The Suri llama looks like the most graceful creature on four legs, due the flow and flounce of its lustrous coat, but that coat comes at a price.
Firstly, in a cold or wet climate, the Suri is often less able to maintain normal body temperature and certainly in parts of Canada, many Suris require winter coats to keep them warm. Although Suri fiber does contain guard hair or Primary fiber, it is so fine as to be almost indistinguishable from the undercoat (secondary fiber), and the guard hair tends not to stand proud and form the umbrella coat, typically seen on a Classic llama.
Secondly, the fibers are frequently twelve or more inches in length, which looks fantastic …..but bloomin’ difficult to clean and work with! Suri is most often used for weaving, since as well as being smooth and straight, the fibers typically exceed the longest sheep wool, so blending with wool to provide some degree of elasticity, has little effect. Of course, some mills can achieve better results than home processors, but at the price of losing the clearly defined locks, which are sought after by some fiber artists.
Suri fiber is usually around 20 to 22 microns, which places it up the top near cashmere for fineness.
There are a few spinners who adore working with Suri llama fiber, usually to create silky worstead yarns for weaving. I have a go at it from time to time, but rapidly lose patience with it, maintaining a strong preference for thick, lumpy, bumpy, Art and Mega yarns.
Some breeders will only shear a fully grown Suri llama every other year and produce around 6 to 10lbs of fiber from the barrel. If sheared every year, the fiber will be shorter; around 6 to 8 inches and yield 4 to 8lbs. The fiber growing down the neck and legs can reach 30 inches in length if left for a few years, but you’ll need to keep a tidy house if you don’t want it looking a mess in the spring. We’ve seen Suris wearing mud balls, dung and snow like Christmas tree ornaments!