In a previous post HERE I had started spinning the fleece of my old girl, Jezebel and this weekend I had the pleasure of finishing up that yarn. Above, is one of the Jezebel skeins on the skein winder. This is a "clock reel"-type skein winder that I bought at an auction in Frederick. We use this thing to reel the skein off of the bobbin that the yarn was plied on to. (Using a spinning wheel of course.) The tied off skein looks like this:
After that step, the alpaca yarn needs to be washed. We don't wash alpaca fleece BEFORE spinning and plying - that isn't necessary and, along with being a lot of extra work, it will increase your chances of accidental felting quite a bit. Don't do it.
Of course you have to hang your skeins to dry after they are washed and here are 2 of my Jezebel skeins hanging on a tree in the breeze. Don't want to brag BUT, look how nice and straight they hang! If they were twisting to one side or the other, we'd know they were overspun or overplied (depending on which way they curled)
After washing and air drying, it's on to the Umbrella Swift to wind the skeins into balls. This thing is the equivalent of your grandma making you hold out your hands so she can wind her yarn into a ball but the Swift twirls and doesn't get sick of holding its hand up. On the other hand (get it?), I'd far rather have my grandma back if I could.
Here are two of the finished balls of the Jezebel yarn. At least one of these will go to making something for Jezebel's former owner who is going through a tough time but being very brave and gracious about it. This person should be named Grace and I mean that both in the sense of graciousness but also in the spiritual sense. That's the beauty of using your own alpaca fleeces. You can keep that connection to the animals that you loved. OK, I promise not to nag - really!
Speaking of those we've known and cared about in the alpaca business, I had an e-mail from Autumn Star Alpacas and Deb Tabor, who bought our girl, Fur Elise. She has sold Fur Elise to a new farm in Vermont, Armida Alpacas and, the people running this farm look like MY TYPE of PEOPLE. Of course I snaeked around checking their web site and I was thrilled to find this statement:
INTEGRITY: We are honest when it is convenient and when it is not. We do not take advantage of new breeders' innocence, and we make every effort to assure customer satisfaction.
Alrighty then! I like your attitude and I am super-happy to know where to go when I want to see what's up with Fur Elise. Meanwhile, Deb from Autumn Start Alpacas has a really nice blog on her site so I trolled through it looking for info about Fur Elise. Deb's blog is HERE: Autumn Star Alpacas Blog I stole the following photo from her blog - Please don't sue me Deb!!!
Also the following one of Fur Elise having a bad hair day:
Here is one that Deb does NOT have (but you are welcome to steal from here!) Fur Elise in the first moments of her cute baby life:
Fur Elise won a 1st at Virginia Classic for Deb, which didn't surprise me one bit.
Well I DO have to get back to work (real work, not alpaca fiber work) but one more alpaca pal checked in this weekend. Yvette Kirilenko from Wool & Gray Alpacas in New Jersey and I have a tradition of trading alpaca/sheep T-shirts that we get a events the other person can't attend. Sometimes I get her a T-shirt from Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and she has gotten me one from the MAPACA Jubilee. This year, however, I am holding out for the brand new Alpaca Heritage Events T-shirt. Logo by my dear friend , other Kate a.k.a. Kate2, a.k.a. Kate McKelvie of Alpacas of Sunset Fields Look how pretty this logo is:
Previously, the Alpaca Heritage Group was stuck with yours truly as the "graphic artist" wannabe in residence but Kate 2 is an actual graphic artist, not a wannabe. Here is one of my old logos from my Alpaca Heritage days:
If you were one of the people who was offended by the show's name, (Bare Naked Alpaca Show) back then, please don't weigh in again. It was a JOKE about shorn alpacas! And, frankly, it's sort of hard for me to imagine people THAT squeamish about s.e.x. wanting to breed animals for a living.
As, I've admitted, I'm not exactly Picasso. So, thanks for showing me up Kate 2! Just kidding, can't wait to get the T-shirt! Anyone else there who wants to trade alpaca/sheep T-shirts, E-mail ME. Meanwhile, if you are wishing you knew more about graphics, web sites, blogs etc. for your OWN alpaca business, I can't promise to make you an artist but I think I CAN make you understand how these little alpaca marketing tricks are done. Check this link if you are interested:
Secrets of alpaca marketing with your computer Seminar
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hand spun & knit alpaca hat from my alpaca "Beowulf"
If you saw my previous entry, you know that I was getting cranky about answering all the weekly fleece sale questions of the other alpaca people who e-mail me from my web site. Here is yesterday's e-mail:
I love my alpacas, but what do I do with the fleece? Is there a market out there? It is nice having ribbons one can put on the wall, but what about the bags of fleece?
