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Let Your Fleece Tell You Its Story

Skirting Alpaca Fleece


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Skirting for Show

This is the part that’s the most fun!  Getting your hands on and in this luxurious fiber.  Keep in mind the story your fleece is telling you (covered in the previous section).  Be gentle, don’t pull or yank on the fleece.  Things to have handy – skirting table, big clean clear plastic bags, bag tags, good lighting, no wind or excess air movement, playing cards, and tweezers.

It does take finesse, a gentle hand, and patience, but the rewards justify your efforts.

Huacaya – More wool type fiber with some hair type fiber.  Prime blanket area should contain 60-65% of total fleece.

Gently lay out fleece on skirting table cut side up, tip side down.   If you’re not sure of the color, check the cut side of the fleece against the ARI color chart.


Bump the skirting table up and down just enough to loosen dust, dirt, and vegetable matter (VM) so it drops through the mesh.  Do this a number of times while the cut side is up.


Use a playing card to lightly flick the surface of the cut side watching for second cuts.  Second cuts are when a shearer goes back over a sheared area a second time creating short (< ½”) clumps or cuts of fleece.  Discard them.


Gently pull a pencil width sample from mid side of the blanket.  Use it as a guide.  Start with the outer edges of the fleece and move inward.  Remove any fleece that isn’t the same length, color (unless multi colored fleece), or that doesn’t contain the same fleece characteristics as your sample.  Put the removed fleece in a seconds bag.  Judges give you about ½” leeway for length differences.  Discard neck fiber even if it’s as good or better than the blanket fiber as it doesn’t have the length.  If there are a few small areas of different color, remove these areas.  If the fleece falls in the multi category, leave these areas in the fleece.  Characteristics to look for are crimp, fineness, guard hair (mainly located on belly, lower legs, britch, bib/apron, arm pits).  In addition, discard any undesirable material that isn’t fleece (VM, insects, bailing twine).


Turn the fleece over.  Try to not disturb the fleece characteristics and try to keep the fleece intact.  With your hands, lift several sections of the fleece 2-3” off the skirting table, gathering it and moving it to one side of the table length.  You want the entire fleece to be sitting on one side of the table length.  Fold the fleece in half lengthwise.  By standing at one of the width ends of the table, use 2 arms and gently fold the outer edge of the fleece over and just past the inner edge bringing the cut sides together.  Go to the other width end of the table and repeat the fold.  Go around to the other length side of the table and lift several sections of the fleece 2-3” off the skirting table, gathering it and moving it to the opposite length side of the table carefully unrolling the fold as you go.  Turning the fleece is much easier if you are using an unframed table and have another person to assist you.  With the fleece laying on top of mesh, put another piece of mesh on top of it sandwiching the fleece between the 2.  Make sure all fleece is contained by the mesh.  With a person on each width side holding the mesh together, turn the fleece over and remove the top mesh. When you are done the tip side will be up and the cut side down.


Bump the skirting table up and down just enough to dislodge second cuts and VM so they drop through the mesh/PVC.  Do this a number of times while the tip side is up.


Check the top line and base of the neck (bird’s nest, snack pack).  These areas usually have excess VM.  Discard if necessary. 


Check the tips for weathering.  Not much you can do about them, but be aware if they are there. 


Gently pick fiber away from debris until the debris is free of fleece and can be picked out with tweezers or fingers.


Using your pencil width sample, skirt the tip side just like you did the cut side.


Suri – More hair type fiber.  Suri fleece is hard to keep together and intact.  Always be conscious and respectful of the lock structure.  Prime blanket area should contain 60-65% of total fleece.


Skirt the same as for Huacaya fleece except start by laying out the fleece on the table with the lock side up and cut side down.

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