Alpaca Yarn – A Luxury Fibre

Alpaca wool is recognised as one of the most luxurious fibres in the world. It is exceptionally soft due to its low scale relief, compared to merino, giving alpaca a very soft and silky feeling. In comparison to merino, alpaca fibre is lighter, warmer and more durable.

Don’t be fooled by their cute, fuzzy and endearing faces – alpacas are tough. Having survived the harsh conditions in the Andes for thousands of years, alpacas and their fibre are suited to a wide range of extreme weather conditions – scorching hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. Their fibre, which contains hollow air pockets, keeps them warm and toasty in winter and cool in summer. They are naturally double glazed!

Those air pockets make alpaca yarn simply the best fibre in the world! There I said it! Alpaca yarn will keep you warm in winter and those hollow fibres give your finished shawl or cardigan breathability, keeping you cool in summer.

Just like the alpacas themselves who have lasted thousands of years in some of the harshest climates and weather extremes of the world, their fibre is also durable, if cared for correctly. Light hand washing in warm water with a wool wash is all that is needed to keep your alpaca garment looking its very best. Dry flat in the shade and sorted correctly – you will have your garment for many years to come!

Alpaca fibres have a higher tensile strength than wool fibres. Global testing of merino and alpaca fibre shows that alpaca fibre is stronger than merino, making alpaca very useful for everyday use products and garments. Strength and beauty? Falling more in love with alpaca every day.

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When Mistakes Work

Creating new colours is sometimes a hit and miss exercise. You either love the new colours you are creating or….you don’t. Mistakes happen when dyeing yarn and sometimes those mistakes are love at first sight!

This recently happened to me. I created a colour called Velvet Dreams, a lovely soft blend of purples and light greys with a hint of light red. The first batch sold well and I then dyed more. This is when the ‘opps’ moment happened. Not really sure what happened though….the first batch was really soft and gentle and the next batch was well… the exact opposite! The colours were dark, deep and moody and I was in love!

The colours were stunning and when matched with one of my new purples it was like it was ‘meant to be’. Peas in a pod really!

Ok so don’t judge me here….but sometimes the yarn talks to me. Yes yes I know that sounds bat shit crazy but when I create new colours the yarn sometimes talks to me telling what its’ name should be. Fallen Unicorn, well it was the colour of a unicorn that was dirty, hence the name Fallen Unicorn. Next to the Castle Wall is the colour of the water you would expect to see in the water next to a castle wall. They knew what they wanted to be called before I even knew it.

Velvet Dreams was dreamy but it was not right. Somehow the universe told the next batch to misbehave to show it’s true self, much like when the yarn chooses its own name.

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Markets that make a Business

Last weekend we attended the Handmade Canberra Markets. We have been stall holders at these fabulous markets for the past 4 years. The markets attract designers and artisans from across Australia, with many travelling from interstate to be stall holders. This year  the markets turned 10 – WOW 10 years!! Julie and her team run a wonderful and very professional market and we are very proud to say we are just one small part of it!

Taken from the Handmade Markets website: “With a passion for supporting independent, small and creative businesses and connecting them to their target customers, the market has a nurturing relationship with its designers and producers who bring a high standard in quality, workmanship and sensational customer service, and an interactive relationship with its customers. Handmade is known nationally as a well-organised, supportive and friendly event, representing the best in Australian handmade design and produce”.

I could not agree more!! This market has been a very important link in our business going from a hobby to a full time business. Most markets attract new and regular customers, giving us time to get to know them and help them learn about the wonderful fibre and yarn that is produced in Australia, however what makes Handmade different is the handmade and designer products that are showcased. No other markets that we attend as stall holders supports handmade designers and artisans like Handmade Canberra Markets do.

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Suri – The Fibre of the Gods

I often hear alpaca being referred to as the ‘Fibre of the Gods’ and I can certainly understand why. The animals themselves are closely tied to cultural practices for Andeans people and prior to colonisation, the image of the alpaca, in the form of canopas (small figures carved from stone and used in traditional rituals), were used in rituals and in religious practices. Since the people in the region depended heavily on these animals for their sustenance, the alpaca was seen as a gift from Pachamama, a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. There is evidence that royal cloth was woven from alpaca.

It is said that alpacas came to be in the world after a goddess fell in love with a man, bringing a herd of alpacas with her, and when he failed to care for a young alpaca, she fled home, through the swamp lands, taking most of her the alpacas with her. The man prevented some of the alpacas from leaving the world and it has been said that the alpacas who didn’t make it back can be seen in today’s alpacas in the swampy lands in the Andes waiting so they can return to their goddess. Alpaca brings with it a very ancient and fascinating history, steeped in mythology, and stories told through history. Alpacas also bring textile tradition that has survived through the ages in woven and hand dyed clothing.

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Shearing Day

Shearing Day – not my favourite day of the year I must admit but shearing day, in between the hard work, does have some moments of joy. Like when you shear your Appaloosa alpacas and their spots are uncovered or when you shear an alpaca and you realise their fleece is just stunning and you just can’t wait to get the fleece to be made into yarn -that is my favourite bit! Or when you have a work experience student helping for the day and he gets to to help shear an alpaca – helping to train the future shearers! Or when you get to spend time with clients, who have purchased their alpacas from you, and you get to mentor them about alpacas, their care and their fibre.

This year shearing day was a Monday – a bright sunny day with a slight breeze. Ideal for shearing day! We had 64 alpacas to shear, including 5 rescue alpacas with over 3 years of fleece on them, and we started bright and early at 7am! Yep the shearer rocked up at 6.15am to set up – no sleep in for us that day! 

This year we had 4 helpers, including a work experience student from Kayleen High School located in Canberra, and 3 friends – 1 who runs a farm rescue shelter called Lucky Stars Sanctuary just outside of Canberra and 2 clients, who have now friends. They transported their alpacas to our farm for shearing and it was so nice seeing just how the boys, Captain and Rusty, had grown!

The day started like every other shearing day – catch, put on table, shear, skirt and repeat. Once you start you get into a rhythm, with each person doing their allocated job, and the day flys by. You get more moments of joy, albeit at the expense of someone else (and yes Ross and Christina I am talking about you both), when someone is not holding the alpaca head in the right direction and they spit at Christina and not only hitting her but also filling her open coat pocket! How does that happen? Who knows…but at the time it was very funny. Or when Ross gets knocked down by an alpaca trying to avoid being put on the table and skinning his knee when he fell. Ok this one was not funny, it is never nice when someone gets hurt, but when it happened the group all called out “Not coming back next year” our inside joke when something bad happens to visitors! They will be back though – fingers crossed:)

Thank you to our helpers. Without you shearing day does not happen. And even though the day is hard work we all seem to enjoy the day!

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