Opinion and Research by Spinderella's Creations
With the assistance and knowledge of Ian Watt of Alpaca Consulting USA
Our Decision to purchase a Fiber Separator
Many of our customers and new inquiries were asking if we offered de-hairing services. At 1st, many of the requests were for cashmere, buffalo, qiviut; the usual fibers we knew needed the service to remove the long coarse guard hairs from the soft downy undercoat. Since the requests were far and few between, we decided to pass, since the machine was very expensive, and send those people along to quality mills we knew had a de-hairer.
We started to receive requests for de-hairing alpaca. The requests grew in number such that we decided to investigate the possibility of buying a machine, not quite knowing where to find one.
The 1st person we contacted was a gentleman who had built and has a patent pending for his de-hairer. He built it in the early 1980's for processing his cashmere. He explained that he was no longer building them, but directed us in building our own and sent his patent pending plans our way. The process utilizes a series of rollers that basically "throw off" by centrifugal force, the longer fibers. It does not have the ability to detect soft from coarse, but the heavier, longer fibers fall in a waste bin and the shorter, downy fibers continue on their way to a collector bin. Most of the VM falls in the waste bin due to the fibers being teased open as well as tossed off of the swiftly moving roller. He explained that often the cashmere would have to go through the machine 3-6 times to remove all the guard hair.
Being processors, and not animal raisers, we wondered if the machine could really help alpaca rid fleeces guard hair and VM. From what we had seen over the years in processing alpaca, the alpaca guard hairs were not always the longest fibers in the fleece; most often, they were the shorter fibers. Alpaca is NOT a double coated animal, and we really didn't think the machine would do it's job on Alpaca, but with the pressure of our Alpaca community, we decided to give it a try. We bought our de-hairing machine, from Belfast Mini- Mills and called it called "Dirty Harry" in 2010.
The 1st time we ran alpaca through "Dirty Harry", we were not able to feel a distinguishable difference between the starting fleece, the waste or the de-haired fibers. We DID find it removed a lot of the pesky VM from the finer fleeces, but seemed to toss away as many primary and secondary fibers in the waste bin as it let the same fibers on to the good bin. This troubled the two of us and we decided to read up as much as we possibly could. Was it our coarse weather hands that prevented us from actually feeling a difference or was the actual result so minuet or non existent? This started us on a quest to find out the truth of the matter.
Our investigations lead us to a plethora of information, both pro and con of the ability to dehair alpaca. We decided the only way to prove our theory was to test some fleeces ourselves.
We read up on the processes of both tests, Yocum-McCall and Alpaca Consulting, USA, and decided to go with Alpaca Consulting USA for our micron tests. If you want to know more about our decision, you can ask privately.
We asked a number of alpaca friends for their help with this project.
Knowing our customers send in fibers, either rolled up or in a bag jumbled up, we knew our tests would not be like the many who do the micron tests on their animals, but it would be close. Many take a side sample to send in for micron testing, we just had to grab a piece resembling the animal and call it good.
Now to actually collect and test samples of 5 fleeces ( we cannot find the results of the #5 fleeces)
Our testing method......
Tumble- wash - take a sample of the fleece
Separate the fleece in half.
Run half of fleece normally , carded once , take sample
Run 1/2 through fiber separator taking sample of waste and "good fiber"
Card " dehaired" alpaca - take a sample
Place all samples in labled bags and send to Alpaca Consulting , USA for testing
Our findings were as we suspected. There is a negligible change in the micron of the alpaca fleeces. There was just as many primary and secondary fibers found in the waste as the good dehaired fibers, and certainly not that much different from the fleeces that were carded only. We feel dehairing is not the panacea many people told us it was.
We also know another mill felt the same things we did. They were able to test 200 alpaca fleeces and came up with the exact test results !!! They sold their fiber separator as well. This mill also spun some of the finest alpaca fiber in the USA.
Bottom line... develop a good breeding program.
Several ranches who have been with us about 20 years, have excelled in fiber quality. You can tell not only from their fibers, but in talking with these ranchers, they know what they are doing!!! They are seeing alpaca fiber under 20 microns for the life of the animal. Yep- this is much better.
Our Page on How to read a Histogram
For the Skeptics
The following photos that will show the results of these tests. The animals' names have been changed as well as the ranches. It is not of interest to us what the animals' micron counts are/were. It is of interest to us the results of dehairing.
To read this report, we have attached each test in a PDF attachment. This is the order even though the tests have different wording.
Fiber tested as we would normally process. Carding only
Fiber tested as roving run through the fiber separator 1( one pass)
Fiber ( marked as good or dehaired) is the fiber found in the last "good fiber" bin of the separator.
Collect, Bag and label, "dehairing waste", dehaired fiber,
carded only fiber, dehaired carded fiber.
Waste - is the fiber tested from the thrown off waste fiber.
A side by side comparison.
Our Page on How to read a Histogram