Understanding Cost to Sell Alpaca Fiber at a Profit

AlpacasWhether you’re thinking starting an alpaca farm or are a seasoned rancher the question is always the same.  What do you do with all that fleece?!  I’m surprised to find that many folks shear it, bag it, and store it without doing anything at all.  (FYI Fiber does have a shelf life).

Since many folks frown upon eating alpacas the only ways to cover your cost of ownership of these animals is to sell fiber, products or breeding stock.  Yes, you CAN make your alpacas pay for themselves with fleece sales but only if you manage your farm properly.

Alpaca ownership is first and foremost a business. As with any business you have to realize what your costs are and work on lowing them to realize a profit.  Here are the key factors:

  1. Location: Alpacas eat grass which for the most part is free! That is unless you live in an arid climate then you have to spend $$$ on hay.  Money spent on hay is money out of our pocket.  My alpacas are grass fed 6-8 months out of the year. Yippy, FREE food!
  2. Feed: There’s no substitute for good pasture management.  A good pasture with quality forage is everything that an alpaca needs to thrive.  I do not grain my alpacas unless I have a pregnant dam that is skinny and needs help maintaining weight.  For 6-8 months out of a year I am able to “feed free” so to speak on quality pasture alone.
  3. Supplements: Since the pasture is supplying all of the feed it is important to know what vitamins and minerals you may be lacking.  Soil samples will help you decide what to supplement. We are low in selenium in my neck of the woods and I’ve opted to offer free choice Dumor Sheep Mineral to all of our alpacas since it contains the minerals I need at a very affordable cost.
  4. Water: Offering quality fresh clean water to drink is another key.  Keep your animals hydrated especially in the winter.  Heated buckets in winter are a MUST.  Hay is dry and alpacas need water to help the digestion process. Alpacas will not drink enough water if it is frozen or ice cold. The cost of running a heated bucket is minimal to what a vet visit will cost you should they colic or become anemic.
  5. Worming ,Vaccinations, General Health: You can save $ by giving shots yourself but in some states (like NY) only a veterinarian can give rabies shots.  Also learn how to clip toenails, trim teeth, run fecals, do blood draws, etc yourself. The more you empower yourself the less you pay your vet.
  6. Shearing: Finally, what does it cost you to get the fiber OFF the alpaca?

Calculating Cost per Pound and Ounce:

Most of us will sell fleece by the ounce or by the pound so when you’re figuring your costs you want to know what your costs are in terms of costs per ounce or costs per pound of fleece.  I narrow this down to what it costs to care for 1 alpaca per year.  That way when I weigh out the usable fleece I know what that alpaca costs me in terms of fleece weight!

Here are my 2010 and 2011 calculations for yearly cost per alpaca.  Last year I had a herd of 9 this year I’ll be up to 16.  In most cases the cost of care per head goes down with more animals you own.

2011 Projections (2010 in RED)

6 months Grass: $0
6 months Hay: $17.5 ($33)
Grain: $7.5 (same)
Minerals: $1.25 ($2.5)
Syringes: $2.5 ($3)
Wormer: $6.5 ($10)
Rabies: $2.25 ($21)
Heated Water: $1.25 ($2.20)
Summer Fans: $1.25 ($2.20)
Shearing: $5 ($30)
Teeth: $0.25 ($10)
Misc Vet: $10 (same)
———————————-
Total: $55.25 ($123.90)***

***This is the cost to care for 1 alpaca on our farm per year.  This does NOT include other factors of running a business like property tax, gas, hardware, equipment, travel, etc.  I include those factors in my Mark Up % when pricing products since I retail more than just alpaca fiber. Read More About Pricing Products Here

So what does 1 ounce or pound of fiber cost you?  Co-ops, commercial mills, and other companies that purchase your fiber will only want the best quality.  Outside of breeding for better fiber it is very important to handle it properly after shearing to maximize your yield.  Skirt the fleece removing all large vegetable mater, discolorations and guard hair.  Then bounce on table or tumble to remove small debris and dirt.  Dry your fleece in an open bag next to a dehumidifier for 24hrs before weighing.

