plying alpaca on the Kiwi wheel
Is there a special Dante-esque level of Hell for people who write too
much about alpaca fleece, where they are forced to read e-mail after
e-mail written by persons who want to be alpaca breeders but don't
want to take even the slightest interest in their own "end product"?
They would rather e-mail someone else in very large numbers?
If so, I am certainly destined to end up there. If..... I'm not there already.
Here is my featured, alpaca fleece e-mail question of the week:
"Hi my name is NAME REMOVED FOR OBVIOUS REASONS and we just purchased an alpaca farm and found 4 bags of hair. I was wondering if it is still good and if it is how do I sell it. If you could please let me know either way. You can contact me at CONTACT INFO.REMOVED FOR OBVIOUS REASONS."
4 bags of HAIR?!!!
I know, I know, you're thinking, "Gad, you're so mean Kate! Why do you have to make fun of these people on your blog?"
Forget about the fleece, this kind of e-mail always makes me nervous about whether this person has educated herself about the proper care and feeding of alpacas. After all, you can be mean by talking straight with people, but you can also be mean because you just think some living thing is sooooo cute, but you have not tried hard enough to figure out how to take care of that living thing.
Hopefully, that is not the case with this person. I did answer her politely.
Meanwhile, in that same alpaca fleece person Hell, there would be an old, banged-up spinning wheel that stops working just when you are about to finish plying the alpaca skein that you were dying to knit with.
Sort of like this one:
my poor, broken Kiwi spinning wheel
The conrod joint of my Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel broke when I was approximately halfway through plying my last two bobbins of the huacaya /suri blend alpaca fleece. This part is hard rubber or soft plastic or something like that, but mine, very old, had dried out and cracked.
Speaking of crack, a non-fiber addict person (I know very few of these) would just stop spinning and arrange to replace the part.
Hah! I decided to just use one of the two treadles. This would have worked, albeit awkwardly, but the loose conrod blocked the treadle with each turn, stopping the wheel from turning.
conrod blocks treadle
If you have never spun a few skeins with a wheel that is held together with elastic hair bands and paper clips, are you even a REAL hand spinner?
Nah. Here is my solution - rubber band holds the conrod out of the way.
spinning on broken wheel
In this clumsy way, I managed to finish plying the skein. Meanwhile, another spinner had sworn to me that fish tank tubing is just the thing to replace the rubbery, Ashford conrod joints. So, I tried it.
It worked for about 3 turns of the wheel and then broke again.
Working on the assumption that the old-fashioned ways were probably the most sensible when it comes to fibery things, I finally used the traditional method of joining the conrods to the treadles, the strip of flexible leather.
Success at last!
Yes, I feel badly about the cow, but when it comes to building materials, it's pretty hard to beat Mother Nature. I actually wish I'd done this a long time ago, as the wheel turns even more smoothly now. Thank goodness we didn't have to give up the spinning
Is there a Heaven for former alpaca breeders? If there is, it is knowing that your former alpacas are well cared for, loved and happy with their new owners. Here is a photo of one of my old girl, Pinka 's, offspring, winning big in a Virginia show for his owners at Wildwood Alpacas. He looks just like his Mommy!
Back to Christmas present knitting for me. I finished this Calorimetry for my sister. This is more a functional thing than a fancy one, it keeps your ears warm without messing up your hair
Calorimetry Pattern on Knitty
This crazy Christmas scarf for my Mother-in-law (She wanted it!)
Christmas scarf for the monster-in-law
and this capelet for my Church's Christmas Bazaar.
Doesn't my daughter look thrilled to be modeling it? I made up this pattern myself because I was too lazy to follow the one I had printed out.
Important Philosophical Question:
If I kept the 70% Alpaca/ 20% Silk/ 10% Cashmere, hand-dyed, lace weight, 100g skein for myself, even though I bought it to make a Christmas gift for someone else, would I end up on Santa's Bad Girl List?
alpaca blend hand dyed yarn ball
PS. Buy that yarn here if you are needing it:
Turtle Cove Farm in Cape Canaveral, FL
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Just when I think that I have moved on from getting apoplectic about the many people who are ignorant about the specifics of alpaca fleece & yarn, - and yet - want to expound on this topic anyway, I see something that makes me crazy again and I'm off and ranting. Here I am, spinning alpaca fleece (more on that later) and doing my humble best to educate myself about alpaca yarn and fleeces, when I read another (or two other) nutty proclamation about alpaca.
