You have choosen the shear you want to use, your animal has been well fed, protected from stress, and groomed, and the shears are cleaned and oiled. You have introduced your animal to the noise of the shear and they are comfortable with it. Now you are ready to harvest that wonderful fleece. Choose a place to shear where you are out of the direct sun and the wind. A wooden or cement floor that has been well swept is ideal. If you do not have a clean floor to work on lay a tarp or blanket down for the animal to stand on. I like to shear in a home made chute to keep the animal from moving around too much.
Close to your shearing area set up a shearing table for cleaning and sorting the fiber. Have enough containers for all the colors of fiber you plan to shear as well as for the various grades of fiber. The quality Llama Products pop up bins or laundry baskets work well or you can also use boxes or buckets
If you are lucky enough to have an electrician in the family a ceiling plug over the shearing area is a great asset. If not you can screw a hook (like a plant hook) in the ceiling and run your cord through it to help keep it up out of the way. Tie your animal in the shearing chute and you are ready to go. Start by marking the area you plan to shear. If you are doing a barrel cut you may want to lay a heavy twine or rope over the animal at the flank and the shoulder to mark the line where you will start and end your stroke. You can also just part the fiber where you want to mark a stop and start point.
Begin by making a stroke the length of the back (or barrel) right along the spine. Often this fiber is dirty or stressed and you may choose to discard this first stroke. Now using long even strokes work your way down the side gently laying the fiber down as you go so you can see where you have cut to avoid 2nd cuts. When the fiber is completely cut from one side lay it out on the sorting table. You may find that the fiber at the belly has dirty tips and is of a coarser quality and you will want to discard it or put it in the felting bin. Check the fiber carefully and remove any foreign matter, dirty tips, or heavy guard hairs. When it is clean weigh the fiber and record the weight and quality in your animal’s records then put the fiber in your container keeping the various colors and qualities separate.
As you shear you will need to be sure that your clippers or shears do not overheat. Frequent spraying of the blades and teeth with cool care plus or cool lube will help reduce friction and over-heating. It is also a good idea to run your blades in blade wash for a few seconds between animals or if they become dirty from dust and grime in the fleece. Frequent lubrication will greatly extend the life of your cutters and your shears.
Continue shearing doing the other side, the rump, and the shoulder and chest if desired. (The blanket should be kept separate from the coarser neck and leg fiber and belly fiber will often be discarded)
If you plan long term storage of the fiber do not use plastic bags but use breathable muslin or cotton bags or boxes. If moths are a problem a cotton ball soaked in cedarwood oil or eucalyptus and placed in the container should keep them out. Do not use moth balls as the odor tends to be absorbed by the fiber and is hard to wash out. Do not store the fiber dirty. If you intend long term storage clean it well before storing.
Now you are ready to spin your prime fiber into wonderful yarn for weaving and knitting. The coarse neck and leg fiber is perfect for rug making, crafts, felting, artist tapestry, or locker hooking.
I like to keep a record of the things I use the fiber for from each animal as it is fun to look back at all the wonderful things each animal has produced!