How to Separate Locks of Suri Fiber

 

Fiber of the suri alpaca grows vertically down the side of the body, hanging in long, separate, distinctive locks.  These individual locks are made up of many lustrous fibers.  Separating the locks of fiber is not hard, but it does take time.  I am a novice when it comes to video, so hope you’ll bear with me.

1.  Identify the tip of the lock, versus the cut end which will be more blunt.

2.  Hold the upper tip end of the lock tightly and pull it away from the base of the fleece, while holding the base of the fleece around the lock.  This keeps the other locks intact and ready for their turn at being removed.

3.  The lock is pulled up and the fleece around it is held intact by my other hand.

This can be done wet or dry, as seen in the video, depending on your preference.

Be sure to see:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Coming Soon:

Washing and Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

We offer our raw suri fiber in two different forms.  Our Natural Suri has been carefully skirted, tumbled, and washed. Suri Locks have been taken one step further in that the individual locks of fiber have been separated from the rest of the fleece.

Natural Suri          Suri Locks

Doll makers are finding that suri alpaca makes beautiful doll hair!  There is some fiber terminology that may be helpful for doll makers purchasing suri fiber for doll hair.

Blythe Doll by Chris Hegarty

Purchasing the Natural Suri is the most economical way to purchase this silky, lustrous fiber.  There is a huge cost savings if purchasing an entire fleece, but this is usually way more fiber than needed for doll wigs.  Separating Suri Fiber into Locks is not difficult, but it is more expensive to buy fiber this way because of the time involved.  See How to Separate Locks of Suri Fiber.

Alpacas in the Pasture

The Terms:

Fiber is the hair of an alpaca.

Fleece is the coat of an alpaca, after having been sheared, but before being processed into yarn or thread.

Micron is the unit of measurement used in assessing the diameter of a fiber.

Micron count is scientifically devised by measuring the diameter of several individual fibers and determining the average. The lower microns are the finer fibers.  The larger the micron count, the courser the fiber.

The textile world generally uses six Grades of Fiber for Alpacas:

Grade 1 Ultra Fine (less than 20 microns)
Grade 2 Superfine (20-22.99 microns)
Grade 3 Fine (23-25.99 microns)
Grade 4 Medium (26-28.99 microns)
Grade 5 Intermediate (29-31.99 microns)
Grade 6 Robust (32 microns and above)

Locks
are the natural divisions in an animal’s fiber.  A single lock of suri is made up of multiple individual fibers.

Skirting is when fleece is shorn off an alpaca, the blanket or primary fleece is brought to a table where the guard hair and vegetable matter is hand picked from the fiber.

Staple is an independent cluster of individual fibers.

Staple Length is the actual length of shorn alpaca fiber.

Tumbling is when fiber is placed in a machine called a tumbler and, well, tumbled, to removed dirt, dust, vegetable matter, etc.

Vegetable Matter is the little pieces of hay, stray, dead leaves, seed heads, and sometimes burrs that find their home in alpaca fiber.

More Alpaca Fiber Terms can be found on the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of
North America, Inc. website.

Vegetable Matter

And now the TIPS:

 

1.  Be aware that there is a lot of waste when combing out the locks. Be sure to purchase up to an extra ounce for your project, to make sure you have enough.

2.  For whatever reason, the darker colors seem to work well in the higher micron range – 26 microns and up.   The fiber tends to have less static, is stronger for combing, but is still very lustrous and the fibers hang together well.

Dark Brown Suri Fiber

Dark Brown Suri Fiber Separated Into Locks

3.  On the flip side, the whites and lights work better in the finer micron ranges, say 20 – 28 microns.  Finer than 20 microns and the fibers will break.  Over 28 microns, the fiber just looks bad with no luster, the fiber looks coarse, etc.

White Suri Fiber

White Suri Fiber Not Separated Into Locks

4.  Lengthwise, the 7″-8″ fiber works the best.  That is just a year’s worth of growth for many animals, so it is easier to comb out, has less breakage, and overall has less damage than most of the two year growth animals.  Some doll makers opt for longer fiber, 9″ – 12″.  Though premium prices are charged for this longer fiber, it can be hard to comb out and tends to have more vegetable matter embedded in the locks.  Of course, it is lovely but can be more work.
Suri Alpaca Fiber, 6.5"', Medium Fawn, 2 Ounces, Simeon
5.  Stay away from fleeces of alpacas that the alpaca owner has shown extensively in the show ring.  This fiber is going to be prone to fiber breakage due to repeated stress and length of time the fiber is on the animal.
6.  Be cautious of first year fleeces.  Again, breakage due to stress of weaning can make the fleece problematic for doll hair.
7.  Buy from an experienced fleece handler who knows the doll hair market.  Many suri farms will offer their fleeces for sale in this market, but only a few will really understand the characteristics needed to make good doll hair!
 2012_634733645411868000
Thank you to Liz Vahlcamp and my doll maker friends for helping me with this post!

