks do present a different challenge to husbandry than huacaya. I've not raised suri so no personal knowledge to share but clearly as the locks grow and twist its going to "lock up" any VM so just maintaining very high cleanliness should be helpful.






Starr
Venezia Dream Farm
Candler, NC
http://alpacanation.com/farmsandbreeders/03_viewfarm.asp?name=11404
http://www.veneziadream.com/
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Christiane

2830 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  10:32:55 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
All of this takes time and experience, as well as a willingness to learn new techniques. I am now processing my own fiber, and while It is slow and requires time and energy, I am beginning to see the light. Part of my fiber goes to the co-op and the rest is slowly being skirted, washed, carded, dyed, spun, knitted, and/or felted into products. Dyeing is fun, once you know how to do it, and so is the carding and blending of colors and other ibers. It does take time, however.

Christiane Rudolf
Tanglewood Farm
19741 Victory Lane
Fayetteville, Ohio 45118
(513) 875-2533
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sweetharmonyfarm

64 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  10:58:42 AM  Show Profile  Visit sweetharmonyfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Great list Craig!!

And Judith is right ~ youtube is a fantastic way to learn how to do fiber-y things. :)

As to the main question, on shearing day the fiber from each alpaca is bagged separately ~ one for the blanket [and this is 'noodled'], one for the neck, and one for the legs/belly/chest. Yes, 3 bags per each alpaca. I then spend all summer sorting/grading/skirting [take your pick!] outside depending on the weather. Hubby built me a skirting table which is basically scrapwood and plastic 'hardware cloth' which I put on top of old sawhorses. While I am sorting/grading/skirting I shake the living daylights out of the fleece to get out as much sand as possible. Quite a bit billows up like clouds. I can only do one or two a day because I end up inhaling a lot of dust. And still, there is tons of sand in the fleece.

So over the winter hubby built me a tumbler out of more scrapwood and plastic hardware cloth and a handcrank. Works great! So I now also tumble the fleece before washing it. But remember, only tumble AFTER sorting/grading/skirting your fleece.

I want as little sand as possible washing down into the septic.


Mona Kennedy
Sweet Harmony Farm
Deerfield, NH
603.463.3003
mona@sweetharmonyfarm.com
www.sweetharmonyfarm.com

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sweetharmonyfarm

64 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  11:29:15 AM  Show Profile  Visit sweetharmonyfarm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Christiane

All of this takes time and experience, as well as a willingness to learn new techniques.



Absolutely!!!

Mona Kennedy
Sweet Harmony Farm
Deerfield, NH
603.463.3003
mona@sweetharmonyfarm.com
www.sweetharmonyfarm.com

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bobvicki

2967 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  11:31:17 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Starr,
quote:
Do your alpacas pull the hay all over the floor and then roll on it? Rake it up and haul it off or improve your hay feed design so they can't. Do you use high mounted hay feeders so that when one is cushed the one eating drops chaff on the lower ones back and neck? Change to feeding down low. Is your hay full of timothy seed heads or other prickly sticky stuff? Try to buy cleaner hay next time.

Here in OK with the drought the past few years hay has been purchased by the big round bale and placed on the dirt in the pasture. Since there is no grassat all hay is the 24/7 feed for all 70 alpacas. I pay 3 times what I used to for hay and now use 4 to 5 times as much. As far as buying cleaner hay, up until this year now that we are possibly coming out of the drought you bought what you could find available or you bought by the semi load, which is huge money and then you also need room to store it.

Tiny buffalo burrs are everywhere and have been sprayed and sprayed and while we are making tremendous strides at control every time there is a big wind the loose ones from the neighboring fields are blown into the pastures. I even mow the 3-4 acres of weed next to my pastures that the owners don't plant just to keep control. The war with those nasty burrs has gone quite well even making my shearer remark about how much better the fleece was this year.

I am not making excuses or crying, I am just telling it like it is. As I stated in my original text I can breed excellent animals.

But even that does not address the fact that regarding fiber development I have a very low desire to continue to spend time and money to try this and that to experiment, and that is the situation I believe many of us are in. Right now I can purchase product from any of the importer and open a farm store and be successful, but I don't believe it is really the way to go quality wise vs developing the American grown fiber industry.

In your post Christiane you said
quote:
Part of my fiber goes to the co-op and the rest is slowly being skirted, washed, carded, dyed, spun, knitted, and/or felted into products.

