Monday, February 18, 2013


Yesterday my friend Holly and I went to the Southwest Regional Alpaca Show in Norco.  I have to start out by saying that I'm not one for animal shows.  I adore dogs and cats.  And I love most other animals at a distance. Close up - not so much.   But after this experience, I'll go to another alpaca show anytime.

Having never seen an alpaca except in photographs, I wasn't too sure what to expect.  I had heard that they are not outgoing animals and that they tend to spit at people when annoyed, so I planned to keep my distance and was prepared to dodge missiles. That turned out not to be the case. Holly did see one alpaca spit at its handler in the showing ring, but I missed that delight.

Turns out alpacas (at least the ones at this show) are very alert and curious.  They don't like to be approached suddenly by strangers and they don't like to be manhandled.  Who does?  For the most part, they were well-mannered and friendly. In fact, I would say they behaved better than the guests at the show.  It amazes me that people will touch an animal without the owner's permission -- and even worse, allow their children to do so.  

There were about a dozen vendors with different alpaca products from unprocessed fiber to roving to yarn.  Many beautiful handmade shawls, scarves, sweaters, gloves, hats.  Handmade soaps, needle felting kits, stuffed alpacas, finger puppets.  Some articles made in Peru, but most handmade by the vendors themselves.  I thought most of the prices were very reasonable, even for the hand-knitted items.

I couldn't resist these Peruvian-made gloves.

Although I have three bags of alpaca fiber in the process of being carded, the roving was so soft and tempting.  I succumbed to this lovely blend of 70% alpaca, 30% silk roving from A Simpler Time  in El Cajon.    The alpaca fiber is from their champion Calypso Cloud and photos don't do it justice.  It has a range of beautiful gray shades from light silver to nearly black.  Since I haven't actually spun alpaca yet, I was conservative (for me) and bought only two braids of this fiber - a little over 3 oz. each.  Mistake!

As soon as I got home, I put an empty bobbin on Bunny and commenced to spin.  I have to admit the first couple of yards were difficult -- the fiber drafts so easily I kept breaking the roving and having to join it again.  But after reducing Bunny's tension to almost nothing and slowing her down a bit, I found that I love spinning this fiber.

This photo shows how fine the fiber wants to spin for me.  I haven't gotten anything nearly like this with wool, but the alpaca seems to go this fine without any effort. I've already emailed the vendor about ordering more of this roving because I just fell in love with the texture and the color. 

Now I feel a little less intimated by the bags of fiber in my studio.  May need to order more bobbins for Bunny so I can have a few different projects going at once.

Back to the show... 

After surveying the vendor area, we walked up and down the rows of alpacas.  I knew that these animals carry a range of colors and two basic types of fiber, but I was surprised to realize that no two of them looked alike.

Really enjoyed talking with the owners.  When we stopped to admire the first group of alpacas, their owner, Joe of La Dolce Vita Alpacas invited us to go into one of their enclosures and pet their alpacas.  The animals were a little shy but one stood patiently while we fondled his soft fleece.  Good thing my home isn't zoned for farm animals because I might have thoughts about wanting a herd of these guys.

I ogled this two-toned fellow, but the lovely brown boy behind him let us pet him.

The judging ring.  Could have watched for hours.

Gossip Girls?
The huacaya alpaca has a soft, puffy looking fleece.
The suri alpaca has a silky fleece that looks like dreadlocks.

While I was taking photos of these two lovelies...

The guy in the back kept peeking at me through the fence.

Who could resist this face?
A lot of ladies had their hair colored like this in the sixties.
Shhh...  I is trying to hide!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Finished Some Yarn!

Huzzah!  I finally finished the Ferndale Fiber "Potluck Roving" in Stormy Sea that I bought two summers ago.  Weighed a little over a pound and I have over 700 yards of finished yarn.

Started with three large bobbins of singles.

I triple plied until one of the bobbins ran out, then Navajo plied the rest.  Have to say I was thrilled at how easy the plying went -- my singles broke only twice times during the whole process.

So much yarn, there was no way I was going to skein it using a niddy noddy, so I was forced to buy a swift/skein winder.  So many choices...   I ended up with a Mama Bear Swift with a yarn counter from the Oregon Woodworker.

Although I drooled over the more automated skein winders, no way I could justify plunking down nearly $800 for the electric model I liked best.  Not going to say I loved manually turning this winder, but it was a heck of a lot easier than the niddy noddy and at the rate I spin, I won't lose any sleep over the relatively small amount I spent for it.  And the counter made figuring out my yardage a breeze.

Then I had fun wet-finishing my yarn.  Did the usual soaking in hot water, and used the laundry spinner I bought a couple of years ago when I got excited about dyeing my own fibers.  This is the first time I've really used the spinner other than to make sure it actually worked when I received it.  I have to say I was VERY impressed.  I loaded the skeins while still sopping wet.  It took under a minute to spin out all of the excess water, and the skeins I removed felt dry to the touch.  After slapping them around a little to make the fibers bloom, I hung them up in my garage and they were completely dry within hours.

The model I have is the Laundry Alternative Portable Clothes Dryer.  Lest anyone be misled, it is a spinner only and uses centrifugal force to extract water.  It does not have a heated blower.  Ideal for this purpose.  Only thing I don't like is that the price has gone down since I bought mine.

So here are my finished skeins.  I'm still underspinning a little but much more consistent and I.m happy at how well-balanced the yarn turned out.   Now I have to figure out what to make with it!

This is my first real effort at triple plying.  I found it very easy to keep the tension equal on all three singles, but I would have liked to put a little more spin into the plying.    Here you can see how loosely plied the finished yarn came out.

This is the Navajo plied yarn.  I like the result much better -- apparently I am slow enough at making my chains that I'm get plenty of spin into it.  Or I wonder if it could be the result of the one length of yarn in the chain running opposite to the other two?  At any rate, I enjoyed the process and was thrilled not to have any of my singles break during this part, which is much harder on them than the triple plying.

Before I go, I want to brag (ok, put in a shameless plug) about my friend Michelle's etsy store.  It's called Textile Sanity, and Michelle makes card covers (including custom-sizes) and notecards with free-form felt designs.  She made these custom covers for the Moswalt hand cards that came with Thor.  Much nicer than anything I would have made and I love how she made them work with the big handles attached to the backs of the cards.  Rumor is that she's working on design for blending board covers. Can't wait to see it.