There are a variety of options for felting with alpaca fibre. Alpaca fibre is smoother than sheep's wool. The smooth nature of alpaca fibre is one the key factors in its softness and comfort. However this smoothness presents a challenge when it comes to felting.
Felting is the process of creating a solid piece of fabric from animal fibres. To create a piece of felt the individual animal fibres must be irrevocably intertwined with each other. There are two techniques for creating felt: wet felting and needle felting. Wet felting uses moisture, heat and friction to intertwine the fibres. Needle felting uses a barbed needle punched through layers of fibre.
Fibre preparation for felting is the same for both wet felting and needle felting.
Step One: Washing (optional)
When wet felting making some felt makers choose to not wash the fibre as they will be washed during the felting process. During needle felting no water or soap is used and so the fibres should be washed. It is possible to wash the finished project at the end but clean fibre is nicer to work with. Another consideration is whether you will be using a drum carder. It is my preference to wash all fibres, whether for wet felting or needle felting before carding to keep my drum carder cleaner. This is not as important with hand cards as dirt and debris are easily cleaned from them.
Step Two: Carding
Carding can be done with either a set of hand cards or a drum carder. If you will be doing a lot of fibre arts a drum carder may be a worthwhile investment. However hand cards are inexpensive and easy to use, making them perfect for beginners. Many experienced fibre artist use only hand cards, they take up very little space, are quite versatile and are perfect for travelling. A drum carder allows you to card a larger volume of fibre, is faster and will create a larger batt.