This clean dry weight is your prime sellable fleece.  I’ll typically get 3 to 6 pounds of high quality fiber per alpaca.  For the purpose of this exercise let’s use the average of 4.5lbs. For comparison the average sheep will produce 7.5lbs of fiber but 40-50% of that weight is grease.

Prime Raw Fiber

4.5lbs = $55.25 ($123.90)
4.5lbs = 72 oz
Cost per oz = $0.77 ($1.72)
Cost per lb = $12.28 ($27.53)

As you can see small changes in your heard management practices can make a big difference in your bottom line. Here are the changes we are making to lower our costs from 2010 to 2011

6 months Hay: Moving from feeding small square bales to large rounds
Rabies: vaccinating whole herd vs only those that are traveling (required by NYS)
Shearing: Cost of me shearing vs hired shearer
Teeth: Cost of me trimming teeth vs hired shearer

Processing and Selling Your Fiber

Most people do not buy fiber from you in the “raw” state but are more apt to purchase fiber as roving or yarn so let us also look at those costs (less shipping).

Cost/lb at a NY mill (total with costs added from above)

Roving/Bat = $12.50 ($24.78 $40.03)
Pin Drafted = $15.50 ($27.78 $43.03)
Yarn = $26.75 ($39.03 $54.28)

Cost/oz at a NY Mill (total with costs added from above)

Roving/Bat = $0.78 ($1.55 $2.50)
Pin Drafted = $0.97 ($1.74 $2.68)
Yarn = $1.67 ($2.44 $3.39)

Fiber Pools and Co-ops

Another outlet for your fiber is to send it off to fiber pools or co-ops.  At these places your fiber is combined with those of other farms into large commercial runs for products like socks, hats, yarn, blankets etc. These pools and co-ops willthen allow you to purchase product back at or below processing costs and in some cases will pay dividends back to their member in profitable years.  Examples: NEAFP and AFCNA

Alpaca Blanket Project

This company started a few short years ago and has grown considerably.  They are now able to offer up to $5 per pound for your raw fleece.  Members can also purchase blankets back at a discounted rate.

Selling to Mills Directly

Many small cottage mills will purchase alpaca fiber directly but at a price/lb.

Large production commercial mills have also started purchasing alpaca fiber from North American ranchers but only beige or white fleeces.  I know alpacas come in 22 different colors but it is the light colored animals that will be called for in commercial production.  If you don’t believe me visit the herds in Peru some time…. All beige and white.

Scrap Fiber

All the calculations above are based on “commercial” prime quality fiber; fiber that you can sell to mills and manufacturers directly. However, a typical alpaca will yield 9-14 pounds of fiber over all so what to do with all the other fiber?  I consider sales of this fiber to be a bonus and there are MANY outlets for it, here are some of the things I do with my neck, leg, and belly fibers.

Rugs and Rug Yarn – Mills are now offering rug weaving and rug yarns.  Mix up a bag of skirted scraps (2” or longer) for a colorful rug yarn that can be woven, crochet or knit into soft bath mats or have the mill make the rugs for you.

Felt – Purses, bags, hats, coasters, rugs, pillows, dog beds, comforters, artwork and more.  Wet felting fabric yourself or having the mill do it for you can open up a whole new world of possibilities.  Be creative!

Stuffing – We all have the “garbage” bag where all the shorts and swept up scraps go to die. This too can be used.  Fill up suet feeders or chicken wire cage with fiber scraps as a nesting feeder for spring birds.  Wash and dry scraps to remove smell and use these unsavory pieces to stuff dog toys.  My dogs go NUTS for alpaca stuffed toys.