Other related posts:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Coming soon:

Washing Alpaca Fiber
Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

 Suri Alpaca Fiber has become quite popular for use by doll makers that use it as doll hair.  See Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair.  Pictured are below are dolls made by some of our my favorite doll makers with suri fiber from our very own alpacas.

 

Katty Van De Sype

Katty Van De Sype

Blythe Doll by Sofie Bell

Sofie Bell

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Blythe Doll by Ingrid Gilbert by

Ingrid Gilbert

Blythe Doll by Chris Hegarty at Blythe Kouklas

Chris Hegarty

Zeina by Belén de la Morena

Belén de la Morena

Blythe Doll by Sofie Bell

Sofie Bell

Blythe Doll by Morgon Orton

Morgon Orton

Blythe Doll by Justine Hewett

Justine Hewett

Blythe Doll by Sharon Avital

Sharon Avital

Blythe Reroot by Cindy Sowers

Cindy Sowers

Blythe Doll by Ingrid Gilbert at Sweet Days Dolls

Ingrid Gilbert

Blythe Doll by Cindy Sowers

Cindy Sowers

Blythe Doll by Sofie Bell

Sofie Bell

Blythe Doll by Sophie Bell

Sophie Bell

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Blythe Doll by Sophie Bell

Sophie Bell

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Blythe Doll by Belén de la Morena

Belén de la Morena

Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Cindy Sowers

Natalia

Natalia

Sandra Lócre

FAVORITE DOLL MAKERS

Cindy Sowers of Burlington, VT
Chris Hegarty of Blythe Kouklas, in Melbourne, Australia
Ingrid Gilberty of Sweet Days Dolls, in Ngaruawahia, Waikato, New Zealand
Sharon Avital of Sharon Avital Dolls, in Ramat Gan, Israel
Belén de la Morena of DCBE Handmade in Valladolid, Spain
Katty Van De Sype of Earthstone Girls Europe in Alost, Belgium
Sandra Lócre of Little Cosmos Dolls in Barcelona, Spain

 

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Separating Suri Fiber into Locks

Coming soon –  Washing and Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

I gets lots of orders for Suri Fiber from doll makers all over the world, that use this natural fiber as doll hair.  This doll’s name is Zeina and her reroot was done by Belén de la Morena at DCBE Handmade in Valladolid, Spain.

Zeina by DCBE Handmade

Not being a doll maker myself, I had to do some research. What I found was a whole new world (that I knew nothing about) and some terminology I had never heard of like BlytheBJD, and Sad Eyed Susies for starters, all plastic dollies that are being remade, redressed, and having their hair rerooted!

Blythe Doll - Alpaca Reroot by Cindy Sowers

This is an alpaca reroot on a doll done by Cindy Sowers of Burlington, Vermont, using Suri Fiber from one of our alpacas.

Zuma's Fiber

Natural fibers are being used for doll hair to give a unique, more realistic look. There are approximately 22 recognized natural colors of alpacas with many variations and blends.  Light colors can by dyed as seen above, so there are many, many options when it comes to color.

Suri Alpaca Fiber - True Black

 Suri Alpacas have silky and lustrous, penciled fiber that grows in “dreadlocks” which lends itself nicely for use as doll hair.  There are a variety of locks and fiber styles that Suri offers, which gives doll makers variety in hairstyles for their unique, one-of-a-kind dolls.

Lock Styles

  The five lock styles currently recognized by suri breeders are tight ringlet, flat twisted, curl, pearl, and straight.

Miski

Alpaca is a natural fiber and so it can be styled using a blow dryer, flat iron, or curler, and moderate amounts of heat.  Other styles are created with curlers or braiding.

Sam

Alpaca is a great substitution for Mohair since it is finer, easier to handle and is not greasy.

