I have finally managed to get a little sample of llama fiber from Charlie. I say "finally managed," because I learned very quickly that llamas don't particularly like to be caught and handled. Since I wrote an update about Charlie on my homestead blog, I also wanted to show you his fleece. I figured my sadly neglected fiber blog would be the best place to do that.
His color is not a true black, but rather a very dark chocolate brown. The tips are lighter brown from sunbleaching. Here's a close-up of his shoulder area (with flash, making the color a bit reddish)....
And hip. The bump in the upper right is his tail...
Off the llama....
I managed to get a couple of staples from his shoulder. While they measures three to six inches in length, this isn't an accurate assessment of a full year's growth. He's only seven months old, and has had one shearing, albeit a poodle type blanket cut. Nor did I cut this close to the skin, but left enough on him so he wouldn't look like he had a patch of missing wool.
Because Charlie's so young, his fleece is wonderfully soft. He was sold to me as a "woolly" llama, and I have since learned that there are several types of llamas, based on their wool.
Tapada llamas are the woolly llamas. Their fleece in medium to long, dense, and can be silky, crimpy, and wavy. They are considered single coated and should have less than 1% guard hair. They need shearing once a year.
Lanuda llamas, are another woolly type, but these grow wool all the way down their legs. I didn't know enough to ask the breeder about the wool types, but based on how his fleece is growing out, I'm guessing Charlie is one of these. He had his first shearing before I bought him, so I don't' know what he'll look like with his fleece completely grown out. Llamas are shorn once a year, and that will be a job for next spring.
Curaca are medium wooled llamas, with guard hair content averaging 3 to 15%. Unlike tapadas and lanudas, which must be shorn, cucacas shed somewhat. Because of that they are often shorn every two to three years. Their wool grows below their knees like lanadas.
Ccara llamas are the classics. They have fairly short, double coats, the guards accounting for at least 15% of the fleece. Because of the guard hairs, they don't pick up a lot of debris (which Charlie is always full of). Of course the downy undercoat is what a spinner wants. A ccara's is semi-crimpy and evidently fairly easy to harvest, as only the inner coat sheds. Removing it is a matter of grooming it out. No shearing or clipping required.
Before I got Charlie and began researching this, I didn't have a clue. I had never spun llama before, but now I understand why spinners have such different experiences with it.
It contains no grease, but is dusty and loaded with VM. This is because llamas like to roll in the dirt, in the grass, in the weeds, in the brambles, whatever.
It kills me to see Charlie loaded with VM and at first, I wanted to comb him out every day. Llamas however, don't like being petted or brushed and combed. I quickly figured out that if I messed with his fleece every time I caught him, he would soon be very difficult to catch. So we've been working on trust, and that means respecting his "no touch" rule. I should mention that this rule appears to apply to humans only. It's okay if a chicken perches on him, of if a goats plops down right beside him. It's just not okay for a human to touch him.
I haven't had a chance to spin it yet, but when I do, I plan to card it and spin woolen. I'm sure though, that I'll do a lot of experimenting with it. I'm very curious as to how the yarn will turn out. Hopefully I'll have a chance to do that soon.
To see photos of Charlie and read what I'm learning about llamas, visit my homestead blog, here.
A Little Sample Of Llama © September 2010 by Leigh at Leigh's Fiber Journal.