Conclusion:

As the inflated price of alpacas comes down to sustainable levels the majority of alpaca farms will soon be looking to cut costs and breed for fiber profitability.  With hard work, conservative planning, artistic ability, marketing and salesmanship; the cottage and commercial future of alpaca fiber will thrive.

Fiber Arts Friday - How To Weave On A Peg Loom

Peg Loom Scarf
Hello Fiber Arts Friday, Crafty Friday fans and DIY Craft Linky!

As promised here is the tutorial on how to make and use a peg loom! (video at end of post)

Peg loom or peglooms are a popular fiber art in the UK but I could not find any information readily available in my internet searches on how to make or use this easy tool here in the states.  So, I figured I’d make my own.

The concept of a peg loom is very simple; it’s just a board, with holes drilled in it with pegs put in those holes.  Here’s the materials list I used to make my loom.

-       2×4 board (at least 3ft long if you plan on making rugs)
-       (4) 7/16 dowel
-       Measuring tape and pencil
-       Hand saw
-       Cordless drill
-       1/2 inch drill bit and a small bit just large enough for yarn to be thread through it 
-       Weaving material – bulky yarn, roving, fabric strips or even raw fiber

Cut your dowels down into 6” pieces (should get 36 out of 4 dowels)

On your 2×4 mark a spot in the center of the board every 1 inch, this is where you will drill holes (36 holes in all).  If you’re using a different sized dowel the rule of thumb is do double the diameter of your down to get the measurement to mark for drilling. 

Next start drilling where you marked.  Test your depth on the first hole by drilling down a bit and then putting the dowel in so it wants to stay in the hole.  Usually ½ – ¾ depth.

Next put all your dowels in the drilled holes and mark with your pencil where the dowel and the board meat.  Remove the each dowel and with a small drill bit drill a tiny hole about ¼ inch above the marked line.

Your Done!

Warping your Peg Loom

First determine the width you project will be.  For the scarf in the video I’m using only 3 pegs.  If you’re making a rag rug or a wool rug this loom can make up to a 3 foot wide rug!

Next choose your warp material.  Your warp will not show in your finished project unless you want to use it as fringe at the ends.  Your warp threads will need to be double the length of your finished product plus a little extra for fringe or to be used to tuck in.

Thread each peg with your warp and place the peg in its hole.

Weaving material can be anything from raw fleece locks, roving, rag stripes or even chunky yarns. (I’ll do a tutorial on using raw fiber at a later time when I get more fluff off my alpacas)

Weaving on your Peg Loom

To start off make a slip knot and place it over the first peg.  Weave in and out of all the pegs, when you get to the end come around the last peg and weave in and out the way back. Continue until your pegs are full.

When pegs are full pick up each peg and push down the weave onto the strings and replace the peg, repeat with the remaining pegs.  

Wash, rinse, repeat, LOL.  Yup that’s it keep on going it’s that easy.

When you get to the end tie off your last bit to the end peg.

Warp strings should now be knotted.  Tie the first (3) strings together on each end and then every (2) strings in the middle.  This will prevent your work from falling off the end.   Do the same on your finished end.

You can choose to leave your knotted warp strings as fringe or you can sew them up into your project.

Here’s the video of the peg loom scarf from start to finish.  Don’t worry I go hyper fast 12x through most of it so my 1/2 hour scarf fits in this video.

Fiber Arts Friday - Picture Frame Looms

Welcome Back Fiber Arts Friday and Crafty Friday Folks

Sticking with my theme from last week I’ve been researching homemade looms and decided to try one of them out.  I picked a simple picture frame loom to start with and though the loom is simple apparently the technique for use is not.

Picture Frame Loom Attempt 1:

I found an old frame in my basement, knocked out the glass and said goodbye to the ugly hotel art that was in there and got to work.  The warp is VERY simple.  Take your string/yarn and wrap the loom on the longest side.  Wrap as wide as you want your end project to be and space the yarn about ¼” apart, keep tension taught and even.