People, PLEASE do your research!
The first offender is Debbie Macomber, bestselling-author of various romance novels and romance/knitting hybrid novels. Some of my knitting friends like this author, and one of my knitting pals adores Debbie Macomber! She even went so far as to buy me an autographed book by Ms. Macomber. I did not have the heart to tell her that this author is not my favorite. Luckily, my dear friend hates computers and never reads blogs.
Being thusly confused about why Debbie Macomber is a best-selling author, and why so many knitters just love Debbie Macomber, I picked up her autobiographical book, "Knit Together: Discover God's Pattern For Your Life" - about how she became a best-selling author. It turned out to be an unispiring mix of feelgood, never-give-up cheeriness and religion. Despite the title, any mention of knitting was restricted to clunky metaphors such as the following from page 100,
Would that be Huacaya alpaca yarn? Suri alpaca yarn? Peruvian alpaca yarn? Woolen processed alpaca yarn? Worsted processed alpaca yarn? And which wool should we blend it with? Not Lincoln or any other hair breed of sheep right? That wouldn't help.
Here's an idea, if you are a best-selling author and, therefore, super-rich, try buying alpaca yarn from someone who can sell you yarn that won't stretch! You could have the yarn you want, and your readers could have accurate information. Maybe your relationships aren't as frustrating and stretchy as you think. Maybe YOU are the problem.
OK, maybe I should calm down now. If you DO happen to be a big fan of Debbie Macomber, you can go ahead and send me the hate e-mails now, but please use the Subject line, "Alpaca yarn does NOT have to strech" so that I don't leave your e-mails in the spam filter.
Meanwhile, back at Cranky Alpaca Lady central, despite having way too many alpaca and llama-related things in my house, I was inexplicably drawn to a display of llama toys at the import store in Daytona Beach. How cute and fluffy they were! I smiled and felt a warm glow, but then I saw IT! - a small sign with "information" about llamas and alpacas.
crazy sign about llamas with alpaca fleece
If you cannot read the sign above (photo taken with my cellphone) it says,
"Llamas live high in the Andes of Peru and grow thick soft wool called alpaca, as protection against the cold.
The Incas prized llamas as transport, food and clothing, and alpaca is still treasured all over the world for its warmth and softness.
This item is entirely handmade using alpaca wooll (sic) that is gathered from the llamas."
Is "wooll" a euphemism for skin? Because I'm pretty sure that you can't "gather" a pelt from a llama that is living, and those toys are not made from gluing alpaca fur to a cloth body. The fur is attached to skin and the skin is sewn onto a toy llama. My understanding has always been that the alpacas and llamas used for toys are still births, so my issue is not with the idea of animal skin on toys but, rather, the labeling. Why have an informational label on something if you have so little interest in providing accurate information? If you happen to be Bolivian, Chilean or Ecuadoran, you may share my surprise at the fact that only Peru is located in the high Andes and produces alpacas and llamas.
As for the idea that Llamas grow "alpaca" on them - whatever. Maybe we need a romance novel about a great looking, buxom (this is FICTION people!) alpaca breeder who also happens to be a handspinner and keeps a guard llama, a mean horse named, "Sweetie" and a dumb dog named "Blair." Oh and, what the heck, let's make her an expert at knitting the 'Cardigan for Arwen' while we're hallucinating.
