All Things Alpaca

Posted on January 20th, 2017 in Articles 

ALL THINGS ALPACA (Collected from a variety of sources)


A-Z Fiber and Textile Terminology:

- The propensity of material to take in and retain liquid, usually water.


Acid Dye - A dye applied to fabric or fiber from an acid solution. Used on nylon, wool (animal protein fibers), silk, acrylic, and polypropylene — also used in blends of these materials. It is reasonably colorfast to light and laundering.


Animal Fibers - Natural protein based hair, fur, and cocoon materials harvested from animals for processing into fabrics. Typical animal fibers include wool (sheep), mohair, llama, alpaca, cashmere, camel, vicuna and silk.


Bale - A bag, sack, square or oblong package containing compressed fiber. The sizes and weights of bales vary.


Batt or Batting - Sheets or rolls of carded cotton, wool or other fiber mixtures used for stuffing, padding, quilting, felting and spinning.


Beater - A toothed or spiked roll in an opening or cleaning machine used for processing fiber into yarn.


Blend - Textiles that contain two or more varieties of fiber, or variants of the same fiber (i.e., different colors and grades of the same fiber).


Blending - The process of mixing fibers taken from a variety of sources to produce a uniform result.


Blowout Factor - The rapidity with which an animal's fiber diameter increases (thickens) with age.



Bradford System - One of the three principal methods of spinning worsted yarn, in which longer fibers are utilized to produce very compact and sleek yarns.


Breaking Length - A type of measurement for the tenacity (strength) of yarn. It is calcuated by the length of yarn required to produce its breaking load.


Breaking Load - The load needed to rupture a fiber, yarn, or fabric in a tension test.


Brushing - The finishing process for knit or woven fabrics using brushes and other abrading elements to raise a nap.


Card or Carder - A textile machine or hand implement that separates fibers, removes some vegetation, and spreads the fibers into a web for subsequent processing operations. The hand tool has iron teeth or wires and is used in pairs. It can also be used to raise the nap on fabric.


Carding - The preliminary process in manufacturing spun yarn in which the fibers are separated, distributed, equalized and formed into a web. The web can be very thin or thick. This process removes some impurities and some short or broken fibers.


Comber - A machine used for the combing process in manufacturing.


Combing - The processing step after carding in worsted spinning. This process separates the long desirable fibers from the shorter stock (noils), removes almost all foreign matter, and arranges fibers in parallel order. Combed yarns are cleaner, finer, stronger, and more lustrous than carded yarns.


Core Spinning - The yarn-spinning process whereby a filament (usually elastic under tension) is covered with a sheath of staple fibers to produce a stretchable yarn. The resultant yarn and fabric have the characteristics of the sheath fiber along with the advantage of stretch and recovery.


Consistency - The uniform distribution of fiber characteristics throughout the entire fleece and fiber locks.


Core Sampling - The gathering of fiber specimens from fiber bales by inserting a hollow tube into the core of the package.


Core Yarn - A composite yarn made by winding one yarn around another giving the apparent characteristics of only the outermost layer.


Cortical Cells - Spindle-shaped cells forming the inside structure of a fiber.


Crease Recovery - The ability of a creased or wrinkled fabric to recover its original shape over time.


Crease Retention - The ability of fabric to retain a pleat or fold.


Crimp - The organized or uniform waviness in an individual lock of fiber.


Crimp Recovery - The ability of yarn or fiber to return to its original crimped state after being released from a tensile force.


Crinkle - The waviness of an individual fiber when separated from a lock. It is responsible for the fiber elasticity and is usually irregular.


Cuticle - The outer layer of hard and flat fiber cells which do not fit together evenly and whose tips point away from the main fiber shaft. These cells form a serrated edge causing the fibers to grip together during processing. See also: Scales.


Density - The number of hair follicles per square inch of skin.


Direction of Twist (S-twist or Z-twist) - The direction the yarn naturally spins. To determine the direction of twist, hold the yarn in a vertical position and examine the spiral angle corresponding to the central segment of the letter S or Z ( \ or / ). When spinning, the wheel should rotate counter-clockwise for an S twist and clockwise for a Z twist. In South America, yarn that spun with Z-twist is believed to be magic.


Drafting - The process of drawing out a strand of material by pulling it apart. Commercially, the material passes between mechanical rollers; otherwise it is done by hand.


Dye - A colorant that becomes molecularly dispersed during application to fiber and exhibits some degree of permanence. There are many classes of dyes, including acid, disperse, reactive, and natural. Color sources classify into natural and synthetic types. Natural colorants derive from a wide variety of natural sources including berries, flowers, roots, bark and more. Synthetic dyes derive from chemically manufactured pigments.


Dyeability - The capacity of fibers to accept and retain colorants.


Dyebath - The solution (usually water) containing the dyes, dyeing assistants, and any other necessary ingredients.


