Hairy Alpaca and a Merino Vessel

Hairy Alpaca and a Merino Vessel

I love alpaca, so a few years ago when my mum was buying me fibres for Christmas, I asked for Alpaca tops. I’d only used raw alpaca before and hoped the tops would be more convenient. They couldn’t have been further from raw alpaca if they’d tried. I’m sure all alpaca tops aren’t like this, but it seems I got some made from guard hair or something! They were thick and wiry and kind of stiff. I hoped they’d be different after felting, so I made a sample square. It was the weirdest felt I’d ever made, hairy and although felted, didn’t really feel felted, and strangely, still quite soft. So, I put those bags at the bottom of a sack and forgot about them.

I recently did a ‘stock check’ to see what I needed to order more of and rediscovered the alpaca tops. I left them out hoping I’d get time to try them again. Last week I did. I decided to make a small bag with a flap. I thought that if it turned out strange I could always use it for sewing on. It turned out exactly as I’d remembered! Hairy, stiff, not feeling like it was felted, but oddly soft. I used a rusty colour for the inside layers and aptly, a grassy green colour for the top ones. I’ve already started to add the stitches, so I’ll post about that soon 🙂

I had more success with my merino vessel. I thought I’d try making a vessel starting with a flat resist. I thought it’d be less fiddly and messy than felting over a ball, but I didn’t think so. I think if I do it again I’ll use something a bit thicker than bubblewrap for the resist. It came out alright though, but it’s a bit thin because I only used a couple of layers of merino.

I’d be interested to know if anyone else has had similar problems with commercial alpaca tops or if you’ve actually had some nice ones.

11 thoughts on “Hairy Alpaca and a Merino Vessel

  1. Hello Zed
    I once made a tall vessel – resist method, 6 layers each side – finished about 60cms high. I used merino tops on the bottom third, alpaca tops in the middle and merino tops on the top third. The merino was lovely and firm but there was no way the vessel would ever stand up properly because the alpaca was too soft by comparison and the middle sort of buckled when the vessel was upright. And yes, it was a lot hairier. I gave up on it (all that wool, all that effort) and chucked it away, but in retrospect maybe I should have tried re-inforcing the alpaca part of the vessel with decorative stitching.

    I like your pod very much – it would make an attractive ornament in a modern room. It looks like granite.
    I use laminate floor underlay for the resist for my pods. It’s plastic, pliable and just thick enough to be firm in the early stages of the pod making. I also do four layers each side.

    1. Thanks, Lyn 🙂
      I’ll see if my dad has any laminate floor underlay spare and try that. I’ve been doing some sewing, and it looks ok, but it’s making holes, I might need something on the back 🙂
      That’s a very large vessel you made!

  2. The bag looks OK. You could try shaving it with a razor to get of the hairy bits.
    Your experience with the alpaca is the same as mine. It ends up hairy and sort of soapy feeling and feels like it needs to be felted more. I was told by a lady from south America that when they separate fibers the soft fine fibers go in the alpaca fiber pile and the courser or hairy fleeces go in the lama pile. You can get dehaired fiber but it is expensive because they loose so much of the fleece in the process. I wonder if the fiber in general has gone down. There are so many people with a few alpacas. Here they all send their fleeces to their own co-op. You put fiber in and you can take product to sell out.
    What didn’t you like about working over a flat resist?

    1. The whole thing is hairy, Ann, not just a few fuzzies. The hairs would come out if I pulled.
      All the other alpaca I’ve had has been gorgeous, unbelievably soft, but I’ve got first clippings from the blanket, this stuff must be from the belly or legs. Alpacas are very common here and raw fibre is really quite cheap, so I’ll stick with that, it doesn’t need as much processing as wool, just a bit of a comb.
      I think I needed a thicker resist. I use foamy stuff for pouches/bags etc, but that won’t bend to get out of a tiny hole. It was just as messy as on a ball too.

  3. I have only used alpaca a few times. The black baby alpaca from WOW was not hairy. I love your vessel. I also use floor underlayment for resists.

  4. The bag still looks good Zed, I’ve only used Alpaca a couple of time for needle felting and wont use it again, when you needle felt with it , it just wont stop squishing lol meaning if i was using any anything else with the needle you can feel the point were you stop needling but with Alpaca i cant and you could stab the same spot over and over and over and it wont stop condensing down. I dont like using it at all. I havent tried wet felting with it though so i might have to give that a go.
    I love your vessel to that turn out nicely 🙂

    1. Thanks Kaz 🙂
      I’ve only used alpaca in needle felting a couple of times, it was perfect for a soft sandy beach effect 🙂
      Yeah, I think you’ll like how it wet felts, it’s so soft and silky, nothing like this hairy thing!

  5. I am with you Karen I don’t like alpaca at all. Its the feel of it, slippery and soapy. I know I am strange with this. It’s OK I will leave it for those that love it, there are lots of different sheep breeds to play with.

  6. It’s amazing how different the same name fiber is from seller to seller . I actually prefer buying professionally processed alpaca because so many Etsy sellers idea of “clean and soft” is quit different then mine . I think it works ok if laid on top of some merino but I would never wet felt it alone . It just doesn’t feel sturdy .

    I love needle felting with alpaca as a top layer or tacking curls in for “furring” over a nice wool base sculpture but it’s not good on it’s own and it’s impossible to get good detail with it . I think the only people who think it is are those trying to sell it to needle felters .

  7. I wouldn’t buy any from etsy either. I’ve bought mine directly from the breeders from ebay. This is a photo of a pile of Huacaya locks I separated
    I didn’t do anything other than mybe pick out the odd obvious stick or bud
    The next couple in the photostream are suri locks I did the same with.
    The breeders will be able to tell you where the fleece is cut from so you get the best.

    I like it for wet felting. This is my 3rd ever wet felted piece, when I still didn’t really know what I was doing 🙂
    I think it’d be great for hats, so soft and never itchy
    One day I’ll have the room to make the scarf I want to make from alpaca 🙂

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