That leaves the impression that fiber going to the co-ops doesn't need to be "skirted", I thought fiber sent to the co-ops needed to be skirted.

Bob

Bob & Vicki Blodgett
Suri Land Alpaca Ranch
10371 N 2210 Road
Clinton, Oklahoma 73601
641-831-3576
alpaca@htswireless.com
www.alpacanation.com/suriland.asp
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Judith

4103 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  11:55:40 AM  Show Profile  Send Judith a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
AFCNA has been experimenting with accepting unskirted fiber. We do ask that people pull out anything that would breach the bags or expose out sorters to potential injury (sharp sticks, wire, etc.). Of course, this means that an unskirted fleece will have all those skirtable parts (hairy fiber, burrs, dung tags, etc.) removed by our staff, so an unskirted 5# fleece might only be credited for 3# of useable fiber, as opposed to the contributor pre-skirting it and sending only the 3 useable pounds in the first place, but for people who don't have the time or inclination to skirt, this is an option. I haven't heard from our staff yet how much this may have cost us in shipping for unuseable fiber, or what percentage of fleece is being deemed unuseable, so I don't know whether we'll continue this program or not. For now, a quick skirting of dung tags, rocks, sticks and hairy areas would suffice (and it would be good if you could shake out sand if you live in a sandy area since sand is very heavy and shipping costs are one of our largest expenses).



Judith Korff
AlpacaNation Forum Co-Moderator
The Pastel Paca at LadySong Farm
Randolph, NY 14772
Cell: (716) 499-0383
www.alpacanation.com/ladysong.asp
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TOWNLINE

58 Posts

Posted - 07/30/2013 :  12:38:10 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for all the great info:
The next question is for the mills, does any mill teach class on how they want the fiber and how to prep it. The only ones I have seen charge for classes. I do feel that if Mills put on class teaching how to prep(free) they would get more fiber in their mill in better shape. both the mill and the breeders would profet more
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johnson

219 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2013 :  10:42:53 AM  Show Profile  Visit johnson's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Posted - 07/30/2013 : 12:38:10 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thanks for all the great info:
The next question is for the mills, does any mill teach class on how they want the fiber and how to prep it. The only ones I have seen charge for classes.

[size=5]There are reasons for charging for instruction
Mills are very busy. Most have an extreme backlog of fiber and taking time away from processing does just that, takes time away. We have multiple visits weekly at our mill. For the quick stop by tours we do not charge however if a person wants to spend a day learning about processing, sorting, skirting etc... we have no choice but to charge a fee. It is a worth while investment of time and money to learn about what your producing.

[size=5]If I can be bold enough to stop hear and say that on these forums it is sometimes hard to post what needs to be said without giving the impression that the poster is marketing services or products. Please be sure I am not posting just to market. Also, be sure that I do market all the time so if a posting serves for both reasons then so be it. Again, I am not posting just to market services or products.

That said I would like to put it out that or farm business is very consistent. We contiue to grow each year because we have to just to keep up with the demand for our fiber products.
You all can and should be in the same position. You may be on a different level based on the amount of alpacas or based on the machinery etc... but based on your farm size your business should be selling out of fiber every year. The cottage industry is strong and growing stronger.
I do not mean to say that we are above any of you by using the word level, I am just trying to explain that small farms with smaller herds will do smaller business. The more you have the more you should be able to sell.
I actually am very strong in considering us all equal in importance no matter how large or small or complex our farm business is.

All that said. I would like to put it out there that our farm does a solid monthly business that allows us to feed 112 alpacas, 4 goats, 3 horses and 2 great pyrs without dipping into the day job salary. This income is generated directly from the sale of fiber and fiber products.
YES. we have a mill and equipment to process but that should not stop those who do not have a mill from being able to get the product processed and then get out there and sell it.

It does not matter if I have 100 alpacas or 10, if I go to a farm market 2 times per month and sell $300 worth of product at each month then I just made $600 that is returned to the farm.
If I spend a week at a county fair and sell $1000 plus in product and get one good contact and sell $2000 worth of alpacas and attend the market twice a month I just generated $3600 in a month returned to the farm.

As I grow and clients start to follow and I sell $200 a month via a web page then I just added another $200 to the monthly farm income.

