We load small quantities of raw fleece into a large gently rotating cage called a tumbler. This allows bits of debris to fall out. Surprisingly, even apparently clean looking fleece yields quite a bit of dust and other bits and pieces.
Fibre is washed in batches of around 6kg using an environmentally friendly solution that strips sweat, skin oils, urine and dust, leaving a soft clean fleece, ready for further processing. Our washing machine is specially designed for alpaca. It keeps the water at the correct temperature and rotates extremely slowly and gently to prevent matting and felting. The clean fresh smelling fleece is then laid out on mesh racks and allowed to air dry.
Unfortunately, handling wet fleece causes some matting so we pass the fibre through the picking machine. This vicious looking machine has a rapidly rotating drum full of large teeth. The fibre is drawn into the machine in order for the teeth to pull apart the mats. A flow of air facilitates the whole process and a cloud of individual fibres float out of the machine into the picker room. Here we condition the fibre with a blend of mineral oil, designed to protect the delicate fibres and reduce static in the following processes.