(Name ommitted by me to avoid embarrassing anyone)
I have finally decided to just go ahead and write up a document with most of what I have to say on the subject of how to sell your alpaca fleeces. It is not that I don't want to answer people's fleece questions, but more that I don't have time to do so. Those who know me will not be surprised that this document will not be considered politically correct in alpaca breeder Fairytale land. I am a proud former alpaca breeder but NOT a fairy tale teller. Here is the link to this document whose title is: Alpaca Fleece Sales Reality Check
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1st week of March over and I am still slogging away on the update of the website of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival but finding a little bit of spare time, here and there, to work on my current spinning project, a fleece I had saved from my pretty, soft girl, Jezebel (photo above.) Jez lives happily with her new family in Dameron MD now at Dameron Alpacas but, I am told by her owner, Rose, that I can visit her whenever I want. Jez's fleece is SUPER soft and a grand champion fleece show winner, so I am excited to finally be spinning it up. Here is is in the roving,
Here's the faithful, old Ashford Kiwi with the current bobbin of Jezebel fiber on it. I have had many different spinning wheels over the years, including some very expensive ones but I have always loved my inexpensive little Kiwi because it is not finicky like some wheels. I have had pricey wheels that seem to be perpetually in need of adjustment but this one gets carted to shows, played with by little kids, etc. and stays rock solid.
It is not a fancy-wood wheel though so, if you buy one, I recommend painting it something cheery to make it look better. Here is the (amateurishly) painted front of my kiwi wheel. That dark spot at the top is an example of bad photo taking but not there in real life.
Speaking of alpaca fleece, due to my large Website , I get e-mail questions about alpaca fleece about 2 times per week, every week of the year and have done for about 7 years. People contact me wanting to know where to sell their fleece, CAN they sell their fleece, Will I sell their fleece FOR THEM, etc. I do have some (OK - pretty strong) opinions about alpaca fleece and what we should all be doing to create a market for alpaca fleece, but I am not the Oracle with the answers to all alpaca fleece questions. The following is an actual excerpt from an e-mail I received this week:
"Hi...I am considering purchasing a few alpacas for investment purposes. I am currently researching the farming of alpaca both for fleece as well as for breeding. Upon researching, I have not been successful in obtaining exactly where or how one would sell the fleece once it is harvested. Can you tell me if you sell the fleece only at shows, or do you have to market it to spinners, or is there an organization or manufacturer(s) of clothing and other items, that will purchase the fleece directly from the farm or do I have to bring it somewhere????"
Good question!, person whose name I will not disclose so as to avoid any potential embarrassment!
Of course, I will answer this person, as I have every single person before her but it does burn me up a little that more alpaca "breeders" are not doing more to create a US market for their "product", and they are not using their own websites to try to answer questions like the one above. I am no longer breeding alpacas but I am still answering these questions. Here is another interesting fleece tidbit. The following comes from a Yarn Catalog for a very well-known company and it is part of a description in their catalog for an alpaca yarn they sell,
"....The fiber that is categorized as "baby" is mostly shorn from the alpaca's belly, where the softest, downiest fleece is found."
Oops! Not even close folks! The belly is usually discarded as the LEAST desirable part of the fleece.
Think that alpaca people need to do more to educate the public about alpaca fleece? Me too. I hate to be cranky, but I'd really like to avoid answering the alpaca fleece questions of every single person in America by myself. Can I get a little help here????
OK, enough whining, Why whine when you have photos of new alpaca babies to share? Here is the photo of Miss "Demitasse" sent to me by Anne Bullock of Winchat Alpacas in PA. Thank you soooo much Anne! Demitasse is the daughter of a former girl of mine named "Toe Dancer" Toe Dancer has given Anne 3 of these beautiful calico patterned girls in a row and no one could deserve that good luck more than Anne, who is a VERY nice person.
How cute is THAT little Demitasse face! The sire of this girl is a guy named, Meadowgate San Pedro. Anne, I don't want to nag but, if you had a website, I would have linked to it just now!
My latest website protegee, Tara, has not only set up a nice website, but she has now added a blog with really cool photos at: Tara's Blog I love the photo of Hannah with her red hair shining prettily in the sun, feeding the alpacas. You know you've been a handspinner too long when you look at shiney, child hair and think, "Wow, that would make a pretty yarn!"
Speaking of shameless bragging, I also received an e-mail from my friend Amanda this week, the title of which was "Egg is Famous!!!!" Egg refers to her herdsire, Eggnog who was used for the poster for this year's Virginia Classic Alpaca Show. Egg is the white alpaca in the poster, below:
Eggnog is a very cute guy but my favorite photo of him is the head shot below:
Thanks for everyone who asked about Sweetie the Horse's recovery; She is much better now and can be ridden at the walk or trot. Still have a little ways to go before thinking of cantering. As for my furry nemesis the evil squirrel, things there are, sadly, unchanged. Here is Mr. Evil just sucking the feed out of my feeder as fast as he can.
When I go outside to confront him, he acts casual like he wasn't up to anything:
As soon as I go back inside, he brazenly decides to try his luck on the other side of the feeder.
