Every year around ten thousand kilos of fleece comes into the grading barn at UK Alpaca. The quality is wildly variable from absolutely gorgeous to horrid – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I grade it with The Girl, Tania Smith. Everything that goes wrong is blamed on The Girl as in: ‘It must have been The Girl’. We would like to blame The Bloke as well, that is Chas Brooke, but he does no grading so is blameless, sadly.
About half of the fleece that comes in ends up in the duvet department and is sold to duvet makers in the UK and Poland. Some breeders manage to follow instructions and bag all the outsorts in big bags by colour. Others have a severe case of barn blindness as in my alpaca is ten but still has marvellous fleece. I don’t think so. They optimistically label fleeces as usable blankets that should have gone straight from the shearing floor into outsorts.
There are days when the outsorts bags fill up way too fast and we resort to silliness.
Sometimes there is treasure in those bags, we will always have the memory of the fleece covered in dead bluebottles and the mummified mouse decently disposed of, a recipe and these things.