I met the owners of two alpaca farms recently. Beth Sheets owns Heritage Farm Alpacas (www.ourheritagefarm.com) and JoAnne Skelton owns Fuzzy Faces Alpacas, LLC--both near Flora, IN. Beth and I spoke a bit about spinning and she sent me home with some of her alpaca roving. It is a dream to spin! I loved it! It's the white fiber in this photo. --Interesting to note, it spun up as a faintly tan yarn. My two main "white" wools both have faint color to them when spun--the Cotswold has a slight blueness, and the Romney tends to be a yellow-white.--The other roving, the black, is baby alpaca roving called Handspinner's Dream. I took the picture of the two of them together because I hated spinning the black and I've been trying to analyze the difference between the two.
Thing one: there are two different types of alpaca fiber, Suri and Huacaya. Suri is slippery and high sheen. Huacaya is fluffy. Check out Beth's newsletter for more details (www.ourheritagefarm.com/Fall2006Newsletter.html#article2). I think her fiber is Suri. It matches the animals listed on her web page, and my experience as I was spinning. (Also, I'm pretty sure that JoAnne's "Fuzzy Faces" are the Huacayas.) I don't know which type of alpaca is in the Handspinner's Dream. It just lists is as "baby alpaca".
Thing two: the black alpaca is a thick roving, the white is thin. I know that this shouldn't make any difference. I enjoy reading Abby Frankemount's blog (www.abbysyarns.com/wordpress), including her rant about being able to spin from any preparation. I believe in being able to spin a fiber regardless of the preparation...but I couldn't control the black roving. It was like a tug of war between the fiber in my hand and the pull of the wheel. I switched to spinning from the fold (and dividing the width of the roving) and it was much less of a fight. But I didn't have any of that struggle with Beth's alpaca fiber.
I don't have any "real" answers yet to the difference between these two. But I know one thing--I'm going to spin more of Beth's alpaca fiber!