There are several ways fiber can be graded. Professional graders use one of the methods shown below.
Since most alpaca owners are not professional graders, we can sort our fleeces by color, length and how it feels to us in terms of fineness. Is the fiber next to skin soft? How does it feel? What do we think will be the best use for each particular fleece?
I personally like to batch fleeces per animal so I know who the fiber comes from when I create products. I will separate their prime and seconds and utilize them separately. Sometimes I will collect two years worth of one alpaca to create a product. I have sent my fiber to get them tested, so I usually have an idea about the fineness of each alpaca.
A few interesting things to note. Each year, the fleece can get coarser although this can depend on the alpaca. If you have a pregnant female, her fleece quality may not be as good as if she weren’t pregnant due to the nutrition going mostly to the baby. On average, the lighter colored Suris have a lower micron count due to more intensive breeding to improve fineness. For each color class darker, the average micron is generally higher…but there have been many great breeding programs that have put their focus on improving the fiber quality of the darker alpacas.
You can learn more about your fleeces by testing them, sending them to fleece shows, and working with a professional grader/sorter. But most of all, enjoy experimenting with your Suri alpaca fleeces!
The grading system is great to have for our reference and all fiber can be used in one way or another.
- Royal Baby (<20)
- Baby (20-22.9)
- Superfine (23-26.9)
- Adult (27-31.9)
- Strong (>32)
- Ultra fine (< 20)
- Super fine (20-22.9)
- Fine (23-25.9)
- Medium (26-28.9)
- Intermediate (29-31.9)
- Coarse (>32) (also called “Robust.”)
The combination of using numerical grading as well as descriptive is below 🙂 Example #3
- Grade 1, Ultra fine (<20 ) (next to skin)
- Grade 2, Superfine (20-22.9) (next to skin)
- Grade 3, Fine (23-25.9) (most versatile)
- Grade 4, Medium (26-28.9) (outwear, socks, blankets)
- Grade 5, Intermediate (29-31.9) (outerwear, blankets)
- Grade 6, Robust (>32) (rugs, stuffing)