Monday, October 31, 2011
It's always fun talking about the farm, the fiber and the alpacas! Don't know that they needed to include my age!
It wasn't easy to get a good picture! I had Leyla on a lead, but all she wanted to do was to get back in with the other alpacas, so the picture has her pulling on the lead, with her ears back! And she just wouldn't stand still. That is, until the photographer left. Oh well!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
So we make sure the alpacas have a swimming pool in each pen! Some of the alpacas just stand in the pools or use their front feet to splash water up at their bellies, but there are "swimmers" who take a full dip and sit down. To each his own! This is BMCA Jenna taking her first dip of the year.
While the alpacas enjoy the summer grass and their swimming pools, I'm busy skirting fiber. What do I do with it then? I have several options--all of which I use.
I like what they did so much, I sent more fiber their way. I'm also trying out a mill in Pennsylvania--Lazy Meadows.
I take some of my alpaca after skirting and wash it myself. I'm lucky enough to have traded my crew's skills at trimming alpaca toes for a used top loading washing machine I keep in the garage. I fill it with hot water using a hose from my laundry room near the garage door. The fleece goes in with some dishwashing liquid and soaks and then gets spun out. I may soak an extra dirty fleece a second time, and rinse it. The usual method of drying is to set the fleece in the sun on screens or the skirting table--that can take a day or two, turning the fleece, rescuing it from bursts of wind, etc.
But this year, I had a great idea! The story goes back about 9 or ten years ago when I accompanied my brother Brad up to an appliance store in Spokane where he was talking/pricing range tops. I got bored with the discussion and wandered around the store. "Brad, come look at this!" It was a "drying system," a "two-story" appliance with a "regular" dryer on the bottom and a second story of shelves and racks for drying/airing stuff. I had never seen anything like it before!
I should have known better than to wax eloquent over anything, because when Brad went up to Spokane a few weeks later to pick up his new range tops, he drove back with the "system" for me! Funny thing was, it wouldn't fit into the house where I was living at the time. So, it's been sitting in Brad's (now my) garage for years, unused!
Lightbulb appearing over my head!! Could I set fleece on the shelves instead of sweaters??? YES!!!! A trial run and it worked! Takes less than an hour to dry fleece. Wonderful!
So now, I can sell washed fleece---so much better than the fleece straight off the alpaca. No matter how hard we try to clean them beforehand, using a shop vac even, there's always dust left! I don't wash the fleece that gets sent to mills, but this skirted, washed fleece is wonderful for spinners!
So I tried something else this year. An inveterate Ravelry-er, I asked if there were spinners who were comfortable with suri and made an offer--I'll send you clean fleece; you spin; you send me half and keep the other half! I've had quite a few takers.
My first "return" came this week from Raveler Tara from Tennessee--she combined my suri with cormo (wool) and you'll have to take a look at the result on her flikr page:
I'm so happy with it! Looking forward to seeing what I get from "my" other spinners!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
But tulips and daffodils have made their way out of the mud and I'm sure will be blooming in a couple of weeks. It's sunny today, but supposed to be rainy for the next few days. Don't know when I'll be able to shear. Last year it wasn't until the third week in June and it may be that late again if spring keeps coming in so reluctantly!
Today as I worked down at the Artisan Barn studio, I plied two bobbins of alpaca--one a darker gray huacaya and the other a white suri. I have to take it off the plying bobbin and wash it tonight. Can't decide if I'll try to sell it or use it myself for a cowl--what I had in mind originally.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
It was momentarily difficult to decide whether or not to browse the vendor booths before sitting to spin. But only momentarily! We browsed before we even set up our wheels! So many great vendors with practically anything a spinner/knitter's heart could desire. Many of my alpaca friends from Pacific Northwest Alpaca Association were there, either vending or just browsing and networking.
Lynne, who has yaks along with llamas, alpacas, and dogs, enjoyed meeting a fellow yak farmer from Sandpoint, ID. While looking at her lovely exotic fibers, a large skein of yak and silk lace yarn called out loudly to me! It has joined my stash! Right before we left, it called out to Lynne, also. She also had to buy a t-shirt "Got Yak!"
I also purchased, from another vendor, some extra f ine lace merino that I thought would go with some red beads I bought a month or so ago. I had nothing in mind at the time, except that I had no red beads--it turned out I had no yarn to go witih the red beads. One thing always leads to another!
I spent time with Jayne Deardorf from Me2 Farm (Colville, ID). Jayne has taken my alpaca fiber and made me some beautiful roving over the past five years! She always likes to get the name and picture of the alpaca from which the fleece comes from. She told us that she pins the picture on the wall as she's working and talks to it (nice alpaca!!) She just recently sent me roving from BMCA Elayna (which is now at Yarn Underground) and from one of the early imports from the farm, Esplindida. I'm saving that for me, maybe!
Jane also had some dyes and I bought a "Mother Mackenzie's Miracle Dye Mix kit with 9 basic colors and directions for secondary colors. The only dying I've done so far has been supervised by friend and partner Margo, who took a class on natural dyes and has been experimenting. I really just loved the indigo, but you can't have everything in blue! I also succumbed to temptation and bought a beaded wheel orifice hook.
My friend Jennie brought a young girl with her who is from Germany and currently studying at WSU. Michelle has fallen in love with spinning and knitting and was learning to use a spindle. Shelley was there from Yarn Underground networking like mad when she wasn't buying yarn or roving!
I did spin, though. I brought with me some gray alpaca huacaya roving--my first huacaya. Yes, it is much easier to spin than suri! And it's going to have a very nice gradation of colors. I may use it for a cowl I'm going to knit for a SKAL (spin-knit-along).
I'm planning to head to a Fiber Festival in May in South Spokane. Walking around at this spin-in gave me some ideas of what I could take to sell--maybe I'll have to take Esplendida's roving there!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I'm going to do a scarf with my black and white alpaca, using some lace stitches on the white "blocks" and then add some black beads I picked up in Posts Falls a couple of weeks ago.
Sunday, I'll be giving some tips on knitting lace at the Woolgatherer's meeting. One of my tips might be to be careful of your lace knitting when you're drinking tea! I had my shawlette with me when I was knitting a couple of Sundays ago at the Yarn Underground and alas! part of it ended up in my cup of tea. I didn't notice right away, and even though I tried to get the tea out with some cold water, it did't work. So now I have the entire shawlette sitting in some weak tea, hoping that I can get the effect that you get when you put fabric in tea--just a light "antique" look that won't detract too much from the nice blues in the Starry yarn.
I'm looking out the window at two inches of fresh snow--everything looks so clean--and there's even some blue in the sky today and very little wind. Hard to believe that just a week ago, it was approaching the high 40s and everyone was thinking "spring"!!
So, back to my hobo bag!!! Cheers!