Weave your fiber of choice over under all the strands.  Because there’s a space in your warp thanks to the thickness of the frame one direction of weaving is very fast and the other direction is slow going having to go over/under on the way back.

Here’s my work thus far… FAIL.  As you can see I started to cinch the ends too tightly and the bottom of my project is wider than the top. ERRR

Picture Frame Loom

Picture Frame Loom

Picture Frame Loom Attempt 2:

Ok, so I totally ripped apart my project and started again.  This time I decided to try using some dowels to speed the process up.  1 Dowel is fed through the center of the warp to keep it open.  The 2nd Dowel I put on the bottom and used loops of yarn to attach each top strand to the dowel.  That way when I pulled on the dowel all the attached strands would move with it causing a nice little shed row without me having to weave over/under.

Here’s my new attempt.  Still a fail in my mind but I’ve gotten better with leaving slack at the edges so they don’t taper in.  I was using a fork to pack my rows and apparently I didn’t do that great of a job because they are very loose.  Oh well, I’m still learning.

Picture Frame Loom

Top Secret Loom Project.

Ok my last loom experiment used a new loom entirely but alas I didn’t have time to document it so I’ll have to leave you wondering how I made this until another post.  I’ll give you a hint though… this type of loom is often used to weave raw wool locks.  For my mini test project in this photo I chose to use some pin drafted roving (available in our shop of course).  I can’t wait to attempt a full scale project on this loom.  I’m going to see if I can use raw alpaca, I’m not sure how well it’ll hold together since alpaca doesn’t have the memory or desire to felt quickly like wool.   Don’t worry, I plan to document the dickens out of this method since it is rarely used.

Weaving with Roving

Last day to enter the Alpaca Sock Giveaway – Drawing is tomorrow 11/13/10

Fiber Arts Friday - Roving Yarn and Hats Oh My!

Hello Fiber Arts Friday and Crafty Friday folks!

What a wonderful week of fiber surprises.  When you send your shearing clip off to the mill often it seems like you’re sending it into oblivion.  Initially you talk to the mill, making sure they know exactly what you want and then you wait.  Depending on the backlog the mill may have you could be waiting 4 weeks or 4-6 months. 

After 5 weeks I came home to find a box on the porch.  I assumed it was my alpaca sock order and brought it in and set it to the side to “deal” with it in the morning.  (Inventory is not my favorite thing in the world)  Come morning I opened up the box and what a great surprise!  13 glorious pounds of alpaca/merino pin drafted roving greeted me though a clear plastic bag.  Yippy!  I have plenty of roving to spin, dye, and sell.  

Immediately I took a small 6oz bump and started to spin to get a feel for the roving.  Well I kept spinning morning and that night and plied it up.  Remembering my Wonder Roving that I spun up during the Tour de Fleece I decided to tackle a hat.  I haven’t finished it yet but here’s how far I got. 

I should have the roving up for sale in our Shop this afternoon as well as our new shippment of socks!

AlpacaMerinoRoving

AlpacaMerinoYarn

AlpacaHat

Fiber Arts Friday - Alpaca Fur Blanket

Hello Fiber Arts Friday followers!

A while back I told you about the unfortunate passing of my alpaca Miracle.  We ended up processing her hide and sent it off to be tanned and made into a lap robe.  Well the good news is our Miracle Blanket is finished!  I picked it up from Sivko Furs, Inc on Sunday and have had a full week to enjoy it.

Sivko Furs did an awesome job!  I’m thrilled with the outcome.  The fur is held tightly to the hide and has been brushed clean and is so soft.  Their seamstress did a beautiful job sewing on a soft beige color fleece.  She managed to hide the seam for the majority of the blanket and only a small area at the neck shows her stitching where she had to turn the blanket inside out.

Per my asking she trimmed some of the neck off  A) so we didn’t have a seam in the fleece backing and B) so I had a piece of fur hide to keep and play with for my own projects.  They also included all the other little scraps of hide they trimmed off while making the finished blanket.  Maybe in future FAF posts I’ll show you what I plan on doing with them all.

