43 ounces of alpaca fiber…

…cleaned, carded, and ready to spin. I picked up it up yesterday from Still River Mill, just over the Connecticut border. It’s the fiber shorn from Read’s mom’s alpacas that I brought back from Oregon.

alpaca fiber

The white fiber was too long for the mill machines to process, but it has been washed. I may hand card it. Or stuff a pillow with it. The black fiber processed just fine. Half of it I kept 100% alpaca, and half I’m having blended with merino to make a 50/50 mix. The merino will add elasticity and breathability (alpaca garments are almost too warm).

Here’s the bag of 100% alpaca:

I think it should become a blanket. Maybe a Quilt & Cable, a blanket-sized Kent Gent, or Elm Avenue. I need to make the alpaca’s owners something too.

Now for the big question. Was processing this fiber cheaper than buying roving outright?
I brought in 3.3 pounds of black alpaca fiber. For the simplicity’s sake, I’m keeping the merino blending out of the equation and assuming 100% alpaca for the whole bag.
It cost $12.50/lb to wash and clean it (12.5 x 3.3 = 41.25).
After the cleaning, 2.7 pounds remained. It cost $12.50/lb to turn it into roving (12.5. x 2.7 = 33.75).
So the bag of black roving, which is 43.2 ounces, cost $75.00.

A scan of google shopping results lists  $2.75/oz to $3.50/oz as the market rate for some alpaca roving. I like bargain shopping, so let’s assume I buy a few pounds at $2.75/oz.  A full 43.2 ounces would cost $118.80.

Throw in the half tank of gas it cost to visit Still River Mill, and I may have broke even. Breaking even is actually really good when it comes to this stuff. Of course the alpaca’s owners are my in-laws and they kindly gave me bags of fiber for free. But maybe you know some pet alpacas or sheep whose fiber isn’t being used. It’d be worth taking it to a mill.

Besides, DIY is not always a money-saving venture…which, if you like DIY, I’m sure you know. My friend estimates her chickens’ eggs cost at least 25 cents dollars apiece. Many of the drool-worthy sweater patterns on ravelry call for at least $100 in yarn. And there was that best-selling book called “The $64 Tomato”, the title of which is sadly not hyperbole. So yeah…breaking even is good. And it’s great fun (for everyone? maybe just for a fiber enthusiast) to see something through from animal to finished object.



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  3. Kate Graham · June 24, 2012

    I would definately recommend that you shop around to find a cheaper mill to process your alpaca fiber. $25/lb to wash and process your fiber to roving is way too much. I recently opened up a fiber processing mill in California and my charge to wash, pick, card and pin draft alpaca to roving is only $16/lb. I can also spin your fiber to any weight for $34/lb. (this includes washing, picking, carding, pin drafting and skeining up). If you are interested, you can contact me at fckate@hotmail.com.

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  5. definitelynotmartha · January 19, 2012

    It’s totally cool that you’ll have a project you’ve seen through from start (or just about start) to completion. I definitely spend more money on the projects I think will be around for awhile. I also look at it as the crafty/diy stuff I do is my hobby. I could have a hobby like playing golf. I’ve heard people talk about greens fees of $50-75, and they don’t bat an eye about dropping that kind of money for a one time thing. Do that twice a month, plus the cost of clubs, cart, etc and I think my hobby isn’t too bad, cost wise 🙂

  6. tami · January 18, 2012

    PS: I like the book title.

  7. tami · January 18, 2012

    you saw a cents sign because a dollar sign there is CRAZINESS!!! So far i figure about 350 in start up costs and feed is costing me about $25/mo ongoing expense. And I fed them for 7mos before i got one damn egg (which i guess should be factored into start up costs). maybe 30 eggs so far=about 11$ an egg. okay, so i exaggerated (and they gave me 4 more eggs since i wrote that).

  8. foxflat · January 16, 2012

    Yeah, not many chicken friends out here…it’s you 🙂 I can see the bestselling book now: “The $25 Egg”!! Dunno why I thought it was a cents sign I saw.

  9. Steve Barnes · January 16, 2012

    I think it totally depends on what you make and how nice your craftsmanship is. If you knit something with a great pattern, in stylish colours or with a trendy cut, then you can make a fortune at the flee markets. I know the local flee markets around here are selling alpaca sweaters for about €60 a pop. That’s a pretty hefty bag of fibre you have there too!

  10. Tami · January 15, 2012

    If the chicken friend you’re talking about is me, the eggs so far are 25 DOLLARS each, with start up costs factored in (cost of coop, for example). As more eggs are produced, cost per egg will go down….but like you say, if I break even, it will be a miracle. Still love having them though. I already have next three picked out (and two more I’d like beyond that, but I think 7 has to be the limit…and Dave says i can’t get any more for at least another year. We’ll just see about that).

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