Part of our homestead dream is for our animals to basically pay for themselves. This has been a bit of a trial and error deal with the chickens (best money so far is in pickled eggs by far, but it is a time intensive and smelly process). With our herd of alpacas, we are hoping to be a bit more straight forward- we are in the process of sending out last years fiber to have it turned into various types of yarns.
This has been a bit harder then we initially expected. Turns out their are not a lot of fiber processers in our area- in fact, we had to transport our fiber about 2 hours away to have it taken care of. This process is eventually something we’d like to do ourselves, but in our first year we know we’d be over our heads completely. I’d loathe to waste this precious material as you shear once a year and it is about the only way we plan on making money off the animals (there are other ways, like breeding and selling the poop as fertilizer, but once again, with the breeding, not looking to get in over our heads and with the poop, well my gardens need that shit.)
We actually have looked at a couple different options as far as what to do with our fiber. We are members of MOFGA which means we could sell our raw fiber in their fiber tent at the annual Common Ground Fair, but that really barely even helps with the cost of raising the animals, let alone the transporting of the fiber and the possibility that it may not even sell.
So we contacted Aroostook Fiber Works in Ashland and we made a date to truck our fiber up there in order for them to process it into different types of yarn for us.
They do everything from beginning to end – skirting, washing, picking, conditioning, fiber separating, carding, drafting, spinning, plying, steaming and winding it into cones. They will also put it into skeins for an additional $2/ pound but we decided to just get it in the cones and skein it ourselves.
First we had to transport the fiber in its raw state to Ashland which is about a 2 hour trek for us. So we loaded up the back of our truck with our totes of fiber and made a day trip of it.
When we dropped the fiber off at Aroostook Fiberworks, the owner showed us the whole process – which was way cool. Completely automated, he was running about 6 machines by himself. It was super neat to see the raw fiber go from pieces of fluff, to roving and then to different sizes yarn. He was super helpful and even showed us his own alpacas, which were SO CUTE. When we left he said it would be a week or so before he could even start on our order, but we’re totally fine with that. As we said to him “its been sitting in our storage shed for 6 months now, so what another couple weeks?”
Well, it was actually a month before he could start on ours, but we really didn’t think of it as a big deal because a. he was doing EVERYTHING and b. holy we weren’t looking forward to doing that drive again very soon. Northern Maine is beautiful, scenic and a lot of miles of woods.
So he spun our fiber into 2 ply sport, 2 ply bulk and also a bunch of rug yarn. All which is available on our store page.
He suggested that we take it home and once we put it into skeins of appropriate weight/yardage, tie it off, soak it in hot water and hang it to dry- this is to help release some of the tension and allow the yarn to bulk back up a bit.
This was a process for me, being the mum of a toddler and also pregnant. On top of my normal 8-4 job AND caring for the homestead. I took a kid gate, measured it to 72 inches around (two yards) and wrapped the yarn around that 50 times, making 100 yard skeins. I also weighed them to make sure they were similar weights because I like to double check everything. I could get one skein measured out and tied off in about 4 minutes this way, but it took some time still. Happy to say tho, we finally are a yarn dealer! And after all this we still have our thirds to clean and turn into dryer balls, but that will be a winter project.
Also, we got all this done and now have THIS years fiber to turn into yarn and other projects. Its been a daunting process, but I’m glad we saw it thru and are now having the herd help to pay for their room and board.
Until next time, have a wicked good day!