The look and feel of this blanket really made me think of the old carriage lap robes used to stay warm with on cold winter nights.  Actually the authenticity of such a lap robe isn’t too farfetched.  Did you know in the late 1800’s alpaca was more popular in the US than sheep’s wool?  Unfortunately it was a short lived industry since the quantity needed to keep up with demand wasn’t there and sheep ended up taking over as a preferred fiber.  Check out my post on Alpaca, Fiber of the Presidents for more info.

If any of you who end up in the same situation as I did be sure to read my post on preserving your alpaca hide and I highly recommend the kind folks at Sivko Furs who had a great turnaround time and a very fair price for processing our Miracle.

 

Alpaca Death - Preserve an alpaca hide into a fur

Warning: If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or think that the killing of Bambi’s mom was cruel you do not want to read this post.

The beautiful alpaca in the photo above is named Miracle.  She was a sterile female and a huge one at that.  Unfortunately a combination of her age and mammoth size lead to the failure of her knee.  I had the awful decision to make to euthanize her and end her suffering since repairing the damage wasn’t possible. Since this was not an expected event I was left scrambling around trying to figure out what to do with her and I didn’t want other alpaca ranchers to be in my same shoes. So, I’m writing this post so others can set up their “disaster plan” and so they have the names, numbers, materials, and talent handy should themselves in the same predicament.

What to do with the body?

Veterinary Research:
Call your vet, local college or veterinary college and see if they would be interested in the body for research purposes.  In my case Cornell is out of research monies and didn’t want her.

Burial:
There’s always the popular burial either on your property or at a pet cemetery.  If you are going to bury on your property just be conscious of your well water and how a decomposing body might affect it.  If you do not own a backhoe you’ll want to have the name/number of someone who can come to you or of a local pet cemetary.  You laugh but I actually have a horse buried at a pet cemetary because it was the middle of the winter and we did not own a backhoe or have the ability to dig through frozen ground.

Cremation:
Many pet cemeteries and vet colleges offer cremation services.

***********************
Ok this is the last time I’m going to tell you to stop reading if you’re “sensitive” in nature.  The truth is alpaca ranching is a business.  You paid good $ for this animal either out right or through breeding and now it’s gone.  The idea of just digging a hole in the pasture and throwing it away is pretty hard to swallow if you’re like me.  There are ways you can capitalize on the death of your alpaca.

Meat:
Because your alpaca is now full of tranquilizers, anti-inflammatory meds and carcinogens for treatment and for the vet to put them down, the ability to render them for food is out of the question.  I know the thought of eating your alpaca is probably not too appetizing to some but if you’re like me it probably crossed your mind.  I can’t help it, I’m a carnivore and I love meat and yes, she looked tasty to me and my husband.  I’ll probably get hate mail but the truth is if she died of natural causes she’d be in our freezer.

Fur:
Yes fur.  Most of us sell those cute cuddly Alpaca teddy bears, fur lined gloves, hand warmers, hats, rugs and more but did you really stop and think where they come from?   They all came from the untimely death of alpacas in Peru.  The people in Peru realized that the death of an animal can also be capitalized on and so should we.  The process is a little gross to many but here are the steps you need to follow to preserve the hide so it can be processed into a fur.

