pretty Coopworth ewe & lambs
Friday is the day when we take the entries for the MD Sheep & Wool Festival. I was taking entries for the Sheep Poster Contest in the Bingo Hall where they also take entries for the Skein & Garment Contest, Sheep Photo Contest and Fine Arts contest.
I have to admit to feeling a little bitter this year because I went begging all over my own neighborhood as well as the Internet for kids to enter the poster contest and still got only 5! Look at these ribbons and trophies!!! I want one myself they are so cute.
Skein & Garment has no such problem. Every knitter, spinner, felter and weaver in the entire world wants to win there because they are the Mecca of the fiber arts world. So I was like the wallflower, loser who get excited every time a new exhibitor strolled in - hoping, hoping that they wanted to enter MY contest only to have them say, "Is this where I enter the SKEIN AND GARMENT contest?" Their voices would tremble with reverence when they said it. And I would say, "THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE TROPHIES!!!" No, of course, I only thought that.
Aside from the constant rejection, I was pretty bored so I amused myself by taking photos of the skein and garment entries and photographing their judges, even though it got on their nerves.
Of course all of their entries are amazingly perfect but this one really touched me:
I also bugged the Fine Arts workers. If I could have stolen one of their entries, it would have been this one:
Whoever you are painter person - Your painting is To Die For!
Finally, my poster-taking duty was over so I cruised the fairgrounds checking up on the other activities. Down the hill in the main exhibition hall, my friends at Sheep Fleece Show and Sale were working their butts off. They took 596 fleece entries!!! and later I found out that, on Sunday, they sold over 300 fleeces in 3 hours! Are you listening alpaca people? Now THAT'S a fleece show and sale! This is my old pal, Phil Shane.
Meanwhile, my husband Tom, Mr.-Large-And-In-Charge of Grounds, was really working hard:
Ok, I shouldn't begrudge him his fun because gave me a ride to the vendor dinner in the show ring. Since we gave up our booth this year, we did not have to do the dreaded booth set up - Yay! We met up with friends, listened to good music and rested up for dun dun duh (suspenseful music here) ..... SATURDAY at the Festival......
(see next entry)
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Big hole in a sock worn for only 1 winter!!!!
This really upset me since alpaca yarn is supposed to wear a lot BETTER than many wools and acrylics! Since these socks are nice and warm and it was a lot of work to knit them, I thought about mending the hole but then I took a close look at the back of the heel !
Egads! Not much point in mending that sock after all. Grrrrrr! This makes me mad. But what about the "matching" sock knit from a different skein of the same brand of Peruvian yarn?
No sign of any hole in this sock. Not surprising if you realize that, in big processing mills, they basically throw all of the fleeces of similar color and fineness together for processing into yarn. The problem with that is that similar color and fineness doesn't equal similar strength or crimp. One of these skeins of yarn turned out to be way better than the other but they looked identical when I bought them. Here's the back of the heel of that second skein:
No problem on that heel. So now I have one good, 100% alpaca sock that is not worn out, and one that is not worth fixing. Is this good for the alpaca fleece and product business? Not really.
Meanwhile, the mis-matched pair of socks that I made on purpose are wearing just fine even though I have worn them as much or more than the socks from the Peruvian yarn. In the photo below, you can tell which sock was sent out to a mill because the ankle of that sock (at top of photo) is a little loose despite the ribbing:
Mill spun alpaca yarn tends to have less elasticity because the mills process it worsted, i.e. comb it rather than card it. But, although the hand spun sock in the photo above is tighter in the ankle, it's also fuzzier. So, more woolen processing leads to tighter fit but also fuzzier look. Fuzzy doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't wear out quickly but it wouldn't be good on a more dressy garment. Here are the toe regions of the same two socks where the difference in fuzziness is also obvious:
What does all this mean? It means that, if alpaca fleece producers don't do a better job of excluding fleeces that are weak and brittle from being made into yarn, we won't have the kind of high quality products that people want. Luckily, it's possible to send fleeces to smaller mills that will give you back yarn from only your own, carefully chosen fleeces. Make sure your fleeces are strong and don't use a processor who's equipment or chemicals weakens them.
But, it isn't just yarn that I'm talking about. I have many pairs of 100% socks bought from Peruvian and North American companies and these have a lot of quality control issues too. Here's a pair that was included in a shipment of socks that I bought from a Peruvian importer:
These are sewn with a big seam going up the side and in no way resemble the actual shape of any person's foot and leg! They aren't even both the same size! They're not really wearable but come in handy when people go on and on about how the Peruvian products are cheaper. Here's a pair of imported Peruvian socks that I bought at an alpaca show:
I wore these a couple of times and loved how warm they were (they are two-sided and reversible!) but they shrunk and partially felted when carefully washed in cold water, and they wore out at the top of the calf where there isn't even any friction from the wearer! Clearly the yarn used to knit these was weak in that spot. There's no visible wear on the heel or toe of these socks and that's where we'd expect to see it so it's not what manufacturers call "normal wear and tear."
