Customer: "How much of this alpaca yarn do I need to knit a sweater?"
Alpaca Breeder: "I don't know."
So I am embarrassed to admit that I, myself, had a pattern for a 50% alpaca / 50% Merino wool cardigan for sale in my booth at MD Sheep & Wool Festival 2007 that turned out to be a less than thrilling pattern. Since this pattern and yarn, inexplicably, did not sell, I ended up knitting it myself. Boo hoo! O how I HATE to "have to" use yarn myself when I can't sell it! - kind of what it would be like for my son, Nick, to own a candy store and "have to" eat the candy that didn't sell.
The yarn, Turquoise Classic Elite "Zoom" is great, but I foolishly thought that a pattern that was written specifically for this yarn and, by an expert!, would somehow be better than offering the yarn for sale with a simpler pattern. Most of these commercial cardigan patterns require the knitter to knit a separate piece for the back, left front, right front, neck band and each arm. That's a lot of sewing up! Being a knit-in-the-round kind of sweater knitter, I never realized until I knit this other pattern that I HATED IT! The size was not right, the directions turned out to be practically un-decipherable and then I was going to have to sew all of these pieces together?!! I don't think so!
I knit all of this cardigan save one sleeve and then tore it out, scandalizing my knitting club. Although, I like to think that there may have been some grudging admiration mixed in there as well. You're not a real knitter until you've decided to just frog it. (ripit, ripit) Three weeks later, some of them are still shaking their heads in amazement and repeating, "I can't believe you ripped out a sweater that was practically done." But, who really wants a sweater that they hate? Not me.
I am a big believer in paying for patterns that are good, but I am finding that more and more of the patterns I really like are things that I found free on the Internet. That's bad news for pattern creators and sellers. Some of them are going to have to work a little harder to make a product that people will happiliy pay for. Here's some advice to you, lady who wrote the pattern for the discarded sweater that I am now calling, "the dis-cardigan:"
Instructions like "reverse all shaping for other side" and "decrease 1 every 4 rows for 7 then every 6 rows for 8 while at the same time k2tog every 2 rows for 10" did not make me happy that I paid $5 for your pattern! You really can't write this out line by line?, or at least indicate which one is for the neck shaping and which is for the underarm shaping? Yeah, I KNOW that it becomes obvious as you're doing it but still, people like a little more information about what's going on. Plus, the dicardigan was going to be 2 sizes too large anyway and, YES!, I did knit the swatch to check my gauge!
So I switched to a pattern called, Top Down Raglan Cardi version 2.0 from the blog, Cosmic Pluto Knits! You can find it here:
YOu knit the neck, back, shoulders, left front and right front in one piece, save the sleeve stitches on holders and boogie on down to the hem. Couldn't be simpler, she has added extra shaping for those who want it AND........ it requires no sewing up! Thanks Cosmic Pluto - You Rock!
alpaca wool blend cardigan
Now that ingenious knitters have figured out how to knit socks on one circular needle, hats and entire sweaters in the round on 2 circulars and cardigans top down in once piece, is there any reason at all to keep making patterns for socks with seams in them and cardigans with 6 pieces that need to be sewn together? Besides keeping the sewing machine people in business I mean? Is "sewing up" so yesterday? If you have some strong opinion on this, pls. let me know.
Meanwhile, back at the Mount Airy Alpaca Company, we are getting ready for the big move to Florida! No more live alpacas, no more deer in the corn field, no more snow! This is going to take some getting used to.
This is the time of year when I'd normally be watching alpaca babies being born and having the thrill of seeing the cria dashing around the fields around my barn. I do miss it but, when you live on a farm, there are always nice animal babies around, you just have to look a little harder.
