A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

December 4, 2012

Of fiber and friends

 

 

Spinning at iIndrush Alpacas

Jessie Dodington and Ruth Randolph spinning at Windrush Alpacas while our commercial is being shot

One of the pleasures of having an alpaca business is that it opens you up to meeting all sorts of fiber addicts – knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, felters, we all share a love of fiber and enjoy getting together and enjoying fiber arts.  Alpacas are a fiber animal so let’s face it we alpaca breeders need fiber fanatics!

Two of the  fiber fanatics I have met along the way are Liby Ball and Jessie Dodington,

Liby, Jessie and I met through a local knitting group.  Liby was living in nearby Portales with her husband Jared who was working in Portales at that time, Jessie came to Portales with her husband to be (now her husband) Elliott who had accepted a job at Eastern New Mexico University.   Knitting groups are a wonderful way to integrate yourself into the local community.  As Jessie puts it

“I’ve moved around a lot and the one trick that never fails me when I arrive in a new town is to go to the local yarn store or library and ask about the existence of any knitting groups. There is nothing nicer than being welcomed into a knitting group. You already have something in common with everyone – you’re a crafter! – the atmosphere is casual and conversation comes easy while you sit and work on your projects.”

Jessie and Liby hit it off immediately and a firm friendship formed over time.  Liby now lives in Indiana but distance cannot keep Liby and Jessie apart and so putting their creative heads together they decided to go on a mission to entertain crafters of all types by starting a pod cast called Multicraftual 

Multicraftual is a fun and addictive pod cast.  Jessie and Liby discuss their current and finished projects interjected with much zany humor and the occasional glass of wine.

Jessie knits, Liby crochets, but both do so much more.  Liby is a very talented seamstress (you can check out her creations on her Facebook page ) and is also a belly dancer extraordinaire   Jessie is a very talented fine artist (you can check out Jessie’s creations on her blog ), knitting pattern designer, spinner and also sings in local choirs. (I guess that makes them an all singing, all dancing duo!)

When talking of Liby, Jessie and Multicraftual I cannot omit Liby and Jessie’s cats who also make brief appearances during the pod casts.  “Pancake”  (Liby’s cat) is a star in his own right and has his own Facebook Page  while “Dragon”  (Jessie’s young kitten) is becoming famous for performing “the kitty plank” during the pod cast.  Watch the pod cast to see what “the kitty plank” is.

So apart from my friendship with Liby and Jessie, how does Multicraftual relate to Windrush Alpacas you might ask?  Well first off Jessie and Liby are yarn customers of ours.  Jessie also knit a beautiful sample shawlette of her own design using our Windrush Alpacas Blue Swirl yarn so that I could display the shawlette in our farm store to show people how our yarn knits up.

Windrush Alpacas Blue Swirl Alpaca/Bamboo Yarn

Windrush Alpacas Blue Swirl Yarn. A sumptuous alpaca/bamboo blend yarn

 

 

Recently Jessie also helped out with our TV commercial.  Those are Jessie’s hands you see spinning away in the foreground during the shot of the spinners.  (The other spinner being our friend and fellow knit group member Ruth Randolph).  Plus in the recent Episode 13 of the Multicraftual pod cast our commercial and our yarn are both mentioned, and there is some bonus footage of Jessie’s time at the farm while we were filming, including a brief guest appearance by Daisy the dog!

So get comfortable, drift on over to Multicraftual and enjoy some light hearted crafting chat with two special ladies.  Be warned though it’s addictive!

Note:  For those of you who use Ravelry you can also find Multicraftual in the groups there

Rosemary

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January 4, 2010

Blogging again in 2010

Filed under: alpaca, alpaca products, alpaca socks, Alpacas, camelids, General, warm socks, yarn — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 7:20 am

Well I took a longer than expected break from blogging over the Christmas period.  That was not my intention but dealing with cold snowy, weather, Christmas preparations and having the farm store open for some reason seemed to eat into my blogging time.  Can’t think why!

It was nice having the farm store open for December, we had some great customers and hope to see them back again during the year.  Hats off to those customers who drove out here in the snow and freezing cold to do their Christmas shopping.  We are now trying to decide how to manage the farm store for the coming year, we would love to open it on a regular basis but we need to decide what we would do if we were away at a show at a time when the store is scheduled to be open.   It’s quite the puzzle but we will keep working at it.  In the meantime I have created an online gallery of our products using a website called Smugmug.  The gallery has worked out well for our long distance customers, allowing them to see some of the products we have available without having large picture files clog up their email boxes.  I haven’t loaded our rugs to the gallery yet but if you want to take a look you can access the gallery at:

http://alpacalady.smugmug.com/Alpaca-Products/Scarves/10615965_CWzyW/1/741844596_ePiYb

