Washing and Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Doll makers from all over the world have purchased Suri Alpaca Fiber from us, and frequently I get asked how to wash and comb the fiber.

Blythe Doll with Suri Fiber Doll Hair

Though I have washed lots and lots of alpaca fiber, I wanted to asked the experts what the best way might be to process it for doll hair.

Blythe Doll with Suri Fiber

 Doll artist, Sofie Bell from Ramsgate, England rerooted this Blythe Doll from some white Suri Fiber from one of our alpacas.  According to Sofie, “Two ounces (60 grams) of processed suri will give a nice thick Blythe reroot.  If combing yourself, there will be waste so ordering more than you think you need is a good idea.”

Suri Alpaca Fiber

Sophie has been kind enough to share the preparation routine that she follows :

1) Weigh the fiber before starting a reroot to make sure you will have enough for a full job.  A LOT of alpaca is lost during processing.    This is especially important if dyeing the alpaca a custom color.

2) Gently separate the locks of any large clumps of fiber.  Pick out any vegetable matter.

3) Gently wash the alpaca in warm water, using either a small squirt of dish detergent (fairy liquid etc) or a gentle baby shampoo. Keep the water temperature at a constant, never too hot or too cold, as any temperature changes can cause the hair to mat and knot together. Rinse well in fresh warm water taking care not to wring out the hair.  A gentle squeeze is enough to remove excess water.

4) Roll fiber in a towel to absorb the excess moisture.

5) Carefully separate the washed alpaca into more manageable strands and lay flat on a clean towel in a warm place.  Allow to dry naturally (usually overnight or much quicker in the sun on a nice day).  This makes the fiber much easier to handle once its dry.

6) Carefully brush out the alpaca.  A dog grooming brush, the kind with small thin metal prongs works best.  Always comb gently in the natural direction of the alpaca while holding one end.

7) Make small bundles of the processed alpaca and tie them with a rubber band.  This just helps keep everything a little tidier.

8) After rerooting, give the hair a final wash and condition, and a spritz of fragrance if desired!

Sharon Avital Dolls

The doll pictured above was done by Sharon Avital, a doll maker from Ramat Gan, Israel. Sharon’s tip for working with suri alpaca is “I separate the locks and them wash them in small batches.  It’s much easier to comb and not too much fiber is lost this way. The same with dye.”

Lilibeth by Cindy Sowers

Lilibeth, pictured above, is done by doll artist, Cindy Sowers from Burlington, Vermont with some of our fiber that she dyed.  Cindy says this about dyeing Suri Fiber, “I think alpaca is quite fragile, so anything you can do to use less processing is best. Condition (human hair conditioner) before and after  dyeing, comb gently like you would a baby’s hair. I haven’t tried cool water dyes. They would probably be better – however, with dolls, some of the plastics and vinyl soak up dye if it isn’t cured really well, so it might be sort of an experiment rather than a fact that it would work well. Probably the same things you do to dye hair for weaving or felting, just being more gentle because you want to maintain the length.”

How I process my hair….so it gets to you with no waste on your end. I soak it several different times in a detergent until the water comes clean, (After all they’re farm animals whose favorite pastime is rolling in the dirt) then I shampoo it and put a very high quality conditioner on it and rinse it completely out. I always keep the cut ends together so when you root it lays like natural hair does. I air-dry the bundles and then I comb until my very fine tooth metal comb goes thru it completely without any resistance. I bundle it in small amounts and wrap it in tissue so it arrives to you ready to use and tangle free. I asked a doll maker friend who told me she uses conditioner on the fiber (Pantene or something similar). She uses John Frieda Frizz-Ease styling spray on damp hair. She uses a heat wand for straightening human hair, and a regular human curling wand for curling.

Be sure to read Jo Moxie’s post on How to Wash Suri Alpaca and Mohair.  She has updated her post and has found with the alpaca fiber, that she  NEVER brushes it until it is already knotted and loop/locked into the dollies scalps.

Cleaning Suri Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs

I’ve been going to write a post for quite some time, maybe even do a video, on cleaning suri alpaca fiber for doll wigs.  This morning I ran across the following video on that very topic, and it is using some of our own suri fiber!  To be more specific, it is white fiber from an alpaca named Miss Miami.  Credit goes to Beth Alvarez, whose YouTube channel is Lomi’s Playground.  If you do a search for “alpaca” on her channel, you can see all the videos Beth has made on using alpaca for doll wigs.

In each of our pastures, there is a bare spot where our alpacas like to roll.  It must really feel good, but they do get very dusty.  The suri fiber we sell gets tumbled which helps get out much of the dust, then rinsed multiple times.  As you can see in the video, there still is some muddy water when washing it again.  Each step of the processing is a step towards cleaner fiber.

miss miami suri alpaca

This is our sweet Miss Miami, though we have sold her and she no longer lives on our farm. We were visiting our son in college at Miami University, when Miss Miami was born, hence the reason for her name!

suri alpaca fiber miss miami

And this is her beautiful fiber!

Be sure to check out our Suri Fiber, both in raw form and separated into locks for you.  Visit Lomi’s Playground to see more videos by Beth on using Suri Fiber for doll wigs!

 

Be sure to see:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
How to Make a Suri Alpaca Doll Wig
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

 

 

 

How to Make a Suri Alpaca Doll Wig

Lara Nance, doll customizer, author, (and frequent customer of doll hair from Alpaca Meadows), has a YouTube channel called Artistic Adventures.  She has done videos on many aspects of doll customizing, and most recently put together a video on Processing Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs.  It seems there are various techniques for making doll wigs.  Lara makes a wig cap out of T-shirt material and glue that is molded to fit the doll’s head, as shown in the following video.  This is much easier and less time consuming than another doll wig technique called rerooting.

This video focuses on how to prepare Suri Alpaca Fiber for doll wig making.

In this video, Lara completes the wig by sewing the glued alpaca wefts to the wig cap with needle and thread for a beautiful finished wig with bangs and a center part.

How to Make a Suri Alpaca Weft for Doll Hair is a mini-tutorial by Fabiola at Fig and Me.  The method she illustrates involves sewing suri fiber onto yarn with a sewing machine, then sewing it onto a crocheted cap.  For a tutorial on how to sew weft to a crochet cap, see this video by Gabi Moench-Ford or this tutorial on her blog called Fairywool Dolls.

Be sure to see:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Cleaning Suri Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Shop for Suri Fiber and Suri Locks at Alpaca Meadows!

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 fiber                             

 

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
Cleaning Suri Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Coming soon: 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
Cleaning Suri Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs

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

Also coming soon – 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.



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