AWARD WINNING CAMELID TEXTILE PROJECT NEEDS YOUR HELP TO REACH EXPORT-READINESS!
Innovation Against Poverty was the premise governing the development of Royal Llama, an all natural camelid fiber used in exotic yarns and rovings for hand knitting and spinning.
Chile’s population of llamas and alpacas is fractional compared to Peru and Bolivia, where camelid fiber exports are a multimillion dollar business. Yet, the Aymara herders who tend llamas and alpacas in the remote grassland areas of the Chilean Andean plateau, 11,000 ft above sea level, depend on their animals to earn barely enough to survive.
Tired of eking out a living in harsh conditions for pitiful pay, Chilean Aymara herders preferred selling their animals to buyers from Australia, North America and Europe, and left their small villages in the highlands in search of better opportunities in the cities. Our country was on the verge of an irreversible loss of a millenary identity, as well as a centuries old textile industry.
Let’s change the world!
Three years ago I took the first step to change the lives of the camelid community in the Andes with an idea of refining llama fibers into luscious yarns for hand knitting… so soft, awesome, unique and functional that would conquer the minds and hearts of thousands of needle artists worldwide who knit for fun, stress-therapy or artistic expression.
A steady demand of raw fiber, purchased directly from the herders at fair prices, would reawaken their interest in producing high quality llama fibers. Ancestral skills such as spinning, dyeing, weaving and knitting with natural camelid fibers would come back to life. I would bring new hopes for a better quality of life and pay to thousands of impoverished people who would share in the success of these wonderful yarns.
Daring dreams, one vision
After months of spreading the idea among lots of friends, textile experts, herders, artisans, state agencies and authorities, I succeeded at inspiring the right kind of people to help me converting a good idea into a thrilling start up. In the cockpit was my spouse Isabel (sharp marketer and private pilot), and Stan Ebel, an outstanding llama expert from Colorado with 35 years experience in raising, breeding, and training llamas as wilderness pack animals, and 15 years developing ready-to-wear garments made from llama fiber.
The rest of the story is about endurance and plain stubbornness. Thousands of hours were spent building amazing machines from scrap. Countless trial and error attempts were made to get things right. Many prototypes were tested by knitters in Chile, the US and Germany. We had loud falls and sad failures. Yet, we also had tremendous satisfactions. In April 2011 we were selected by Start Up Chile, a program of the Chilean Government to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs (click to watch TV coverage). We also received a Corporate Innovation Recognition from ProChile - Chile’s Export Promotion Bureau, and were featured in the 2012 Annual Report of Chile’s BCI Bank as Outstanding Entrepreneurs. In april 2012 we presented the first llama fiber yarn produced in Chile to our President, Mr. Sebastián Piñera.
Royal Llama The Fiber of Friendship
We call our product Royal Llama for its majestic beauty and natural softness that rivals that of any luxury fiber, and for its innate properties that impart phenomenal performance and durability at a very low cost to the environment. A hollow fiber, llama is extremely strong and warm as well as thermostatic (wide comfort range) due to its natural moisture regulation. Llama fiber is naturally antimicrobial, will not pill, it is washable, flame retardant, and durable.
Royal Llama is the result of the creativity, dedication and compromise of a team and many supporters working together in one direction. Hence, we affectionately nicknamed it The Fiber of Friendship. Next, we thought of a huge network of friends advocating the value of the llama fiber all over the world…and The Royal Llama Friendship Club was born!
Help us to make this real!
Once we had our Beta samples of Royal Llama tested in Chile, the US and Germany, last June we showed our yarns and rovings at the The National Needlearts Association show in Columbus, Ohio where knitters, spinners, designers and finishers praised the uniqueness, beauty and softness of the products.
Royal Llama was conceived for the global markets. Exporting is essential to the sustainability of the project. However, an inch away from materializing our dreams, our financial resources are almost exhausted and we need your support!
To meet the demands of our new international customers, we need to secure a good supply of raw material. Herders need payment way in advance to collect and sort the fiber by hand. Some equipment additions are necessary, we must hire and train new labor, and we face ahead a number of expenses to ship our first yarns to the US.
Export-readiness is a key milestone to the success of our venture and we definitely need your help!