Some folks may stop me here and say they do not have time to do the markets, fairs, festivals and update internet sites. I would ask why you did not think of that before starting a small business. We work full time, run a mill full time, go to markets every weekend, update the internet sites and complete all the husbandry associated with our farm. If we can do it you can do it also. You have to get out there.
NOT TRYING TO BE SCOLDING PLEASE DO NOT MISTAKE MY WORDS, JUST TRYING TO OFFER WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FROM A VERY PASSIONATE ALPACA FARM AND FIBER PRODUCT PRODUCER.

Some folks say they don't have the markets, festivals, fairs etc... I say you do. You just have not looked for them hard enough. There is a crap load of events out there and if you attend some of them you will be suprised how much income you can generate.

Fiber. You don't have to be an expert fiber processor to make money from your fiber. You do have to get it out of the storage container and get it processed. There are many mills out there that do a great job processing for a fair price that will allow you to make a profit. The margain may not be as much as you expect from the start but it will be more than what it is just sitting in your storage container. This is fact !

How do you utilize every bit of fiber. This is easy. If I am an expert in anything it is using every bit of our harvest every year.
In fact most years we go through over 150 alpacas worth of fiber since we shear a few farms in exchange for the fiber. That is over 150 blankets, mixed neck, legs and even the fiber from the tail. All is used and we run out every year.

[size=3]But even that does not address the fact that regarding fiber development I have a very low desire to continue to spend time and money to try this and that to experiment, and that is the situation I believe many of us are in. Right now I can purchase product from any of the importer and open a farm store and be successful, but I don't believe it is really the way to go quality wise vs developing the American grown fiber industry.

[size=5]Not every farm can be a developer. You said it perfectly above about opening a farm store and being successful by purchasing product. We did this when we started but we quickly realized that is not as rewarding nor as sustainable as growing, producing and selling our own products.
Listen, I am no rocket scientist but I am passionate about finding uses for all of my harvest. I have been successful in doing this and I have been successful in helping MANY farms do this also. We are growing an American fiber industry on the cottage level. This is where we need to be, not commercial.
I will publically say right now, I AM NOT INTERSTED in selling commercially to the big box stores. In fact I have turned them away telling them "no, I would rather sell to the small markets, thanks anyways".
My reasoning is simple. Each and every alpaca is different, always will be. Breed for uniformity in fiber and give me side by side alpacas and I will show you 2 different animals. Plain and simple.
Alpacas make soft, no itch, great handle, low micron (in comparison) strong, fire resistant, colorful, crimpy, straight, locked, shiney, lusterous fiber but... there is nothing uniform about it. What is consistent is that the fiber is perfect for growing a unique fiber business.

I am sorry for ranting but I am not sorry for posting. Please let me say again that I am not trying to soley market our farm and business. We have plenty of business at the present time and I am not actively looking for new clients. We try to help everybody as much as possible even if sometimes it cost us money to help others. My thought process has always been that in the long run it will come around. It has.

Lastly. I am here to help anybody who would like suggestions. I am going to give suggestions based on my experience and success. There may be a time that my suggestions has something to do with purchasing wholesale from our business. The reason is that our business helps others succeed.

Helping others or the industry succeed is what this forum is about, I think ? Correct me if I am wrong.

If your in need of suggestions on what your farm can do to succeed on whatever level your success goals are, please feel free to call or email me. Better yet, plan a farm trip and visit us.

Disclaimer: when you visit I will try to sell you alpacas, it is what I do :) - when you visit I will ask you to shop in our farm store, again it is what I do. When you visit I will show you the products we make from our alpacas, it is what I do. But... when you visit I hope that you will leave like others have done in the past, with valuable information and some tools to utilize that will help you and your farm succeed.

Sorry so long. There is always so much to say.
Craig


Craig & Jane Johnson Worthington Acres Alpacas
FeltPAC LLC.
Unityville, Pa.
ff1730@dishmail.net
www.worthingtonacresalpacas.com
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Christiane

2830 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2013 :  6:34:00 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I am getting better at skirting as I do it, and use a cattle dryer to blow the dust out of my fiber while it is on/in my skirting table. My skirting table folds up to that I only have to flip it over to do the other side. I don't have terribly much debris in the fiber because, as has been stated, if your pastures are relatively clean, your animals' fiber will be as well. Then I wash it, and since I only have my kitchen sink or 5 gallon buckets in which to do it, it is slow work. However, I made myself a drying rack out of pvc pipe and covered it with plastic netting, so I can now dry much more of it at a time, weather permitting, of course.
In addition, I also am dyeing some of my light colors, and then card it into batts. Some of it I will spin, some of it I will sell as batts, and some I will use to make felted items. It is lots of work, but so satisfying when you see the results, and know it came from your own animals. Recently, I started making nuno felted scarves and shawls, and while that also requires time and patience, it is amazing what you can do with a little bit of colored alpaca fiber and silk or other fabrics. Now to get all of this stuff to market--my next project.

