Alpacas are popularly known as fluffy little animals that are widely common in the states of Southern America. These cute and furry animals made their appearance in Australia in the late 20th century.
Ever since the introduction of Alpacas in Australia, there have been many benefits of using Alpaca wool, and the industry has only flourished over the years. There are countless benefits and qualities of using its wool for products like a wool quilt, bed sheets and rugs, sweaters, mittens, gloves, mats, sportswear, and many more products.
The wool shearing process in Australia focuses mainly on sustainability and a cruelty-free process, making sure that these furry creatures remain unharmed.
How is Alpaca Wool Made in Australia?
The wool production process usually begins with the shearing of an alpaca. When an alpaca’s hair reaches a certain length, it’s ready for the shearing process. There are two different breeds of Alpacas – Suri and Huacaya. The shearing time differs for both breeds as they have different hair types.
Step 1: Preparing the Alpacas
For the shearing to begin, an Alpaca’s wool needs to be dry. To ensure this, Alpacas are kept inside or underneath a roof for at least 24 hours before the process begins. The dryness ensures that the wool is cleaner with no dust or mud.
To make sure that Alpacas are not hurt during the process, the caretakers caress and talk to them to make them feel more comfortable and at ease.
Step 2: The Process of Shearing
The wool is shorn off in one cut to maintain quality. Shearing longer wool pieces keep the quality intact and in one big fleece. Smaller pieces can cause it to become thinner and tear apart more easily.
This process is carried out by an expert, under extreme caution, and does not hurt the alpacas. One of the caretakers is always holding an alpaca’s head down. The first part of shearing is done from the lower belly to the back, onto the spine, to the other side, and back again to the belly.
The second part is done from the neck and legs, and the collected wool is put in a separate bag since it is shorter.
Step 3: Sorting
As soon as the shearing process is done, it is followed by a manual activity called sorting and carding. This requires extreme precision. Shorter and longer pieces of wool are usually sorted out by laying them on the floor. During this process, the shorted or uneven pieces are separated.
Only when the longer pieces are left does the carding process begin. This includes combing the wool fibres to make them more even and uniform.
Step 4: Twisting
This step can either be done manually or with the help of machines as the wool is made into thick skeins. It is during this process that the wool gains its final strength. Since wool can be used for various processes, the twisting also differs in grades to suit the requirements.
Step 5: Washing
The next step is to wash the wool. Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca wool is washed after it is spun. The washing takes place in lukewarm water for 30 minutes and is done to remove dirt, stain, or grease on the hair.
Step 6: Drying
This is a relatively simple step. After the wool is washed and dyed, it is laid out so that they can air-dry it. Any friction or rubbing is avoided to prevent the wool from felting.
Step 7: Final Steps
Once the wool has undergone all the previous steps, it is then ready to be spun into the final product. Depending on what product is to be made, it can be done either manually or with the help of machines.
The wool produced from an Alpaca is softer than a sheep’s, and once you use products like a wool quilt, sweater, bed sheets, etc., you will realise how different and better the quality is.
The shearing process is done with extreme caution. The caretakers and experts ensure that no Alpaca is harmed or hurt.