We will reward you with the Fiber of Friendship
We could not find a better way to reward your support than with our yarns and rovings.
If you don’t knit or spin, we strongly recommend you to start now! Needlearts are optimal for stress relief. Furthermore, a few skeins of Royal Llama and a pair of knitting needles will save you lots of money and visits to your therapist!
If you still feel that the needlearts are not your kind of thing, you can treat your favorite knitter or spinner with our amazing yarns for hand knitting and rovings for hand spinning…a fantastic demonstration of love and friendship! To further show our appreciation, rewards 3 to 5 include a set of the cutest earrings, hand made with Royal Llama yarn.
Royal Llama is made of 100% super-dehaired llama fiber in natural colors. Fibers were hand shorn and sorted by color and quality by expert Aymara hands. Yarns are three ply, 165 yards per 50 gram skein.
Risks and challenges
At the beginning the major risk was financial. We could have lost our life savings and proceedings from the sale of our home if things didn’t turn out the way we expected. We are more relaxed now as probabilities of success improve day by day.
A second major risk was technical. Finding an economic dehairing method to mechanically separate the guard hairs and coarse fleece from the soft under coat fibers, was a lengthy and complex task. We were intelligent at recruiting the right technical people and documenting our learning process.
Markets and economies change dramatically over short periods of time. Yet, we trust our ability to surprise people with new and amazing products. Innovation is our driving force.
We face many challenges ahead. There is much to be done with other noble camelid fibers such as vicuña and guanaco. We won a state grant to explore the industrialization of guanaco fiber and we are studying creative ways to use our waste materials. We aim at repopulating the camelid herd in Chile and positioning our country as a the leading exporter of ultrafine camelid fibers!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
You can mix any of our seven natural colors of yarns and rovings in all rewards. We will contact backers promptly after our goal is met in order to take color preferences.
Yes! Two companies dyed our fibers with satisfactory results. We believe they used synthetic dyes. On the other hand Aymaras have used natural dyes on llama and alpaca fibers for centuries!
I cannot, unfortunately, wear wool (regardless of how fine it may be) so usually favor cotton. Does Royal Llama have a similar feel to wool (i.e. prickly/scratchy)? Are you aware of allergic reactions?
I will transcribe what our friend Stan Ebel from /www.altiplanoinsulation.com wrote once about llama fiber:
"Llama fiber is shorn annually from the llama with no harm to the animal. The fleece contains no lanolin, thus, no chemical scouring agents are required in prepping it for processing. The fibers' low scale gives it a naturally soft hand so it requires no "superwashing" and the resultant resin coating common to "no itch" merino wool clothing. This produces an all-natural product, uncompromised in function, hypoallergenic, and comfortable, even for sensitive skin".
You could go for the Knitters Delight Set reward (USD 25) and try it! It is worth the investment.
Should llama fiber be good to your skin, we may have won an eternal customer!!!!
I think this is a very wonderful project. What happens if the fundraising goal is not met? Would you be able to proceed on a smaller scale?
So far we have invested a LOT of money in the project. Actually we even sold our house! There is no way back.
The project was designed with the export market in mind, based on a high value - low volume Premium model. Compared to other industries in the camelid textile sector, we are very small.
Great efforts were made to go all the way from Chile to attend The National Needlearts Association (TNNA) trade show in Columbus, Ohio last june, where Royal Llama was praised for its quality. I would say our business model is validated, with proven market acceptance.
WE WILL NOT QUIT in our efforts to reach the export market…no matter how much additional sacrifice it may take. Yet, as our finances almost touched bottom, it would be wonderful to have those $ 25.000 raised through crowdfunding, in order to accelerate our entry to the international market.
Llama fiber should felt well as guard hairs were almost totally removed.
We have two yarn weights: 165 yd/50 gram and 105 yd/50 gram. These should correspond to Sport ( 23-26 sts) and Worsted (16-20 sts), according to the Standard Yarn Weight System.
Royal Llama will be for sale in yarn stores! We will publish a distributor's list in our page www.fibrasandinas.com. Dealer inquiries are welcome!
Royal Llama crochets very well. A hollow fiber, it has a beautiful drape. Crocheting is a bit of a challenge as the fiber is very silky!
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