The second day of the Snowmass Winners’ Circle Sale, just prior to the auction, Burgos detailed the industrial process of creating tops and yarns. He played fascinating videos of the methods involved, showing the process from reception of the just-shorn fleeces from the animals to the production of fine textiles. The inside workings of the industrial mills in Perú were shown in the process of splitting, sorting, opening, washing, drying, combing and carding the fiber.
Burgos emphasized the importance of reducing the micron size of secondary fibers so they are nearly undetectable to the naked eye. He also noted that the cleaner and more thoroughly sorted the fiber arrives, the more cost effective it is to produce a garment. Even something as simple as how one folds the fleece after shearing can have a profound effect on how much it costs to produce something from it and in the quality of the fiber itself. The Snowmass bales arrived neat, tidy and well-skirted. This was due in part to the Snowmass shearing protocol, which optimizes the process to collect only the best and most consistent fiber. Julie reports, "We have always striven to eliminate contaminants and to make sure fiber is high quality and clean to reduce re-sorting and minimize processing time.”
Most evident from Burgos’ presentations and the analysis of the Snowmass fleeces is that commercial production of alpaca textiles is a scientific process that starts with exceptional animal genetics to achieve the highest quality possible.
Snowmass is also producing textiles here in the United States with hopes of seeing a viable American production run. The Skinners have had handwoven blankets and bedspreads made from other bales of Baby and Royal Fiber and the results are beautiful. Julie says, “We are presently working on fine woven material from these bales and awaiting samples from the mill to proceed. The Super Royal portion of our fiber will be blended with the fiber of the best fleeces obtained during the Peruvian National Contest and will be used to create a new collection of Premium Alpaca goods.”
The Skinners have also sent 24 bales to Nepal, India for processing. According to Julie, they are in “all colors that range from 18 micron bales to stronger 24 micron bales, all of which will be sorted, hand-carded and spun in Nepal for tapestries and rugs. We will be documenting the travel from here to there and the processes. The container is in Seattle and will soon be on its way across the sea to Katmandu.”
The Skinners also sent five bales of all colors, mostly of Baby grade (18-21 micron) and a bale of Suri, to Flaggy Meadow Fiber Mill. There, they will be processed into yarns for hand woven throws like the ones the Skinners gifted at the February Making of Champions Winners’ Circle Sale in Phoenix, Arizona to buyers. Read more about Flaggy Meadow here: http://flaggymeadowfiberworks.com/
Julie Skinner says, “The advancements in alpaca are extraordinary and Royal Alpaca fleece is taking the industry to new levels across the world. With the struggles of the global economy, we have seen some shifts in the industry. Struggling breeders need to remain hopeful in knowing that there is indeed a growing demand for fine alpaca and fine alpaca genetics. As finer and brighter advanced alpaca fiber comes into play, the industry can shift into greater demands for alpaca. There is a healthy global incentive to continue to advance the breed of alpaca so that we can fulfill the growing demand for the finest Alpaca fleece. We hope that the U.S.A. continues to shine and be a leader in this effort of creating some of the best known alpaca genetics in the world. Alpaca is not just a fad – it is a global industry of extraordinary measures and a culture of its own.”