Christiane Rudolf
Tanglewood Farm
19741 Victory Lane
Fayetteville, Ohio 45118
(513) 875-2533
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TOWNLINE

58 Posts

Posted - 08/02/2013 :  11:22:09 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I understand when someone just comes in and wants a to how to skirt or sort it does take time out of your day and you need to charge. What I am suggesting mills have clinics two or three times a year with groups of breeders to teach how to sort, skirt. In return the mills would be getting cleaner fiber thus cutting your cost by shorter time your workers spend on storting and skirting. Witch means more production and less back log. just me thinking
Mike O'Brien
SuCaya Farms
Smithfield me
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johnson

219 Posts

Posted - 08/02/2013 :  12:31:50 PM  Show Profile  Visit johnson's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I would love to offer clinics. In fact we have offered clinics at the request of customers. What happens a lot is you spend some time putting together a quality program and it turns out that less than 1/2 of the folks who asked for the clinic don't even show up. That is why when we offer an event we attempt to charge enough just to cover the cost of the event.

It is a fair give and take. I spent a lot of money to learn how to skirt, sort, process, shear etc... I would do it again because it was worth every penny. Why? because it is the business I am in, raising alpacas for fiber.

Therefore it should be reasonable to expect other farms that want to learn to at least compensate the teaching facility for teaching. Once folks put a few dollars out of their own pockets they tend to meet the obligation of attending.

I know for fact that there is a lot of farms who need information. We spend many hours a month talking to folks over the phone answering numerous questions about processing as well as raising alpacas in general.

Craig

Craig & Jane Johnson Worthington Acres Alpacas
FeltPAC LLC.
Unityville, Pa.
ff1730@dishmail.net
www.worthingtonacresalpacas.com
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pawsnpaca

373 Posts

Posted - 08/02/2013 :  12:43:16 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've always thought that it would be a great idea to have someone at every show who is sorting and/or skirting fleeces at the show. Set it up so they are doing it "for real," but with the intent that exhibitors were welcome to come watch and ask questions and actually put their hands on the fleece. Granted, the sorter would get fewer fleeces done than they would if they were just concentrating on skirting/sorting as fast as they could, but it would be a great learning opportunity for the show attendees.

If this could be supplemented by some examples (that people could touch) of the various "grades" of fiber, and examples of final products (yarn etc) that were produced from skirted or sorted fiber as compared to not skirted/not sorted, that would be really educational as well. I'd love to see three skeins of yarn from animals with comparable fleeces - one from just "dumping the blankets" into production, one from a fleece that had been skirted but not sorted, and one from a fleece that had been sorted. Hopefully there would be a difference between the three that the average alpaca owner could appreciate, and then they could make an informed decision about whether it was worth their time and money to skirt and/or sort.

It would also be educational to see how many things fall out of a fleece when it's tumbled (or even just given a good shake out on a skirting table). Translating the weight of that debris into shipping and processing costs might also be eye opening!

I know some shows are starting to host "sort a thons" - but the one I experienced had all the sorting happening behind closed doors. I'd like to get at least part of something like that out on the floor where people can see and ask questions!

Lisa Cadieux
Wit's End Farm Alpacas
Rochester, NH
603-335-2831
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johnson

219 Posts

Posted - 08/02/2013 :  12:44:29 PM  Show Profile  Visit johnson's Homepage  Reply with Quote
[quote]Originally posted by TOWNLINE

I'm still learning
Question is: What does a tumbler due that sorting does not do? What does sorting do that a tumbler does not do?

I want to make sure your first question gets answered. Sometimes on the forums we can get a little side tracked with discussion.

A tumbler will slowly tumble most dirt, some hay and other debris from the fiber.

Sorting is the process of seperating the fibers based on grades, micron, handle etc... into like "piles" of fiber. Sorting has the ultimate goal of preparing like fiber qualities for processing into a more consistent product.

