I took a break yesterday to attend a graduation party for two nephews, one having just graduated from college (he was just a baby, wasn't he?) and the other, his little brother, having just graduated from high school. Imagine my delight to arrive at the party and be handed a big bag of alpaca fleece! Little bro helps to maintain the pristine appearance of the animals' stalls at a neighboring alpaca farm. It's my understanding that he was offered a fleece to give to his fiber-fiend of an aunt. He chose the fleece of one Aja, a 2 year-old with a light coat (white? beige?).
I waited until this morning to carefully inspect the fleece. It was not as smelly as I anticipated. I learned from a bit of internet research that alpacas do not produce the oils that make sheep fleece so pungent. This lack of oil is also why many spinners feel it is not necessary to scour the fleece, and instead prefer to spin the unwashed fiber and clean it for the first time as yarn. I took a few locks to the spinning wheel and discovered quickly that this fleece needed some sort of cleaning. Today I dumped the bag out and began to skirt.
The fleece has an interesting pattern of dirt deposition: clean at the skin end, then a band of dirt, then a relatively clean area before the tip, which is glued together with another band of dirt. Combing gets most of the dirt and the occasional seed pod and twig out, but soap was required to remove all of the dirt. The washed lock looks white to me.
I have about 100 g of combed locks that I'll begin spinning soon. I haven't decided if I should card them, or if the combing is all I need to do. Any suggestions?