  • Skinning – Make sure you have the name and number handy of someone who can skin the alpaca for you.  In my case the local butcher was willing to skin her for $30 with salt or $20 without.  To make the process easy on the butcher and for best results, this step should be done just after death while the body is still warm and before the skin cools and tightens.  Make sure you or your butcher removes the tail bone and splits open the tail’s tube.
  • Scraping– Your butcher may or may not do this step. In my case this is where I took over.   Scraping is where you need to remove access fat and meat from the hide.  The tools are simple, nitrile gloves and a very sharp knife with sharpening stone.
    • Grab a hold of the fat or meat with your off hand and scrape the knife across the skin membrane while pulling back on the fat/meat.  Surprisingly the skin is very elastic and can take quite a bit of pressure from a blunt scrape but be careful not to puncture the skin.  Holes can be repaired by the tannery but every hole will cost you $$$.
    • The more time and effort you take into scraping the skin down to a clean membrane the better your end product will be.
  • Salting – The application of salt to the hide stops the decomposition process and halts bacterial growth.  You’ll want to use non-iodized table salt and a lot of it.  Restaurant food suppliers will be able to sell this to you and it is relatively cheap.  $8 for 25lbs worth and you’ll want to have about 75-100lbs on hand.  My butcher did not scrape our hide and I salted it for 24hrs before I had time to scrape.

    Salted Hide

    • Lay out the hide on a tarp fleece side down and stretch it out exposing all the skin
    • Pour on 25lbs of salt in the center of the hide and use your hands to spread the salt evenly to all areas of the hide.  Be sure to evenly cover it and don’t forget the edges or any folds including the tail.  Any place that the salt doesn’t touch can and will rot or the hair could fall out during processing.
    • After 24hrs you’ll notice that the salt looks wet and probably bloody in spots that might not have been cleaned well.  Wet salt wont wick moisture anymore and you’ll need to do a salt change.  Pick up the hide and shake off the salt and brush away any sticky salt areas.  Lay the fleece back out and re-salt just as you had before.
    • You may need to repeat the above process again otherwise let the hide site for 2-3 more days for it to dry out.  Check it daily, you don’t want the hide to dry out stiff while it is laying flat, you’ll still want some play in the skin so you can fold it for transport.
    • Tanning – The next step is to tan the hide to permanently preserve the skin.  If you want to know what a tanned alpaca hide will be like think deer skin.  I’m sure many of us have owned a pair of deer skin gloves, if not, go try on a pair at the hardware store.  The finished hide will be thin and velvety soft on the skin side and your alpacas beautiful fleece on the other.  In the tanning process the fleece will be washed, skirted and combed so you’ll have a fluffy end product.  You may opted to use your shearers and clip the fleece to a more manageable staple length if it is too long.
  • Shipping– Once your fleece is dry you’re going to need to get it to the tanner.  Chances are you don’t live close to one like I do and you’ll need to ship it.
    • Shake the salt off the hide.
    • Fold carefully so not to cause cracks with the hair side in
    • UPS recommends shipping of hides in cardboard boxes or burlap bags.  Inform them you are shipping a salted hide.
    • DO NOT STORE IN PLASTIC, EVER!  Feed bags turned inside out work nicely for smaller hides.

Miracle's hide being inspected by Sivko.

  • The tannery I’m using is.
    • Sivko Fur Inc.
      3089 County Rt 119
      Canisteo, NY 14823
      Phone 607-698-4827
      Fax 607-698-4344

Want to see their work?  Stop by any Cabella’s, they do all of the tanning for the furs and mounts in their stores.  Because they are about an hour from our ranch I had the opportunity to visit their facility.  I was able to see and get my hands on many different hides like deer, buffalo, bobcat, gazelle, and even an elephant!  Here are some photos I took while there.

Tanning Drum

Shaving the hide to an even thickness.

Hides in preserving solution.

  •  Finished Product – The kind folks at Sivko took the time with me to go over ideas of what you can do with your finished fur.  They even carefully unpacked a finished bear skin rug to show me what they are able to offer.  Ultimately I decided to turn Miracle into a carriage lap robe.  While my hide is being tanned I’m now on the hunt to find the fabric I’d like to use for the lining to my blanket.  Since Miracle was a beautiful red/brown alpaca I’m thinking something light in color maybe a cream, beige, or yellow.

I hope this post helps others cope with the loss of their alpaca, sheep, goat or other livestock where they would like to preserve the fleece.  The process might not be desirable or fun but the end product is something that can be sold to recoup the costs of losing the animal or something that you can keep as a reminder of them forever.