Dyeing - The process of applying a comparatively permanent color to fiber, yarn or fabric by immersing in a bath of dye.


Exhaustion - The amount of dye taken from the dyebath by the fiber, yarn, or fabric.


Fast Color - A dye which is resistant to color-destroying agents, such as sunlight, perspiration, washing, abrasion, and wet and dry pressing.


Felting - An ancient technique that produces a non-woven sheet of matted material frequently made from wool, hair or fur (Felt). The process results in an entanglement of fibers by simultaneously applying heat, moisture, and pressure.


Feltability - The degree to which fibers will effectively consolidate through felting.



Felting Property - The property of fibers interlocking to create felt. Felt results from the directional friction of scales (cuticles) on each fiber's surface. Other factors involved are fiber structure, crimp, ease of deformation, and the ability to recover from deformation.


Fiber - A unit of matter characterized by having a length at least 100 times its diameter or width. The fundamental component used in making textile yarns and fabrics.


Fiber Fineness - The mean fiber diameter, usually expressed in microns.


Fleece - The entire coat sheared from an animal at one time.


Follicle - The skin structure from which fiber (hair or wool) grows.


Fulling - The finishing process in which woven or knitted fabric is subject to moisture, heat, and friction, causing it to shrink and become more rigid. In heavily fulled fabrics, both the weave and the yarn are obscured, giving it the appearance of felt.


Fulling Agent - A chemical, usually a surfactant, that acts as a lubricant during the fulling process.


Grading - The classification of fiber according to a scale of characteristics.


Guard Hair (Primary Fiber) - The long, stiff, usually coarse fiber which projects from the wooly undercoat of a mammal's pelt. Sometimes referred to as kemp (esp. when in a sheared fleece).


Hair Fiber - A specialty fiber obtained from an animal other than a sheep. It is usually from the goat and camel families (mohair, cashmere, angora, llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco). These products, except angora, may be included in the term wool according to the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939.


Hand or Handle - The tactile feel of fiber related to the combination of all the fiber characteristics.


Handspun - Yarns which are spun by hand using a spinning wheel or electric spinner.


Hank - a certain length of textile material that varies according to the material. A hank of wool is 560 yards, cotton and silk are 840 yards, and linen is 300 yards.


Identification Test - Any procedure for determining kinds of fibers, yarn construction, fabric construction, or finish and coloring of textiles. Physical, chemical, microscopic and other methods may be used.


Impurity - Any unwanted, extraneous material present in a fleece or textile product.


Kemp - A short, coarse wool or hair fiber with a large (>60% of fiber diameter) unevenly developed medulla that causes uneven dyeing.


Keratin - A protein substance which is the chief component of wool fiber.


Knitting - A method of constructing fabric by interlocking a series of loops of one or more yarns.


Loom - A device or machine for weaving cloth.


Luster - The light reflective quality of fiber exhibited in shine and gloss.


Mean Fiber Diameter - The average diameter (thickness) of a group of fibers from an animal.


Medulla - The hollow, rounded cells found along the center of the main axis of the fiber. They may run continuously along the length of the fiber.


Medullated Fiber - A hair fiber that does not have the same spinning and dyeing properties of wool, alpaca, and llama. Medullated fibers are Kemp, typically described as fibers over 30 microns.


Micron - A unit of measurement used in assessing the diameter of a fiber which equals 1/25,000 of an inch.


Natural Dye - Dye obtained from substances such as roots, bark, wood, berries, lichens, insects, shellfish and flowers.


Natural Fiber - Fiber derived from animal, vegetable or mineral sources, as opposed to those regenerated or synthesized from chemicals.


Nep - A small knot of tangled fibers, usually consisting of short, dead or immature fiber.


Noil - Short fibers removed during the combing process of yarn-making.


Picker - A piece of equipment that opens fiber and removes foreign matter.


Picking - The process of opening fiber and removing foreign matter.


Pin-drafting - A system of drafting in which the fibers are oriented relative to one another by rolls of pins between the drafting rolls. Primarily used for long fibers in the semi-worsted and worsted spinning systems.


Ply - To twist together two or more single yarns to form another yarn or cord. One of any number of single yarns twisted together to form a yarn.


Production Sequence - Shearing, sorting, opening, cleaning, carding, drawing, perhaps combing, possibly roving, then twisting or spinning.


Protein Fiber - A fiber composed of protein, including naturally occurring animal fibers such as wool, silk, alpaca, llama and others.


Rejects - Fiber that is unacceptable because of poor color, tenderness, seeds, burrs, stains, lumps and tufts.


Resilience - The ability to recover to an original shape and size after the removal of a deforming strain (springing back to its original state after being crushed or wrinkled). Resilience is also referred to as memory.


Roving - A loose assemblage of fibers drawn or rubbed into a single strand, usually thicker than a sliver.