Suri Alpaca Fiber, 6.5"', Medium Fawn, 2 Ounces, Simeon

Doll artist Morgan Orton says this about alpaca versus mohair, “I love the look of both, but Alpaca is my favorite. It’s fun to work with and creates a really unique look!  I love how clean the lines are, every strand adds to the effect. It’s naturally straight but has a kind of piecey, almost edgy look to it if left alone.  Both mohair and alpaca can be styled different ways though, since they’re natural fibers they can be heat styled, which is a lot of fun!  Alpaca hair can be styled curly or wavy a few different ways, whether with heat, rollers, or braiding. You can also break up the stringy look of Alpaca hair by brushing it with a boar bristle brush which gives it a really floaty fluffy cotton candy look. The boars bristle because it’s made from natural fibers like the Alpaca and will distribute the hairs oils and boost shine. Alpaca hair can get sort of stringy looking, which is a pretty cool look and part of its appeal, but using a bristle brush will help to break it up and smooth it out a little. You can also style your Alpaca hair wavy/curly by “scrunching” it when wet after combing it out, a tiny bit of mousse or other similar hair product can help with this.”

Alpaca Reroot by Morgan Orton

Alpaca Rerooted Blythes is a Flickr group with thousands of pictures of dolls that have alpaca for hair!

I  have been amazed at the orders I get for Suri Fiber from doll artists all over the world!  It has been fun to see orders come from the east coast to the west in the United States.  As I scroll down through my sales list, I also see orders from Italy, Australia, Spain, Frances, United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil, Switzerland, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark and Thailand.

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Separating Suri Fiber into Locks

Be sure to see pictures of dolls using Suri Fiber created by our customers in our Doll Makers – Customer Gallery!

Also coming soon – Washing and Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Doll wigs are made from a variety of different fibers, from natural to synthetic.  Jessica Hamilton shares some very helpful information in her post called What is Doll Hair Made Of?, part of a series on Doll Wigging and Hair.

How to Make an Alpaca Fiber Wreath

I try to find a use for every grade of alpaca fiber, even short fiber or more robust fiber from older alpacas.   Alpaca Fiber Wreaths are my latest idea.  Find out how!

Peacock

Recently I had a special order for one of these wreaths and the customer wanted “peacock colors”.

Click to Purchase Alpaca Fiber

I started by gathering together small amounts of my previously dyed fiber, in colors that I thought resembled a peacock.

Grapevine Wreath

I used both huacaya and suri fiber.  The huacaya was a good filler, as well as added color.  The suri added color in wisps and curls.

Dipping Fiber in Glue

Using glue in a shallow plastic dish, I dipped small bunches of fiber into the glue.

IMG_2404

With a nail punch (any pokey thing would work, a pencil for instance), I poked the fiber down into the grapevine wreath.  Very easy to make!

Suri Fiber Wreath

 Voila’, the finished project!

The Niddy Noddy

As I learned about fiber and fiber art, I was introduced to some very interesting terms, one of them being niddy noddy.
What in the world?

Click to Purchase Niddy Noddy
Niddy Noddy

 

According to Wikipedia, a niddy-noddy (plural niddy-noddies) is a tool used to make skeins from yarn. It consists of a central bar, with crossbars at each end, offset from each other by 90°.  The central bar is generally carved to make it easier to hold.  Either one of the crossbars will have a flat edge to allow the skein to slide off, or will be completely removable.  Niddy-noddies can be constructed of many different materials including wood, metal, and plastic.  Wood is traditional, and most quality niddy-noddies are still made of wood.  Budget spinners
occasionally use niddy-noddies made from PVC pipes.

PVC Kniddy Knoddy

Want to make your own?  Robyn Wade, editor of The Lost Pages blog  has provided instructions.

Manufactured niddy-noddies can be made of different sizes, producing skeins from 12 inches in length to 4 feet in length. The most common size, however, produces a two yard skein.  Very small niddy-noddies are generally used for small samples. Many spinners will spin a sample length of yarn, ply it, and skein it using a niddy-noddy before washing. Then the spinner can see if the yarn is as desired or not.

Niddy Noddy

By counting the number of wraps for the skein, and measuring the length of one wrap, the approximate yardage can be calculated. The yardage is approximate because an exact yardage requires an even tension throughout wrapping the whole skein. Also, a very large skein requires wrapping the new layers on top of the old, which increases the length of the top layers.

A niddy-noddy, though apparently one with the crossbars parallel, is held by Christ in Leonardo da Vinci‘s Madonna of the Yarnwinder in Edinburgh.

