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Loch's Maple Fiber Mill, Inc.
143 Cokely Road
Springville, Pa 18844

Phone - 570-965-2679

Contact Us!

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Frequently Asked Questions

I sent five pounds of fiber why did I only get back 3 pounds of yarn?

Do you have minimum run sizes?

Why does it take so long to get my fiber processed?

What are the advantages of blending?

Will I for sure get my own fiber back?

Do I need to scour (wash) my fiber before sending it to you?

Why do you charge different rates for washing different types of fiber?

How do I scour (wash) my fiber?

Why don't you offer a fiber dyeing service?

How do I get my fiber to you?

Why is DK (or whatever size) yarn from different companies different sizes?

What can I do to make sure my fiber is ready for processing?

What are noils and how can I prevent them?

What is skirting and how is it done?

What is DK Yarn?

I sent five pounds of fiber why did I only get back 3 pounds of yarn?

30% loss is not uncommon with fiber processing. We have seen up to 50 % loss just by washing lanolin out of a very greasy wool fleece. The Carder does kick out Short fibers (also known as second cuts) As well as guard hairs (long straight fibers found in some sheep but more common in Llamas and Alpacas) and Vegetable Matter (Hay chaff and other dirt) . Most of the time fiber kicked out by the carder if  left in would down grade the end quality of the finished product by making it scratchy and hairy.

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Do you have minimum run sizes?

Unlike most other mills which require larger minimum runs, Loch's Fiber Mill caters to smaller fiber producers. However, understand that we must set up and clean out the equipment between runs to prevent your fiber from getting contaminated by fiber from a previous run. This is very important when the previous run consists of a different type or color fiber.

We have a two pound finished minimum run size for spinning. We can process smaller runs, but we must still charge for two pounds.

We have no minimum run size for roving or bats.

We do not charge set up fees.

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Why does it take so long to get my fiber processed?

We make every effort to do Fiber in the order that it comes in. There are many of variables that we must deal with when running fiber. One of these is Humidity: if the humidity isn't high enough we struggle with static electricity. Like in your home cloths drier, static causes the individual fibers to cling to machines where they shouldn't. If humidity is too high it takes fiber longer to dry.

Unlike most other mills, we do CUSTOM work with no minimums. This means we get a lot of small runs of 1 to 5 pounds, often consisting of different types and colors of fiber. We must take time to carefully clean the machines in-between runs of different colors to prevent contamination of the fiber with different colored material from the previous run. Keeping many smaller individual runs separate takes longer then doing a single 20-pound run because we must stop and start frequently.

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What are the advantages of blending?

Diversity of fibers and colors. We have noticed that by adding say 20% High quality wool with Alpaca you tend to have a lot less loss because the wool helps hold the fibers together. There are wools that are as soft as Alpaca. We stock fine (64) Merino wool comb top, which we can add to Alpaca when requested. We have blended wool and Angora as well as wool and Mohair for people and they make wonderful blends. Silk also adds to the fibers. Alpaca and Silk make a wonderful shiny end product (We have had Soy silk, Tussah silk, and other silks sent in to process with alpaca fibers.) Bamboo can also make a nice addition. These blends not only add uniqueness to the fiber, they also add to the quantity you will have returned from your animal.

Adding colored (dyed) roving's of these fibers will also give a color effect to your finished product.

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Will I for sure get my own fiber back?

YES! That is why you are asked to put a paper in EACH separate run you send us which includes your name, address, phone number and what is to be done to the fiber. This needs to go inside the bag with the fiber. You can fill out and print our handy packing sheet if you wish. That paper stays with the fiber every step of the way. We have clips on each machine and as your fiber is going through the machine that paper is on the clip. If your fiber is in a basket waiting it's turn, the paper goes in the basket. The only time the paper leaves that fiber is when the final label is applied after the processing is finished.

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Do I need to scour (wash) my fiber before sending it to you?

You may scour your own fiber if you wish, but most of our clients prefer to have us do this difficult task for them. Unlike the typical small fiber producer we are properly equipped and have the experience to properly scour all types of fiber.

Fiber not scoured properly will cause pilling or noils, giving you a lower quality end product. It also contaminates our machinery, reducing quality and increasing processing time for all of our clients. We will carefully inspect all fiber sent to us to see if it is clean enough for proper processing. If we determine that your fiber needs scouring you will be charged for that service. This may occur even if you have already scoured your fiber. See "How do I scour my fiber?" for details on proper washing.

Note

We only offer scouring for fiber that we process

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Why do you charge different rates for scouring (washing) different types of fiber?

We charge $2.50 per pound per soap bath for scouring your fiber. However some fibers require more soap baths then others. For instance Alpacas don't have lanolin so washing their fiber is easier. Alpacas love to roll in the dirt however so their fiber needs to be scoured to remove that. Wool has lanolin so it requires additional soap baths to get that all out. Courser wools may not need as many soap baths to release all the lanolin.

As you can see it would be impossible to set a flat rate for scouring that would be fair to all of our customers.

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How do I scour (wash) my fiber?

The Key to scouring most types of fiber is hot water! We installed an out door wood furnace to heat the water we use for scouring. We also went directly to the furnace manufacturer and had them set it it produce hotter water then their typical customer would ever need or want. As a result, our water will be between 160O F and 180O F when we scour your fiber!