Sample - A small portion of a larger amount of material taken for testing.


Scales (Cuticle) - The outer layer of cells on a mammal hair fiber. These cells are hard, flat, and do not fit together evenly causing their surfaces to overlap and enclose the cortex. The size and shape of these cells vary from species to species and are an important characteristic used in fiber identification. The exposed edges of scales point towards the tip of the fiber shaft and are the cause of the friction effect allowing for felting.


Scouring - Cleaning raw wool or fiber and removing such impurities as dirt, sweat, and grease by washing with soaps and alkalis or with chemicals.


Second Cut - Short pieces in a fleece usually caused by unskilled shearing. Second cuts occur when an area of the fleeced has not been fully shorn and must be removed in a second pass. Seconds cuts diminish the value of a fleece harvest.


Semi-worsted Spinning- A spinning system, similar to the worsted spinning system, which does not utilize a combing process.


Semi-worsted Yarn - Yarn spun from sliver carded (not combed) fiber that has been pin-drafted on worsted spinning machines.


Shearing - Cutting the fleece from an animal with electric or hand shears.


Shrinkage - A reduction in length or width of a material caused by certain treatments, especially washing. A loss of wool weight and volume occurs when scouring due to the removal of grease, sweat, and foreign matter.


Skirting - Selectively removing stained, unusable, or undesirable portions of fleece.


Sorting - Separating a fleece or fiber into groups of comparable character and quality. The grading of fiber.


Spinning - The final step in the production of yarn. The twisting of the sliver or roving. The yarn making process.


Standard Deviation (SD) - The amount of variation from the mean (average) within a single data set. The greater the standard deviation, the greater the range (difference between the highest and lowest values) within the sample.


Staple - A synonym for fiber. A lock or tuft of wool.


Staple Length - The length of shorn locks measured by the natural staple without stretching or disturbing the crimp. The ammount of fiber re-growth or regeneration from one shearing to the next.


S-twist - see Direction of Twist.


Style - The combination of crimp and crinkle — ranging from good crimp and crinkle to no crimp and crinkle.


Synthetic Dye - A complex colorant derived from petroleum by-products and earth minerals.


Tags - Broken or dung-covered wool and other wastes swept from the floor of shearing areas.


Tender Wool - A wool staple with weak segments in the fibers. It can be carded but not combed. This weakness is often caused by illness, excessive exposure to extreme weather and or poor nutrition.


Tensile Strength - The amount of tension a fiber can withstand before it stretches to a breaking point.


Textile - A broad classification of materials utilized in constructing fabrics including the fabrics made with those materials.


Texture - The surface effect of cloth or fiber as dull, lustrous, wooly, stiff, soft, fine, coarse, open or closely woven, also known as "the hand" or feel.


Tippy Wool - Badly weathered ends of fleece, usually containing a considerable amount of grease, dirt and other debris. These tips dye differently from the rest of the fleece.


Top - A strand of longer fibers straightened in parallel order and separated from the shorter fibers by combing.


Top Sample - A sample of top fiber.


Total Fleece Weight - The weight of the entire raw fleece.


Twist - The number of turns around its axis per unit of length observed in a yarn or other textile strand. Twist usually indicated as turns per inch (TPI).


Virgin Fiber - According to the Federal Trade Commission, wool which has not been processed in any way, shape or form. Hair and other specialty fibers are classed as wool measured by the Federal Trade Commission. This term is a common misnomer when used in advertising or on labels.


Weaving - Making cloth by interlacing yarns at right angles according to a pre-determined pattern.


Wool - Traditionally, the fibers covering the skin of a sheep. According to the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, the term includes the fleece of a sheep, angora goat, undercoat of a cashmere goat, and specialty fibers of alpaca, llama, vicuna, and guanaco. The undercoat of mammals other than the sheep, goat or camel families is referred to as fur.


Woolen - Describes yarn made using the woolen spinning system.


Woolen Spinning System - In this system, carding takes place two or three times and then goes directly to the spinning process without combing. Wool used for this system is generally shorter, having more crimp and felting qualities. With this system, it is possible to use wools of different types, lengths and character together in blends.


Worsted - A yarn that has been made using the worsted spinning system.


Worsted Spinning System - A system of yarn production designed for medium or longer wools and fibers. The suitable fiber lengths vary from 2.5 to 7 inches. The process includes, opening, blending, cleaning and carding, followed by combing, drawing and spinning. These yarns are compact, smooth, more even and stronger than yarns spun using the woolen system.


Yarn - A continuous strand of textile fibers that may be composed of endless filaments or shorter fibers twisted or held together. Yarns are utilized in making fabric.


Yield - The quantity of clean wool obtained from a specified amount of grease wool. The amount of usable fiber after the processes of washing, drying, and removing guard hairs.


Yolk - A colorless natural impurity consisting of grease and sweat.


Z-twist - See direction of twist