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How Undyed Yarn is Made – Meet the Master Sorters, Miriam and Lourdes

By Gina Rockenwagner on May 20, 2020

Today in our video series “How Undyed Yarn is Made”, we’re meeting Miriam and Lourdes, two of the master sorters at the Arequipa, Perú based mill we work with. This process is special to the Alpaca yarn production process. Alpaca is a species of South American camelid closely related to llamas. This region has raised alpaca for their wool for centuries, all the while perfecting a sophisticated fiber processing technique over generations.

Miriam and Lourdes fulfill one of the most nuanced roles in the entire yarn making process. Alpaca fiber is humanely shorn, collected, and packaged into large bundles in the Peruvian highlands. Trucks deliver the bundles to the sorting facility. This is when the master sorters step in, performing the task of meticulously hand sorting alpaca fiber into the various grades, including fine, super fine, and what is called baby alpaca. Only very fine fibers earn the categorization baby alpaca. Despite their name, these ultra fine hairs don’t always come from a juvenile alpaca. The term baby alpaca simply denotes an extraordinary level of softness, not the age of the animal. The fiber goes through two rounds of sorting before moving on to either the spinning mill or another end use.

alpaca yarn peru

Master sorters like Miriam and Lourdes are responsible for one of the primary steps in creating a superior bare yarn for dyers. It takes years of experience to be able to quickly categorize fiber based on look and feel alone. In fact, the art of sorting fiber is so subtle that it can only be done by highly skilled human hands, and never by a machine. The master sorters take the upmost pride in the work they do, and many of them come from families that have worked in the fiber industry for generations. The alpaca industry is a vital part of this region as it is an important source of local employment, especially for women.

master sorters Miriam and Lourdes

We hope you’ve enjoyed meeting master sorters Miriam and Lourdes. When you dye with our LATTE, and STEAM blends, which include Baby Alpaca, and IVORY, which includes the ultra luxurious Royal Alpaca, you’ll know exactly who to thank for an exceptionally soft and beautiful yarn!

Have you had a chance to try our LATTE, STEAM and IVORY blends? Share your creations with #knomadyarn

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Gina Rockenwagner

Gina Fama Röckenwagner (she/her) is a color-obsessed knit designer and textile artist based in Los Angeles, California. Her work has been featured in Vogue Knitting, Pom Pom Quarterly, and Purl Soho’s eponymous blog. She founded her line of soft, comfortable, and size-inclusive clothing, SOFT HAUS, in 2015. When not working on yarn-related endeavors, Gina can be found quilting, biking, baking and watching trashy tv with her cats, Paloma and Blooper.

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