By contrast, the typical household water heater is set to around 110O F, and for good reason. It can be very dangerous to have water hotter than this in your home.

Fiber that has not been washed with water hot enough will probably pill or noil on the carder. If it makes it through the carder with out noils then it is sure to wrap on the pin drafter due to grease build up on the rollers. This causes a higher percentage of loss of your fiber.

Note 1: Alpaca doesn't have the lanolin wool does but it does have oils and perspiration that need to be removed.

Note 2: Angora (Rabbit) should not need to be scoured using scalding hot 160 degree water. Only use warm water when washing angora.

If you are able to get your water hot enough to effectively wash your own fiber, visit our Washing Instructions page for more detailed information and some warnings about working with high temperature water.

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Why don't you offer a fiber dyeing service?

We love the effects of dyed fiber and have no problems processing dyed fibers. However, getting colors to match to the degree of precision that people both expect and require with all the different types fibers we work with is an incredibly complex speciality. Not to say that some day we won't get into dying fibers, but for now we want to concentrate on providing you with the best possible fiber processing service.

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How do I get my fiber to you?

If you are close enough you can bring it to us! We just ask that you call ahead to make sure we will be here.

If you are shipping your fiber to us, put each run in its own bag along with a sheet of paper on which you have written your name, address, phone number and what is to be done to the fiber.

Make sure the fiber is dry then stand on it sit on it what ever it takes to get all the air out of the bag (as long as the fiber is dry it will not felt). Put as many bags in one box as you can! Check with whom ever you are shipping with as to how big the box can be before oversize charges start. The fewer boxes you need the cheaper the shipping will be. The US Postal Service and UPS are our favorite carriers. Both of our drivers know where they can leave boxes to keep them dry if we are not home.

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Why is DK (or whatever size) yarn from different companies different sizes?

It didn't take us long to realize when we started in this business that there are NO industry standards for yarn sizes! We found a standard that works for us and we use that. See our Yarn Sizes page for details on how we measure the size of your yarn.

If you have a favorite size yarn, send us a 2-YARD sample and we will do our best to get as close to that size as possible. Why 2 Yards? 

We look at the twist angle and if the piece it too short the twist will come out of it.

We check WPI (Wraps per inch) and to do this we need a fairly long piece. This is how we know what size to make it.  See our Yarn Sizes page for details.

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What can I do to make sure my fiber is ready for processing?

Check for breaks in the fiber. To do this start by holding a few locks up to the light. If there is a break you might be able to see it. Check to make sure the tips are strong and not brittle. Hold the Lock next to your ear at both ends and pluck it like a guitar string. The higher the pitch you hear the stronger the fiber will be. After plucking pull the fiber apart length wise next to your ear. If it crackles then you can expect a higher loss because it’s probably dry and brittle. Fiber with weak spots or weak tips is apt to noil in processing.

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What are noils and how can I prevent them?

Noils are the short fibers left over from combing. As noil is a relatively short fiber, fabric made from noil is weaker and considered less valuable. Noils are caused by dirty fiber, weak tips and brittle fiber. Second cuts (fibers less then 2 inches) and fine wools (super fine wools tend to noil or pill in the carding process) also cause noils.

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What is skirting and how is it done?

Skirting the the process of laying the dry fleece out and removing unwanted items such as hey chaff, Guard hairs (long straight hairs that will make the finished product scratchy), burdocks, twigs, pebbles or any other items that you do not want to become part of your finished product. This process must be done by hand.

You can easily do skirting yourself. This will save you more money then doing your own washing and will save on weight, reducing your shipping costs because you won't be sending us materials that we will be skirting out before washing!

When shearing the animals start off by getting rid of the belly wool. This is the lowest quality because it is on the ground, dirty, matted and just plain yucky.

skirting

The diagram shows a fleece with the areas which may require skirting. After the fleece is off the animal lay it out, go to the britch area and remove poopy soiled fibers. The neck area is noted for heavy vegetable matter. If you find a lot, simply remove that fiber. Next inspect the fleece looking for areas with vegetable matter and remove that.

Be sure to get out all seed heads from hay. These may look like one head but after going through the carder they will break apart and get everywhere.

Make sure there are no foreign objects in the fiber when you put it in the bag. We have found Beads, paint balls, tweezers and fencing wire to name a few. Look at the fleece and say “if I don't want it in my yarn I better take it out”. Remember, the cleaner it comes to us the cleaner you get it back!

We will make every effort to provide the highest possible quality processing for the fiber you send us. However, we can not work miracles. If you send us fiber which has breaks in it, has weak tips, is extremely full of hay chaff or has other serious problems, you should not expect the finished fiber we return to you to be top of the line completely free of hay chafe or noils. In short, we can not turn bad fiber into good.

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Just a few of the items we have found when skirting.
Yes, that's a pair of tweezers we removed from someone's fiber!

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What is DK Yarn?

DK stands for "double knit". It refers to the fact that it's actually double fingering-weight (baby or sock) yarn. It's thinner than worsted and thicker than sport weight. See our Yarn Sizes page for more details on this topic.

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