Choosing to work with coloured alpaca instead of white means working with a palette of natural colours, from white, through browns and greys, to black. The natural colours offer some significant advantages in the final product: they do not require dyeing and the handle of the finished textile remains soft. Also, while the range of colour is limited, the colours go together well. They can be blended with each other as fibre or different colours can be mixed within yarn or within a textile. Colour contamination is not acceptable in white fleece that is to be dyed, but is acceptable if used in mixing with colours. Alpaca colours do not fade readily and include shades not found in other fleece animals, such as blue black. For us, who bought our first alpacas in late 1993, the range of colour was a particular interest, and became more interesting when we began to spin ourselves.
So, the fleeces of the animals we took to the National Show in 2003, one silver and one rose grey, became shawls, some with both colours.
Some animals have fleeces that offer a wide range of colour.
Some of the things we prefer in breeding alpacas do not matter when using their fleeces. A black alpaca with a white face has black fleece that makes black yarn.
A brown alpaca may look to be all a single colour but have different shades in its fleece. You lose points for this in a show, but it blends together when commercially processed and when handspun can be of interest.
This work is all possible working straight from the fleece, before washing and without machine carding, using English combs or dog brushes. When using English combs a few other techniques using colour are possible. You can make your own colour, combining part of one fleece with another, such as this dark grey and this rose grey. And you can blend in dyed silk.
While these handcraft techniques cannot be carried through to larger scale processing, interesting effects with coloured fleece used for its own colour instead of mimicking dyed yarn, should be possible. While processors might object to stray white fibres in black, or to hints of brown from tips in black, customers, when told that this was inevitable in the natural product, might even look for these things to prove that they were buying entirely natural alpaca.