We see deer practically every day in the spring and summer but I like to stalk them frequently with my camera anyway. It makes for good photography practice. This shot wasn't particulary good but, when I looked at it more closely, I was surprised to see the size of this doe's udder!
bagged up doe
Sure enough, it was only a week later that I got my first glimpse of her twins. They walked right by my office window and across the front lawn. One ran when I pointed the camera, but the other one just looked calmly back at me over its shoulder.
cute baby deer
Recently, I noticed deer hoof prints near the mineral feeders that we have scattered along the sides of our barn. We think of the deer as shy and kind of dumb, but at least one of them figured out that these red containers had some residue in them of the mineral powder that we used to feed to our alpacas. So they have been licking the containers. Pretty smart.
deer hoof prints
alpaca mineral dish
In addition to the thrill of baby deer on the lawn, I like to be super nosy with all of my neighbors, and, basically, just demand to see any baby creatures that they have born on their farms. So, I invited myself over to one neighbor's place last week to see their brand new donkey baby.
So cute! Her name is Mae and here she is with her mama, "Daisy":
mom and baby donkey
Meanwhile, another neighbor has a very pregnant Icelandic horse that I'm keeping a close eye on. Don't call this cutie a pony! That makes Icelandic owners mad because they are small horses - thank you very much.
bred Icelandic horse
I have never seen an Icelandic horse baby and who knows if I'll get this chance again! I helped this same neighbor to move her horses a couple of weeks ago and, since one was shedding, I did what any psycho hand spinner would do. I tugged out a few handfuls and quickly stuffed it in my pocket.
2 Icelandic horses
Don't let anyone tell you that the fiber art thing is not an addiction or at least a nasty compulsion. I have heard of spinners spinning dryer lint (I don't recommend this - It's highly flammable), road kill and even milk weed. The Icelandic horse fur sample was not as soft as I'd hoped. Even washed and fluffed up, it's pretty coarse, so I won't be sneaking over to the neighbor's place with comb and a pillow case after all. That's probably a good thing.
Icelandic horse fur
Also last week, there was a dead groundhog in our paddock. That happens more often than you might think around here but this time I happened to witness an epic struggle on the part of several turkey vultures, a young hawk and a crow, all of whom wanted that same dead ground hog for their dinner. The turkey vultures won, of course. They are quite large and pretty tenacious when it comes to getting what they want. It's hard not to think of them as ugly but they do a useful service in cleaning up dead animals that would otherwise be pretty stinky so we have to appreciate them if not admire them.
turkey vulture gliding
I'm always amazed at how many people think that hawks and vultures look alike when they are flying because they really don't. Besides the two-toned look to the underside of the vulture, there is the gliding way in which they fly. They can go a long time without flapping their wings. The vultures circle a lot and catch updrafts and other air currents while the hawks flap their wings every couple of seconds and, when the hawks do glide, they do it in a faster, more direct way.
flying red tailed hawk
When they are perched, the vulture has a head so ugly that it's hard not to feel sorry for them.
turkey vulture perched
When I bug them by stalking them for a photo, they will calmly fly off. The hawk, on the other hand sometimes gets mad and screams at me.
And the crow? They look pretty perched on a tree in the bright sun, slightly ominous when perched in the dark or near dark, and just plain weird when they are flying:
flying crow silhouette
So, I will miss the animals that I have around me here in Maryland but I look forward to discovering some new photographic subjects in Florida.
We will continue selling our alpaca care DVD.
We may do some lecturing, fleece judging and/or get a vendor booth at a few alpaca shows in Florida.
I will be working as a website consultant for 2 alpaca-related charities.
Of course, I'll be on the lookout for some knitting and spinning buddies.
The other big question in my mind is what will become of our beloved alpaca farm? Some of the people looking at it have been horse farmers and some have been sheep farmers but, so far, no alpaca farmers. Some have not been farmers at all.
I still have hope that our farm will continue to be a farm with happy animals and happy children growing on it, but we'll have to trust that the people who are meant to own it will buy it. And, even if they don't plan to have a farm now, that doesn't mean that they won't wake up one day and realize that they were meant to be farmers. We did.
random dragonfly near our pond
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