MI-Alpaca is returning to the Ag Expo lineup to show that raising alpacas for their fiber can provide an additional income source.
Native to South America, alpacas require special care but offer a prized product. Alpaca fiber is warmer and softer than sheep's wool and hypoallergenic. Alpacas are known as luxury fiber-producing animals and have been bred for fiber production for more than 5,000 years.
Although a relatively new organization, MI-Alpaca, an association of alpaca owners, has 65 members. Organizers say that there are 8,000 registered alpacas in Michigan.
MI-Alpaca representatives will conduct several demonstrations during Ag Expo, July 16-18 at Michigan State University.
Once an alpaca is shorn, the raw fleece must be skirted. Skirting is the first step in processing a fleece. Skirting is necessary to ensure quality in the finished product by making sure that no vegetation, dung or coarse guard hair fibers are mixed in with the fine, soft fibers of the prime fleece. In this demonstration, presenters will discuss how a fleece is carefully cleaned, examined and analyzed before it is sent to be processed into products for textile artists.
Skirting demonstrations will take place at 10 a.m. July 16 and 17, and at noon July 18.
Picking and carding demonstration
Picking and carding separates and aligns fibers for spinning. The washed fiber is "picked" or opened to allow it to be carded using a rotating drum with tiny steel teeth. Once the fiber is carded, it can be spun into yarn or felted into cloth and/or garments. During this presentation, experts will show the various ways to pick and card fiber for further processing.
The picking and carding demonstrations will take place at noon July 16 and 17, and July 18 at 2:30 p.m.
Hand spinning demonstration
Hand spinning is the process of twisting fiber, fleece or roving of alpaca and/or other fibers into a continuous thread using a spinning wheel or drop spindle. The thread can be spun to any thickness. Two or more threads can then be plied (twisted together) and later dyed. Handspun yarn can be used for knitting, crocheting or weaving into finished products. This demonstration will highlight the techniques used to spin alpaca fiber into a beautiful finished yarn.
This demonstration begins at 2:30 p.m. July 16 and July 17, and at 9:30 a.m. July 18.
All demonstrations are sponsored by the Michigan Alpaca Livestock and Commerce Association and will take place in Livestock Central.
Ag Expo runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 16 and 17, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 18. Admission to the grounds and parking at Farm Lane and Mt. Hope Road are free.
For more information about Ag Expo, call 800-366-7055 or visit www.agexpo.msu.edu.
The MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources sponsors Ag Expo.