Have you ever wondered where my yarns are sourced? My supplier's family were wool merchants over 75 years ago and developed their relationship with the mill that continues to this day!
Most of their fibers come from Peru and South America with vast landscapes, where people tend to live in rural settings and farm their animals in small communities. Generally, herds will be looked after by a shepherd or shepherdess.
Most Peruvians own their animals, anything from a few to hundreds. They are kept most often for fleeces. Frequently women will spin their own fleeces for weaving and knitting. Textiles are a deep-rooted tradition and their work is incredible! It's REALLY cold at night in the mountains, so it's no wonder they love Alpaca and Wool. Heating isn't really a thing there; central heating isn't common, so warm textiles are essential.
The animals are not kept in fields or sheds, but they roam and graze the land, with little to no boundaries. Free range wool! There is always a shepherdess or shepherd who will be with them to keep an eye on them and protect them against predators, like pumas. They walk, ride horses, or in some cases even ride motorbikes! In general, it's more likely to be a woman than a man shepherding the animals.
The animals get shorn once a year, and the fleeces are then sent to the mill for sorting. The sorting is a highly skilled job and are sorted for color (around 22 natural colors for alpaca) and micron. Generally, sorting is done by women because they are considered to have a better ability to distinguish the micron than men.
The fleeces then get washed very gently so it agitates it enough to remove the dust and dirt, but not so much that it causes felting. Once the fleece has been washed, excess water gets squeezed out and the fibers are dried by air. Then the fleece needs to be opened again before it gets carded.
The fibers then get carded into sliver which basically starts the process of the fibers being aligned. The sliver gets made into tops, and the remaining noils (short pieces) get used for mattresses, bedding, and futons -- nothing gets wasted!
Once the yarn is made into tops, it gets made into pencil roving. The thickness of the pencil roving depends on how thick the yarn is going to be made; so the thinner the yarn, the thinner the pencil roving.
Then it is spun into yarn and I get to dye this amazing fiber into the yarns you know and love!
So now onto something very cool about my supplier. Because of the sheer enormity and vastness of the highlands, people live in small communities. When it comes to school, often children have to walk hours to school in all weathers. The mill has a ranch where they raise alpacas, host an educational breeding program to help the breeders improve practices, and a school for about 47 children from ages of 5 - 14.
The school is a boarding school Monday to Friday and provides the children with an education far better than they would get normally. This is often the first time the children have used toilets, and often pressure their parents to get them at home once they start school. They also do things we take for granted like cleaning their teeth for the first time. The school is an incredible place! It's not fancy, but the energy is magical and the kids absolutely love it.
My supplier sponsors the education of 5 children a year and also provides extra funding for things they might need. So that means that you also contribute to this amazing school in the highlands with every purchase from Baad Mom Yarns!
I hope you enjoyed that little trip to the Peruvian Highlands! You can rest assured that the animals who provide the wool we love and enjoy are well taken care of. They roam free and are happy and well cared for. And each purchase helps with the education of these precious children!