Generally yarn is skeined directly after spinning or plying. This is because after spinningor plying the yarn generally gets washed, and a skein is the best form to have the yarn in for washing.  Although balls are easier for knitters and crocheters to use because they don’t get tangled as easily, yarn is sometimes taken from a ball and reskeined in order to measure the yardage of leftover yarn, store it without tension, or to wash out kinks if the yard was unraveled.

When skeining from wheel spun yarn, the bobbin can either be removed from the wheel and placed on a lazy kate, or skeined directly from the wheel. If the bobbin is left on the wheel the tension on the drive band must be lessened in order to allow the bobbin to turn freely. Yarn spun on spindles can either be left on the spindle, or slipped onto a dowel for plying. The spindle or dowel is either placed in a lazy kate, or even a bowl to keep the spindle in one place while winding off the yarn.

One end of the yarn is wound around the center piece and held firmly in place, while the rest of it is wrapped. The yarn is then taken over the left end of the top crossbar, down and under the right side of the lower crossbar, up and over the other end of the top crossbar, and then down and under the other end of the lower crossbar before returning to the starting point to complete one wrap. While rather awkward at first, one quickly picks up the rhythm.

This process continues until the whole skein is wound. The time to skein yarn on a niddy-noddy depends on the yardage, and thus how many wraps need to be made. A larger niddy-noddy can speed up the skeining, but a very large one can be bulky, and thus slow down the time to do one wrap. At this point, the skein is secured by loose figure eight knots between each crossbar. This can be done with scrap yarn, or with small pieces of yarn from the end of the skein. In either case, loosely securing each end with a slip knot
makes it easier to find the ends in the finished skein. Generally 4 or more knots are tied.

Once the yarn has been skeined, it can be dyed or washed to set the twist. Weavers often dry their yarn under tension with a weight at the bottom of the loop, to stretch it out and remove some of the elasticity.

Traditionally the niddy-noddy was used to the rhythm of a song, the opening line of which ran,

“Niddy-noddy, niddy-noddy, two heads and one body.”

The closest tools similar to a niddy-noddy are the swift, and the spinners weasel.  I use a skein winder which works well for me!

Skein Winder

Hand Painted Suri Locks Featured

I woke up this morning with a message that I had been featured in a Treasury … woo hoo … what a great start to this day!  I read further and discovered that this is Maegan Burkhart’s very first Treasury … I love the soft, subtle, combination of colors that she has chosen!

Smokey Mauvalicious

Maegan, her husband, and two children are new in the alpaca business.  Maegan has dug her heels in and gotten involved in many different aspects of the industry, including volunteering at alpaca shows which is a great way to gather information and learn some good stuff!  She has an Etsy shop and is doing some beautiful things with alpaca fiber – be sure to check out her shop that she calls
Little Patch Alpacas
.

The item that was featured is my Hand Painted Suri Locks.

Suri is a high end, luxury fiber prized for its combination of luster, fineness, slick handle, cool feeling, drape, elegance, and strength.  It is a treat to spin!  It is lovely spun thin for lacy items such as scarves and shawls, is often used for weaving into luxurious fabric, and can even be spun directly from the locks for a very textured art yarn…

The locks can be used for embellishing felting projects, be sure to put a thin layer of huacaya or wool over it to lock it in place, more on that later.  They also make wonderful doll hair … natural or hand painted.

I would love to experiment making fiber art dolls and am inspired by these books – a project for another day!

Plying With Beads

  Although stringing the beads was a bit challenging, and manipulating my single fiber strand without getting it tangled in the strung beads during the playing process could have made me crazy, I was very pleased with the end results!

 These are the hand-dyed Suri Locks that I started with. 

 I spun carelessly from uncarded locks not worrying about any kind of uniformity.  I felt like a kid going out to recess, playtime!

 Once I got a rhythm going and coordinated pushing a bead forward when  I was ready for one, the plying flowed smoothly.

Louet Spinning Wheels

I used my Louet Spinning Wheel, versus my little electric spinner, because I needed to stop and start frequently.  My Louet gave me the control I needed without having to turn it off and on.

 I named it, as I do all my yarns, “Pretty As A Princess”.

Stefanie Berganini has written some good instructions on spinning this kind of artyarn- click Plying With Beads

on the Spin-Off Magazine website.

This looks like a book I ought to have!



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