At this time Miracle’s hide has been scrapped, salted and sent to Sivko Furs to be tanned.  The entire process of tanning and finishing the fur into a lap robe will take 8-12 weeks.  Stay tuned for more information and to see the finished robe!

We have rope!

I’ve got it!  It took me a week of annoying my husband stretching cord all throughout the house but I finally got the hand of making rope.  The projects I have been working on this week are all for sale.  See our Shop for what is available.

Next thing on the list is to dig through all my alpaca 2nd and 3rds in the basement and start spinning them into cord to be made into rope. 

Problems Making Rope

I’m so close to having the “ah ha” moment and it’s killing me. Check out these photos. Beautifully twisted rope made out of alpaca and I did a core color of Blue so I could see what that devil was up to. Sure enough that lousy core keeps getting caught up into my twist.

I think I need a lot more tension on my core to keep it from twisting up into the rope. Now the question is how to do that without an expensive rope machine or a staff of 3 men!

Hand Made Reins and Lead Rope

Since the weather has not been the greatest for riding my horses I find myself spending these winter months doing little projects while I dream of spring.

I might be in “English” leather country but I’m a cowgirl at heart and love the feel of a mecate or rope reins in my hands. The weight and lay of a good rope cannot be beat in my book and I decided to make one for myself.

Since I raise alpacas it seemed only fitting to make my new reins out of alpaca. Each cord I used to braid with is made up of 8 strands spun fiber (or yarn) this part requires a rope machine.  Each cord is made up of 8 strands; 2 strands per hook; a total of 4 hooks.  Using a rope machine, these strands are kept under even tension and twisted counter clockwise up to 15% shrinkage (differs for each type of fiber)) and then counter spun clockwise around one another creating a rope cord. I made 6 of these cords and a 7th to use as a core.  

Since I’m still new to rope making I haven’t yet mastered the art of twisting cords around a core into rope.  So I opted to do a 6 plait round braid around the core, back braided scissor snaps on each end and left the fringe on to a little character. 

Hope you enjoy the photos.  First 2 are of the reins the last one is of a lead rope I made to show my alpacas with.  See our Shop for what is available.

Fiber Arts Friday as moved to it’s new home with WonderWhyGal! Check her out!

Video is from Back At The Ranch please give them a visit.
Shows great detail of spinning horse hair and twisting it into rope.

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Alpaca: Fiber of the Presidents!

We’ve all seen portraits of Lincoln but did you ever wonder what that infamous black coat, vest and trousers were made out of?  Why alpaca of course!  How do we know?  Lincoln was the first president to have a paparazzi following.  Letters, articles, editorials were all written about him and what type of man he was and of course what style he wore.  Mention of his coat has been found in numerous readings and here are just a few:

“Portrait life of Lincoln”

“Lincoln became one of the first Republicans.  The oratory of this strange, serious man seemed to inspire the hopes of the people.  They looked upon him in bewilderment as they saw this giant of the woods, in a black alpaca coat, with his sleeves rolled up, hammering away at the institution which he believed to be unjust.”

“Old ABE” With Alpaca Coat and Grip-Sack

“While we were sitting in the hotel office after supper, Mr. Lincoln entered, carrying an old carpet-bag in his hand, and wearing a weather-beaten silk hat – too large, apparently, for his head, – a long, loosely fitting frock-coat, of black alpaca, and vest and trousers of the same material.”

“Lincoln and the Tools of War”

“While Robert went in to invite Stanton along, Lincoln entertained the others with some of his stories.  Noticing a torn pocket in his black alpaca coat, he mended it with a pin taken from his waste coat. “It seems to me,” he said smiling, “that this does not look quite right for the Chief Magistrate of this mighty Republic.”

On your next visit to our Nation’s Capital, make sure to stop by the Lincoln Memorial and admire Lincoln and his alpaca coat.