When most people think about farms they usually think about huge agricultural centers with tons and tons of food being produced. Most people don’t think about smaller farms, in this case yarn farms. Yarn farm’s are where most of the yarn comes from that people use for hobbies like knitting, crocheting, and weaving.
First things first: to begin with, yarn farms buy different types of animals like sheep, alpacas, and even a type of rabbit called an angora rabbit. All of these animals will be used to make different types of yarn, some a higher quality than others. All of these animals have one thing in common: people can harvest their fleece (fur) and will use it to spin thread. But creating yarn is not just that simple, the first step is the shearing process.
The shearing process is usually in the spring to prevent the animal getting hot in the summer. Even if you don’t want to use their fleece, it is a good idea to get your animal sheared anyways. Shearing is a process during which the animal’s fur will be removed, basically a big haircut. In the case of an alpaca, shearers will travel all over and help cut the fleece. For alpacas the best quality of fur comes from the back and the sides, this part is called the blanket. People get the blanket by shaving it down using a tool that is called an electric sheep clipper! An electric sheep clipper is basically a mechanism like a big razor. You can shear animals manually, too, but this is much harder and most yarn farms prefer the to use the electric sheep clippers.
After the fleece is collected, it needs to be cleaned and picked through. If you are doing this manually you start by picking out large chunks of dirt and debris. Next you should put it on a wire toothed brush until the fur is fine and a bright white! This brush is called a carder. You rub the two carders together going in opposite directions. Now your fleece is ready for spinning. You can either use a spinning wheel or a drop spindle, both work fine.
As you can see, yarn and fleece are hard to prepare and take a lot of time. Smaller yarn farms do this process for a living every year, and it is no small undertaking. Happy Knitting!