Alpaca Pines 3

By Kathryn Menue


On Saturday, June 25, Alpaca Pines celebrated the opening of their newly finished fiber mill with a ribbon cutting event.

“This is the grand opening celebration of our fiber mill,” Alpaca Pines owner Vicki Donley said. “I’m very excited. I thought this day would never come. We are overly excited that this project is finally finished.”

The opening of the new fiber mill occurred at Alpaca Pines LLC Farm and Fiber Mill, located at 21756 Beaverton Road in Poplar Grove from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Alpaca PinesThe opening offered a variety of specials including refreshments, raffle prizes of alpaca socks and yarns, a craft station for kids, interaction with the alpacas, and a tour of the fiber mill.

Alpaca Pines Fiber Mill uses Belfast Mill equipment from Prince Edward Island, Canada to produce fiber products. These products include felted sheets, batts, rovings for needle felting, yarn, bulky yarn, and rug yarn. The products are either sold as is or produced into kitty toys, dryer balls, kitty beds, hats, scarves, socks, and other products.

The store also offers “Farmer Bob’s leftover yarn,” “everyone’s favorite peanut butter and jelly yarn,” drop spindle kits, fair trade alpaca products imported from Peru, and bird nesters, which are made with leftover scraps of yarn.

Alpaca Pines 2“I don’t like to have any waste,” Vicki Donley said.

The process to create these products does not come easily. The method includes several different components including complicated machinery and a couple days worth of work.

After fiber is collected it is tumbled in the tumbler owner Bob Donley built. This step tumbles all of the fiber together. Tumbling can take about a half an hour to an hour.

Then, the fiber is weighed, skirted, and split into thirds.

From there, the fiber is washed in a washing machine that doesn’t agitate so as not to ruin the fiber. Washing takes about an hour and a half.

After the wash, fiber is laid out to dry on a drying rack for about a day.

Once the fiber is completely dry, it moves to the picker, which picks apart the fiber. It is processed through a drum room that treats the fiber with conditioner to prevent static.

The next step is the fiber separator, which is a “really, really, long, slow process,” Bob Donley said.

According to Bob, five pounds of fleece can take up to six hours to process in the separator. This step combs through the fiber to get rid of knots, hay, and debris.

“It comes out like a spider web,” Bob Donley said.

After the separator, fiber moves to the carder that takes two to three ounces of fleece at a time to produce roving.

After the roving process is complete, fiber moves to the draw frame where the fiber is stretched to be made into yarn.

Then, the fiber goes to the spinner and then to the plier, which starts putting the yarn together.

“This [the plier] is where your yarn is made,” Vicki said.

The fiber is then steamed to set twist and goes through the steam winder.

The last few steps send the fiber (now yarn) through the washing machine again and lay out to dry once again.

After this whole process, the Donley’s sell the yarn at $9 an ounce because the yarn takes quite a lot of effort to produce.

“I’m a mechanically inclined person, but wow, it’s still a process,” Vicki Donley said.

Luckily, the man who sold the Donley’s the fiber mill in January brought the fiber mill to Alpaca Pines at the end of May and trained the Donleys how to use it.

The Donley’s began training on their alpaca’s fiber, and now that they are efficient on the machinery, they are taking customer’s fiber to process as well.

Although it is a lot of hard work, the fiber mill setup is a lot better than if they had to send their fiber out to someone else to process. If the Donley’s sent their fiber out for processing, they may not receive it back for two years.

“It’s definitely worth it because we definitely have a passion for it,” Vicki said.

The Donley’s business is already growing. On June 25, the Donley’s received a package of fiber from southern Illinois to be processed through the mill. They expect another shipment from Nebraska soon as well.

Their fiber mill is not limited to alpaca fiber. They can process camel, bunny, alpaca, llama, and pretty much any other type of wool.

After the milling process is complete, they send the finished yarn products back to customers.

“We make the yarn here, and from there, customers can do what they want with it,” Vicki Donley said.

Grand opening guests were highly impressed with the new fiber mill.

John Cee, a former co-worker of Vicki Donley, said he is an animal lover and thought the process was “just so cool.”

“I was so impressed when I saw it [Alpaca Pines] on Google Earth, but [in person] this is amazing,” Cee said.

The Donley’s agree that they’ve created a different kind of operation in Boone County.

“This is a very unique business,” Vicki said. “There are only two other businesses like this within 100 miles.”

In the future, the Donley’s plan to expand their business by offering fiber felting and knitting classes.

Currently, Alpaca Pines will be open on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on Alpaca Pines or to make a reservation for a group tour, call Bob and Vicki Donley at (815) 621-8116, or go online to, or email

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