Just in case you were referring to skirting. This is the most simple process a producer can perform. Lay the fiber out on a table and pick out whatever you do not want into it. This prepares the fiber for tumbling and sorting and ultimately the grading process.

Craig

Craig & Jane Johnson Worthington Acres Alpacas
FeltPAC LLC.
Unityville, Pa.
ff1730@dishmail.net
www.worthingtonacresalpacas.com
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Christiane

2830 Posts

Posted - 08/02/2013 :  2:58:59 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I second Lisa's suggestion. Why not offer some of these workshopss/seminars at the shows when we are there anyway? I bet there would be lots of participants, even if there were a reasonable charge for the seminars.

Christiane Rudolf
Tanglewood Farm
19741 Victory Lane
Fayetteville, Ohio 45118
(513) 875-2533
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bobvicki

2967 Posts

Posted - 08/02/2013 :  6:22:57 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Craig wrote: I know for fact that there is a lot of farms who need information. We spend many hours a month talking to folks over the phone answering numerous questions about processing as well as raising alpacas in general.

quote:
My earlier posting: 5. develop a market and use for every ounce of fiber that you produce each year.
Same thing has been said by many people over the years but the big thing is "how the h*ll do you do that? It seems like those who are successful at doing it will talk about how they have been successful but don't actually present a step by step illustration for those of us that need the "guidebook for dummies". Until this actually happens many small breeders will continue to become disenchanted with alpacas and leave our world. I believe we can help each other make alpaca the premier fiber for small farms and crafts people all over the USA but not as long as people have to continue doing the trial and error start from scratch. Frustration and cost results in quitting.


It would be great if someone like Craig had the time to write up something like this. What I feel mainly is going on when people say in generalities "you should do this" is they feel that they stumbled through the trial and errors in developing use and markets for their fleece and expect everyone else should have to do it too. Maybe they just look at more people as competition.

I am the first to admit that when it comes to developing any fleece use I just feel inadequate 180 degrees from making breeding decisions!

Bob

Bob & Vicki Blodgett
Suri Land Alpaca Ranch
10371 N 2210 Road
Clinton, Oklahoma 73601
641-831-3576
alpaca@htswireless.com
www.alpacanation.com/suriland.asp
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Shadowberry

165 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2013 :  11:56:40 AM  Show Profile  Visit Shadowberry's Homepage  Reply with Quote


quote:

It would be great if someone like Craig had the time to write up something like this. What I feel mainly is going on when people say in generalities "you should do this" is they feel that they stumbled through the trial and errors in developing use and markets for their fleece and expect everyone else should have to do it too. Maybe they just look at more people as competition.





I understand what you are saying here. I went through a lot of trial and error in the past -- still am for that matter. Also, as you expressed earlier I also was disappointed that CIABA did not do more to help people get started in the cottage industry.

The main thing is just to take the first step in marketing your fiber and go from there. Opportunities will open up. I started off by taking knitting lessons and after much practice took a few items to a fiber festival and went on from there.

You could always try selling yarn at a fair or farmer's market. That could lead to an interest in dyeing yarn. You will meet other vendors, gain new ideas for products and venues. I have learned a lot from llama and sheep people who have been doing this longer than we have.

A story regarding Craig's helpfulness: Some time ago I arrived at Craig's fiber mill with several bags of fiber that had been "officially" sorted as "Texas Rug" quality. I asked him to make it into felt. Craig told me that he could make decent yarn out of this "Texas Rug" stuff and so he did.

I took the resulting yarn, dyed it various colors, and began crocheting beanies. I sell these little hats almost as fast as I can make them. And beanies are a lot easier to sell than rugs.

So, if you have a mill within a reasonable distance, take your fiber in and ask for suggestions as its best use. I'm sure they would be more than willing to help you if you do not make unreasonable demands on their time.

So just find one thing to do - whether it be selling yarn or making bird nesting wreaths with seconds - and do it. The main thing is just to get started doing something. Once you take the first steps and get going, you will end up having more ideas than you have time!

Perhaps a good topic for this forum would be "How did you get started marketing your fiber?"

Shadowberry Farm Alpacas
Tom and Nancy Imphong
Carlisle, PA 17015
717-795-8045 - Home
717-440-1440 - Cell
shadowberry@verizon.net
www.shadowberryfarmalpacas.com
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