So do I hate all commercially bought alpaca socks? No. I have a pair of Red Maple alpaca socks that I wore all through the last two winters and I loved the way they fit. Now if the person who designs these could maybe reinforce the heel and toe, they'd be perfect! After all, they do cost upwards of $18 a pair! I liked them enough to buy them again though.
Just in case you think that, as a hand spinner, I'm too picky about all commercial yarn, here is my current knitting project, a cardigan made from Classic Elite's Zoom 50% alpaca/ 50% sheep wool yarn:
I'm loving this yarn! Great color, great bounce and memory, and it's obvious that the yarn is really strong. Too bad it's far too large in diameter to use for socks!
If you have 100% alpaca socks that you have knit from a commercial yarn and found them to wear and fit really well, I'd love to hear about it. Pls. e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
or, tell me about it in person at the MD Sheep & Wool Festival! I'll be at the spin-in and the meet ups for the ravelry online knitting community. Here's the web page of the MD Sheep & Wool Festival containing the ravelry meeting info:
ravelry meetups at MD Sheep & Wool Festival
My ravelry screen name is: alpacagal
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If you wondered how the baby booties mentioned in my last post came out, now you know! Not perfect but not too bad I like to think. Pretty tough knitting as far as all the tiny pieces and all of the sewing up but worth the result. These were from one of the patterns in Debbie Bliss's book, "Nursery Knits." I took a couple of liberties with colors and yarns but otherwise followed the pattern and, for once, I had no trouble figuring out what the instructions meant. She's terse but clear.
Here is the side view so you can see the bunnies' tails. Hand spun alpaca yarn, of course!
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Here's my crazy husband helping to fix a neighbor's barn roof after our exciting, mini-tornado.
The good news is that I have finished updating the MD Sheep & Wool Festival's website for 2008 so anyone who's interested can go there and see what classes will be offered, what the T-shirt design will look like, who the vendors will be, etc. For the first time in many years, I will not be a vendor but I will be there taking classes and helping to run the Jr. Handspinner's contest as always. If you end up in the Mitred Square Engineering class, please say Hi, I'll be in there too.
Click link below for the website:
MD Sheep & Wool Festival Website
I actually met the new guy who will be taking over as webmaster for the sheep and wool festival when I move this summer and he seems very nice but I feel miserable to be leaving the Festival Committee after this year's Festival. Wahhhhhhhhh!
They are my friends and I will miss them all very much. Also, they are super useful for free knitting advice and they give me a free Festival T-shirt every year. I may have to kill the new guy - nothing personal.
Meanwhile, I did finish using up my stash of exotic fibers (mentioned in the previous post.)
Pictured above are the Ingeo skein, plyed with a Suri Alpaca / Cotton blend (top in photo.) I love the way this came out! Skein of Merino wool, remnants of two alpaca singles plied together and a skein of Tussah silk plied with soy silk. The soy was wonderful and soft to spin, the Tussah was harder but the sniny color is soooooo beautiful! Merino is always a joy to spin and the Suri blend was pretty easy to spin too.
Not pictured is a skein of 100% Suri that was given to me by another alpaca breeder. It spun up like hairy barbed wire so I threw it out. Not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth but some fleeces are just not worth sending out to be processed.
Here's what it looked like in the roving though. This was my first clue that this one might not be worth spinning - look how much guard hair:
Now if I could only knit all of these skeins into something and see how they feel and act.... but, I am stuck trying to finish Debbie Bliss, bunny-eared baby booties for a baby shower present instead. If you have never seen Debbie Bliss's baby patterns for knitters, they are pretty much the cutest thing in the entire Universe. I'll have to take a photo - if I ever finish them.
I get a lot of weird e-mails pretty much constantly but the latest was from a guy who wanted to know if I could sell him a female Mallard duck!!!! I have a photo of a pair of Mallards somewhere here on this blog where I sometimes put photos of cute animals that show up at my farm and I guess this guy found me on Google and thought I sold Mallard ducks. Isn't it Illegal to sell wild animals? And, how do you deliver them, in the duck trailer? People, try to read the web pages you find BEFORE you hit that e-mail link.
If you have read this far without dying of boredom, here is the part that will finish you off. I have to BRAG, BRAG, BRAG about getting an article of mine published in International Camelid Quarterly's March 2008 edition. Of course it is an article that will tick off the "I'm an alpaca BREEDER - who can bother with fleece?" alpaca people. Can't give up my reputation as most hated alpaca person on the East Coast without a fight. Article is called, "Coming out of the Cottage" (as in that slightly condescending phrase, "cottage industry.") If you're too cheap to buy the magazine, I have a copy on my website but, really, you should subscribe to Camelid Quarterly if you're into alpacas - it's a very good magazine.
PS. If you think I'd complain about altering a formal dress for my daughter but spare her the indignity of being plastered on my blog, of course, you'd be wrong. Look how pretty she is!
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