Lest you think that I spend all of my time raging about inaccurate alpaca information gentle reader, please know that I recently did a handspinning demo at an event in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Not the most fibery of destinations but people were really into it. I had a lot of questions including the usual, "Do you teach handspinning?" Maybe I shouldn't have sold off my 5 other spinning wheels before moving south. So, I do make my own, valiant effort to educate the public about fiber and alpaca-ish topics.
kate - handspinning demo alpaca with alpaca fleece
This particular spinning demo was not at an alpaca show, or even a fleece or fiber festival but at a Pagan Pride celebration. If you are thinking Wiccan or devil worship, think more like Earth Day and hippies. The only devil here was the fire ant that viciously bit my foot while I spun. My own presence there was due to an error whereby I thought this event was advertising a handspinning class. When I called for more information, it turned out that the "spinning class" was actually about "Poi Spinning." Until that moment I had always thought Poi was a food staple of the Hawaiian people but, luckily, I was not writing about that topic, so I did not mis-inform thousands of people. But, I digress.
The event producer and I had the predictable conversation, "What kind of spinning were YOU talking about?" Huh? Then two things happened, she asked me to do a handspinning demo at the event, and my daughter, now 17 and dying to go to an actual RAVE party, (forget it kid) begged to be allowed to sign up for the Poi Spinning class. Apparently, the spinning of two, lighted, ball-shaped objects attached to long, thin ropes is an important skill for young persons who attend Raves. Cassandra enjoyed herself spinning the practice poi, two tennis balls attached to plastic twine and I had fun spinning up my alpaca roving and talking about fiber. I, also, gamely tried the poi spinning but immediately whacked myself hard on the nose with one of the tennis balls in front of a large group of onlookers, so I don't plan on moving up to the flaming poi spinning, demonstrated by our instructor any time soon. I may just stick to fleece spinning.
my little girl, happily spinning pretend poi
If any of you were wondering how the Huacaya / Suri mix roving that I bought at the Florida Alpaca Show and mentioned in this post:
POST ABOUT BUYING THE HUACAYA SURI ALPACA FLEECE
turned out, here is the answer: a little hairy but otherwise, perfect. Can't wait to knit with this yarn!
skein handspun alpaca - huacaya / suri blend
More on the process of spinning up the Suri / Huacaya blend roving later but, if you haven't had enough obsessing about spinning for one day, try clicking the link below to see how the pros do it,
SHAWL MADE FROM SPIDER'S SILK!
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Galadriel and her daughter Francesca
My friends from Wildwood Alpacas in Woodford Virginia were good enough to send me pictures of my old girl Galadriel's new female cria, Francesca out of their herdsire, Marcel. Fran, as they call her has already been praised by the shearer as having one of the softest fleeces she's ever seen. Good girl Galadriel!. I always knew that my Gladdie would make a good alpaca mom for some lucky farm. She's always been very motherly and she's also a nice sturdy girl. I don't like alpacas that are rickety-looking.
newborn Francesca with her dam, Glad
Meanwhile, Glad's son, Jake just won a championship at the Blue Ridge Classic Alpaca Show and was praised by the judge there. What a stud muffin!
Glad's con Jake - alpaca stud boy
Also, winning for the Wildwood Alpacas gals was Spice, the granddaughter of my girl, Latte. The Spice girl took a 1st and a reserve champion. She has her grand dam's crazy hairdo and also her queenly bearing.
Latte's granddaughter, Spice
Thank you Sue and Judy, for always sending me photos of the babies and grand-babies ( alpacas) - I love seeing what the girls have produced and how they are doing. They're lucky to have such a happy home.
Meanwhile, my friend Kathleen Gridley and I have formed what may just be the world's most exclusive club; ex-Maryland alpaca breeders, hand spinning and knitting fanatics, named Kathleen, who were members of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Committee and appeared in the the National Geographic Channel's alpaca episode and now live in Florida.
We're kind of wasting all that alpaca hand spinning talent - except for those lucky friends and relatives up North who get the hand made, alpaca Christmas gifts from us. Kathleen and I still get together now and then and send each other photos by e-mail, but we no longer sit together in the dirt watching our alpacas have - ahem - 'relations' with one another, making jokes about whether we should provide music and/or wine. We really miss those days. Here we are at the famous Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida.
Kate Perez and Kathleen Gridley at Bok Tower Gardens
If you're thinking that the other Kathleen is both skinnier AND more well-endowed than me, Yeah, I know! It's not easy being friends with someone like that.
