What is skirting? When fleece is shorn off an alpaca, the blanket / primary fleece is brought to a table where the guard hair and vegetable matter is hand picked from the fiber.
Why skirt a fleece?
Alpaca fiber that is properly skirted and graded (classed) produces vastly superior yarn with a more consistent end product. Improperly prepared, the finer fibers of a fleece will spin to the inside of the yarn, leaving the courser fibers on the outside where it will be felt by the consumer. With proper skirting and grading, courser fiber may feel better than a histogram would indicate.
What do I look for when skirting?
Can fleeces be combined?
Fiber can be skirted and graded on an individual basis (Muffy's fleece), or it can be combined for processing based on color, length and micron (Muffy, Fluffy and Buffy).
The annual statistics of your fleece will aid in your breeding and marketing programs. Information such as grade (or micron) medullation, color, staple length, weight, notes about tenderness, vegetation, and more, can be vital to making decisions in a breeding program, farm environment or nutrition that may not otherwise have emerged.
Take two portions of fiber, sending one out for testing and retaining one as your visual sample. Once the test results are received, write on the outside of your visual sample what the micron is on a contrasting piece of paper to make the sample easier to see. Try and get a sample that will fit into each grade of fiber. Before beginning your fiber assessment, recalibrate your eyes and hands, using these samples, so you can easily recognize what you are looking at as you skirt your fiber.