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We found we had a little ‘problem’ 6 years ago. Our finest fleeces were too fine for a mini mill to process. So, the question was how are we going to process our fiber? We got into alpacas as wonderful, enchanting fiber animals. After a few years of research, it became clear we had 2 problems: the fineness of our fiber and the small amount we produce. Mills that could handle the run size couldn’t handle the fineness. And mills that could handle the fineness had really large minimum runs. More research led us to believe that top was the best product to make, and the Maine Top Mill was born.
It became clear after several years in the show ring that our best fiber producers weren’t necessarily rewarded in the show ring. So we had to decide which was more important: ribbons or fiber production. I think our decision to start a mill tells you the answer to that!
Our mission has evolved from having beautiful alpacas and going to shows to producing the ideal alpaca for worsted top production, and we found we had to go back in time to create our future. The two most important fiber qualities for worsted processing are fineness and uniformity. Fineness is fairly easy to get. Uniformity is a bit more tricky, though not impossible as history tells us. The 1,000 year old alpaca mummies all had 1 trait in common that is virtually unheard of today: they were single coated (i.e. totally uniform btw primary & secondary fibers). But why do we care?
Well, this proves that alpacas are genetically capable of producing uniform fiber. We just have to try to undo centuries of hybridization (interbreeding btw alpacas & llamas), in order to get there. DNA analysis makes it possible to determine the degree of hybridization, but its not the whole story. You must carefully examine the fleece as well to make sure you’re getting a totally uniform alpaca.
The sad truth is its extremely difficult to make totally uniform alpacas. Many of the genetic lines capable of producing this quality in alpacas have been lost or diluted. We have one of the only collections of alpaca genetics in the world capable of resurrecting the ancient alpaca. We’ve made tremendous progress, and we invite you to join us in creating the alpaca of tomorrow today.