Bok Tower Gardens is located on the highest spot in peninsular Florida, but Kathleen and I both agreed that the climb from our houses on our farms in Maryland, to our own barns was steeper. Still, it was 'high-ish' for Florida and we did get some amazing photos there. And we had a good time seeing each other again. One photo that I just couldn't resist taking was this one,
Who knew Princess Leia's hairdo was invented by old Dutch ladies? This was Bok's grandmother I think. I'm wondering if Kathleen and I should go back in October for the 1st annual BOKTOBERFEST. Free admission and a plant sale, now if they only had alpacas there.....
Speaking of fibery things, the 'Magic Ball Yarn Swap' is the female bonding ritual du jour for knitters lately. I finally got in on one of these in my knitting club, the Knead to Knit gang at the Sunrise Bread Company in Titusville, Florida. I decided to use alpaca - wool blend, Imaginiation, hand-painted yarn from Knit Picks in the coloway, 'munchkin' for my magic ball recipient because she mentioned liking greens and oranges.
I put in a vintage pin, a stitch marker, a needle end holder, soap, a pretty coffee cup coaster for the car, a hidden little ball of bunny fur yarn and other treasures. I have to say though, I was totally outclassed by the magic ball that I received from Amy the nurse - thank you Amy! She remembered me mentioning some hand-knit socks that were snatched off of me by my best friend. I was only too happy to make sure that my friend had hand knit socks but I really loved that yarn (superwash Merino, Felici self striping sock yarn from Knit Picks in the coloway 'Martinique') so Amy found the same yarn to use in my magic ball! Then she added a huge bunch of cute little things.
My favorites were the mini-crochet hook keyring (for emergency stitch picking up) and the personalized stitch markers.
Cute little surprise presents and yarn! What's not to love about this. We all had a blast.
I have only managed to spin one bobbin of my wonderful Huacaya/Suri alpaca blend roving from the Florida Alpaca Show and I'm bummed about that. I really love the way the yarn is turning out. However, I had to be a good Mom and finish my daughter's hand knit birthday socks in the Harry Potter, Opal yarn. Despite the 'help' of a friend's evil little schnoodle dog that I foolishly agreed to puppy-sit
evil, yarn-eating Schnoodle
I did finish the socks. Doing socks for people with tiny, fairy feet, who also only want anklets is really quick! I still have more than half of the skein left (after re-winding the mess the evil schnoodle made.) My daughter loves them. Now if she could put them in the laundry instead of balling them up under her bed.
If you, or anyone else you know, is an ex-Alpaca breeder from Maryland, now living in Florida, please think about joining our exclusive club. There are no dues or rules, except you must be a hand spinner and knitter, crocheter, felter or weaver. We'll waive the part about having to be named Kathleen and being a former member of the MDS&WF Committee. Llama breeders are also welcome!
Because once you've had alpaca, you can never really go backa! It's a part of you that lasts forever.
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Well the dreaded Monkey Socks (mentioned in This Post ) from the pattern by Cookie A. are done and, I have to say, they hurt my hands but I kinda love them! Now I am wondering how this pattern would look in hand spun alpaca and that's NOT A GOOD THING!, because I live in Florida now. Sore hands and hot but pretty feet?
Suri / Huacaya alpaca blend hand spun
Meanwhile, I have already started on some socks for my daughter's 17th birthday and she desperately wanted socks made with Opal brand's imported-from-Germany Harry Potter series. The color pattern she wanted was named 'Tonks' after the character in the Potter series who is the only female auror. So I had to go crawling back to Devil Girl (mentioned in the previous post) to get this yarn which may not even be available here in the U.S. Devil Girl just got back from a wicked yarn-buying binge in Germany.
Harry Potter themed yarn from Germany
That's just the kind of super-cool Mom I am. The, humpf, boyfriend, tried to get in on the action and ordered Harry Potter Dark Mark socks (pattern available on Ravelry.com) but I just laughed cruelly at this silly, little boy! In the list of people who are all hinting around for hand-knit socks and may or may not get some, the daughter's boyfriend appears just above serial killers and well below my best friend in Maryland's NEW best friend.
