Our alpacas live on a small farm with lots of rare breed sheep, so we’ve experimented with processing all sorts of wool. We also accidentally acquired some angora goats, so have made some lovely mohair-alpaca blends.
Although we initially struggled to process some of the finer, softer, shorter fleeces such as Shetland, following a recent visit from Jeff, the mini-mills magician technician, we’re now more confident with all sorts of sheep breeds. Lustre fleeces (e.g. Bluefaced Leicester, Lincoln Longwool, Teeswater, Wensleydale, and Gotland) certainly work very well with our equipment.Other wool types will depend on the quality of the fleece and the staple length (our minimum length is 5 cm).
Generally, though, we still recommend blending wool 50:50 with alpaca. Basically, we think that huacaya alpaca is a magic fibre – it processes beautifully on its own, but also dramatically improves any other fibre you blend it with, transforming both how easily it spins and the quality of the yarn. And mohair is just fabulous with alpaca! We can provide alpaca fleece for blending (which might be a matching colour or a contrast to make a wider range of colours from a white sheep fleece) at cost price: currently £15 per kg + VAT.
Costs for processing sheep wool are a bit difficult to predict, as the amount of weight that the fleece loses in washing can vary significantly. But as a rough estimate, 1 kg of sheep fleece blended with alpaca supplied by us is likely to cost around £100 (including VAT) to process, yielding about 1.25 kg of the blended yarn.
Alternatively, Griffiths Mill in Derbyshire have a lot of experience in spinning sheep fleece and can handle individual fleeces and small batches; or if you’ve got at least 20kg, you could try The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall.
Of course, it can work the other way, too – sometimes we add sheep wool to alpaca to create a special yarn. Some sheep fleeces such as Bluefaced Leicester and Wensleydale can be absolutely gorgeous, and the blend will be a bit lighter and more elastic than pure alpaca. Sheep wool and mohair also take dye wonderfully well.
If you’d like to try a wool blend, we can source the fleece for you if needed. We’re also very happy to blend alpaca with other fibres – e.g. silk (for shine), nylon (for durability and washability) or bamboo (for strength and antibacterial properties) – please just call or email for details.