Questions to ask when looking for a fiber mill

Depending on your fiber animal of choice it may take up to a year or more to get a batch of fiber together.  Most fiber animals, like alpaca and sheep get sheared once a year producing a batch of raw fiber.  Others like angora rabbits will either take a lot of rabbits or an accumulation over time to get a significant amount of fiber.

Mini mills generally have a minimum batch size.  Many of them are in the three to four pound range, if you send in less fiber for processing you will get charged for the mininum batch size.  To make the most of the your money you want to be sure to have a batch size larger than this minimum batch size.

Since mini mills generally charge by the pound incoming weight, you should thoroughly skirt the fiber before sending it in for processing.  Not only will this reduce your mill fees and your shipping fees, but it will reduce the amount of fiber lost during processing.  Don't wash the fiber before sending it to the mill, most mills prefer to do this to their own standards to protect their valuable equipment.

It is a good idea to learn as much as you can about the mill that you plan to send your fiber to.  Here are some questions you may wish to ask when checking into mills.

  • Do they process the type of fiber that you want processed?
  • What is the minimum batch size?
  • How long will it take to return your fiber?
  • What chemicals will the fiber be exposed to?
  • Does anyone smoke around where the fiber will be processed or stored?
  • Do they make the end product that your are looking for?

If you want your suri alpaca fiber turned into double ply lace weight yarn in skeins, can they do that?

When you have finally settled on a mini mill or two you will want to send them a batch of your fiber for processing.  In some cases the mini mill may have a six to eight month turn around time so you may want to try out a couple different mills to get started.  Once you find a mini mill that meets your requirements begin to send them more and larger fiber batches.

If you find a couple mills the produce the result that you want from your fiber why not just use both?  Keep in mind that many mills have a turn around time of many months, some as long as 15 months.