He, Scott, might get a pair of socks eventually but I plan to use Imagination's hand painted alpaca-wool blend in the 'Wicked Witch' colorway for him. He's a 'friend of Dorothy', which I am totally fine with, but he did STEAL my BF! He'll probably LOVE the Wicked Witch theme though. They are kind of Fabulous.
But, look what I am starting my daughter's Harry Potter socks on:
knit in the round with square sock needles!
Square sock needles! My friend Roseann, the UberKnitter sent me these square sock needles and they are super comfortable. I never would have imagined that going square could make your knitting needles feel better in your hands but they do. She also sent me a sample of Tofutti sock yarn. I know she isn't a big fan of it, but I kind of like it. Thanks Roseann!
Tofutti, soy silk sock yarn
Well, I was feeling very sorry for myself because for the first time in millions of years, I was not at the MD Sheep & Wool Festival. Apparently my kids are expected to avoid long road trips and actually attend high school here in Florida. How ridiculous is that?
Luckily, my amazingly wonderful friend Toni sent me not one but TWO MDS&WF t-shirts! I'm feeling very grateful now and I love the design winner from this year's MDS&WF! So funny.
MD Sheep & Wool Festival tshirt 2009
child's MD Sheep & Wool Festival tshirt 2009
I did cruise over to the blogs of two fiber friends who I knew would be at the Festival, Roseann, and her friend Patrick. I looked at their stashes from MDS&WF just to torture myself and it worked. I felt desperately jealous.
But, I do have new knitting friends here in Florida and they are introducing me to some pretty fun stuff. My cell phone now has a custom 'ring tone' and it plays the Knitta Please rap song. My favorite line from which is,
'You really call this your softest fleece? Knitta Please!'
You can download the entire song from the link below but - BE WARNED! - it does have some bad words in it like when it says,
'Don't take no #$%p from the Crochet B$#%es.' OK, it is a little juvenile but it makes me laugh.
Knitta Please rap:
Scroll a little over halfway down the page and look for the link to the mp3 file on the right side.
It was due to my desire to find the song online that I came across the Knitta Please terrorist knitting group and their nefarious plan to cover public property with knitting, without the proper permit, or even so much as a Mother May I?. Here is a bus they covered in Mexico City. Who says knitting is for old ladies?
bus covered with knitting in Mexico City
Soon people like me will be way too old and uncool to be allowed into knitting groups. I might have to pierce something or at least get a tatoo. Does a skin cancer removal scar count as facial art? Probably not.
In between all too infrequent knitting jags, I am writing a thrice weekly online column for the Miami Examiner about 'Alternative Religions.' The newspaper, as a media outlet, is pretty much dead so I figure that I might as well get paid to write about my obsessions from now on.
It is really not my wish to shock or offend so, if you are a fundamentalist Christian, Jew or Muslim, you will want to avoid my new blog. If you want to read my alternative religion blog, you can find it here:
Kate's Miami Examiner Blog
It's turning out to be a lot more work than I thought to come up with at least 3 columns a week so all my fiber arts crafts have suffered, but I did manage to finally, finish hand spinning the teal colored Merino roving I bought last year at the MD Sheep & Wool Festival.
No, that was not a typo! It only took me 1 whole year to get around to it. The good news is that I am now free to move on to the Huacaya / Suri alpaca blend roving that I bought at the Florida Alpaca
Breeders Show mentioned in this post.Florida Alpaca Breeders Show
This is spinning up perfectly! The combination of Suri and Huacaya gives it the strength of silk but with a halo of fluffier huacaya all around the core. I can't wait to finish this skein up! And, it's giving me a chance to use my Kiwi wheel's lace whorl again. Now that I'm in Florida, I may just keep the lace whorl on the wheel for good.
To all my pals at the MD Sheep & Wool Festival, I really miss you but I'll be back when the brats graduate from high school (Goddess willing.)
Below: Random Youtube video of a Rock Band's video with animated knitting background. I just HAD to share this one!
Machine Knit, Music Video
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