Where was Blairby, the valiant, anti-squirrel, guard dog during this latest squirrel incursion??? Busy crushing a dangerous rival for the affections of his favorite person in the world.
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I've said it before, but it bears repeating. I love all the friends that I have made in the alpaca business and how they continue to check in to let me know how all my furry babies are doing in their current homes. Photo above is from an e-mail from Endless Mountains Alpacas in Northern PA.
The subject line of the e-mail was "Hi Mom!"
That choked me up a little.
It went on to say that my boy, Valentino is doing fine and staying warm up there. Thanks Judy! Val is the daddy of the little girl whose photo I use at the top of this blog. You can see the resemblance.
It's kind of an ESP thing on Judy's part because I have been thinking of Val a lot this week. I have been doing a re-Knit of a sweater I made out of his fleece a few years ago. I have worn it for years but it never fit exactly the way I wanted it to so I frogged it (rip it rip it - lame knitter's joke) and started re-knitting it, throwing in a little hand spun blue merino for color. Here are the first couple of inches:
This week turned out to be like "old home week."
Also had a dinner invitation to come see some of my former babies in person from Susan at Apple Valley Alpacas If you have seen our DVD, Susan and her husband Larry are guest stars in the movie.
My pals at Wildwood Alpacaschecked in with their report about my girls, Pinka and Glad and their boys. My favorite part of that e-mail is where Sue says about Glad, "I put out an additional "secret bowl" for her on the other side of the barn. It's our little game to allow her to eat her full in peace without all the pushy girls around."
That's the great thing about small alpaca farms, you can fuss over the eating habits of each one of your furry people. Some of us just need the secret bowl to feel secure in getting our share without panicking or choking!
Some furry persons who do NOT need extra help getting their share of food from me are the evil squirrel people. Our squirrels usually content themselves with eating what the birds drop and hanging upside down on the suet container, chomping away UNLESS it snows and then they get crazy and just knock the bird feeders onto the ground and plunder the entire contents. Here is one of my feeders already knocked down with the useless, squirrel-loving dog eying it confusedly.
But, no, the vile little squirrel did not stop there. I soon caught him just as he was about to make a jump for the larger feeder. Bark you dumb dog! That's your job!
This week is also WEBSITE WEEK! I worked on Amanda's website www.AlpacaLove.com last week and am almost done with her massive update. For those of you who don't know her, Amanda used to be the farm manager at Lanark Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia. She knows ALL about alpaca care and breeding, so go ahead and click on her link and bother HER with any alpaca questions you may have. But, Shhhhh! don't tell her that I told you that.
Then I checked in on my newest webmaster protege, Tara at Yellow Rose of Virginia Alpaca Farm. Tara bought my guy, Campion. I was thrilled to see how great her website looks now, and she did it herself with just a little bullying from me. Great job Tara! Go check it out: Tara's Website
But!!! Drum Roll Please! The biggest news of the week is that I got the PACKAGE yesterday.
Each year I eagerly, breathlessly wait for the package from one of my friends from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Committee. I can barely stand to wait this long to see what classes will be offered in knitting and spinning, what the cover art contest winning entry looks like (that is what you see on the catalog, mugs, T-shirts, etc.), what vendors will be at the Festival, what the showcase event is, etc. etc. After I calm down, I take the contents of the package and use them to build this year's MD Sheep and Wool Festival website.
If you are wondering what that has to do with alpacas then you just don't get it. Alpacas are fleece producing animals and the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is the largest fleece event there is. It is the Holy Mecca of all U.S. hand spinners, knitters, felters, weavers and other fiber artists. There is nothing you can't find there from all types of wool to alpaca, to 5 kinds of silk to Yak, Quiviet, Mohair, Cashmere, Cashgora, Eco-spun (re-cycled soda pop bottle fiber) and Ingeo (fiber chemically extracted from corn) Plus, you can buy any spinning, knitting or weaving equipment no matter how exotic. I am very, very honored to be their webmaster.
The cover art winning entry for the Festival is never announced to the public until AFTER it is revealed to the Festival Committee members. I love it! but, if I showed it to you here, I would have to kill you. That wouldn't be nice so you will have to wait. (evil laughter)
One of our festival committee members and a great spinner and educator died this past year of pancreatic cancer. Her name was Jane Hyland. she had a lot of jobs on the committee but most people remember her as the Sheep to Shawl contest auctioneer. I just happened to take a photo of her last year at the festival, walking along with her husband in a state of post-fleece shopping bliss. Of course I had no idea that she'd soon be sick, so it was just dumb luck on my part but, I am very happy to have taken that photo now. This year's catalog has a nice dedication to Jane's memory. If you have never been part of something like the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Committee where the work is a labor of true love and the people feel like your own family (or possibly better in some cases), I highly recommend it.
Here's looking at you Jane.
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