or if you prefer to view the pictures as a slideshow you can go to

http://alpacalady.smugmug.com/photos/swfpopup.mg?AlbumID=10615965&AlbumKey=CWzyW

I really love my Smugmug account, it’s a great place to load up alpaca pictures for prospective purchases too and of course you can load up personal pictures if you want to.  Having the pictures loaded to Smugmug provides reasonably priced safe storage for your photos and you can also create greetings cards using your photos if you want to.  If you want to try out Smugmug you can go to www.smugmug.com and sign up for a free 14 day trial, if you decide you really like Smugmug you can purchase access to the site at different levels.  When you sign up be sure to add our email address windrush@plateautel.net in the Email/Coupon box to receive a little discount 🙂

Having had such a break away from blogging there is lots of news to catch up on and so I will get back to more regular updates to the blog.

Happy New Year to all and hope you will be back to catch up with us soon!

Rosemary

November 19, 2009

It’s Almost Time For…..

Open Farm Day!  This Saturday November 21 we will again be opening the farm to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

We try to have an Open Farm Day at least once a quarter but with the holiday season rapidly approaching we will be having Open Farm Days on November 21 and December 19.  In addition to the Open Farm Days we will also be opening the Farm Store from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday in December until Christmas.  So there will be plenty of opportunity for people to come out and do their Christmas shopping and also see the alpacas between now and Christmas.

There is always much preparation for an Open Farm Day, new products to be found, inventory to be priced and put out on display, copies of alpaca coloring pages to be made to help keep the little ones entertained, cookies to be baked and a general tidy up around the farm.

I am excited that we have recently started to offer a few new products, pretty Peruvian alpaca hats, needle felting starter kits in bright colors, handmade soaps covered in a felted alpaca wrap that smell divine and also alpaca bird nesting balls to help the birds build their nests in the spring.  It’s great that we have access to such a diverse selection of alpaca goodies and shows how people in the alpaca industry are becoming very creative in using our versatile alpaca fiber.

 

Alpaca Bird Nesting Ball

Alpaca Bird Nesting Ball (picture courtesy of Alpacas of the Covenant the creators of this neat alpaca product)

Of course we will also have plenty of alpaca socks in stock along with gloves, scarves, ski bands, yarn and rugs.   We feel it is important to have a nice selection of inventory on hand to suit everyone’s budget and so have products ranging in price from $10 to $200.

The alpacas of course always receive a lot of attention during Open Farm Days and hopefully will be on their best behavior.  They usually manage to easily entertain our visitors with their curious stares and cautious sniffs.  I can guarantee that they will have their pictures taken several times during the day and I suspect Theresa’s new cria will be the star of the show.

Hopefully our warm and sunny weather will hold out at least through the weekend, it’s always more pleasant for our visitors if they can stand in a warm, sunny pasture, but of course those colder days make people appreciate the warmth of alpaca fiber more.  Whatever the weather we will enjoy meeting those who come out to the farm and hope that they will enjoy meeting us and spending their time here too.

 

Rosemary

October 27, 2009

Getting Back in The Swing of Things

The vacation in England is over and I am now back in New Mexico.  My flights home went smoothly and even the trip to Heathrow  Airport via the notorious M25 (complete with road works of course) went without a hitch.  You know you have good friends when they get up way before the crack of dawn to get you to the airport in time – thanks Val and Linda!

My time in England was not only relaxing but also productive.  I completed a little knitted alpaca bag and also started and finished a balaclava made from alpaca lopi yarn that someone had asked me to make.  Time was spent with friends and family and I even got a quick alpaca fix at Mayfield Alpacas in Ringalow Village, Sheffield.  I was fortunate to get to spend a short time with Elaine Sharp the owner of Mayfield Alpacas and we had a great time “comparing notes” on our alpaca operations.   As I looked at Elaine’s alpacas grazing on lush pastures I could not help think of how our alpacas would love to be set loose on such abundant grazing.   If ever you are in the Sheffield area and are looking for something to do make sure you take a trip out to Mayfield Alpacas, not only are there beautiful alpacas to see but also a lovely café with tasty goodies, a gift shop featuring alpaca products and a great display that educates people about alpacas and the history of the alpaca industry (and the map of North and South America actually has Clovis, NM on it – how about that!).

So now I am back at the farm and having gone through the three stacks of junk mail that awaited me, caught up on the laundry and all of the other things that go on the back burner while you are away its time to get back in the swing of things.

At the weekend two of our visiting alpacas Sonora and Dona Cleia were collected by their owners Melita Clark and Mark Hogan of Milagro Meadow Alpaca Ranch.  Sonora and Dona Cleia had been at our farm for breeding and both are now confirmed pregnant.  Sonora was bred to our Enchantment’s Prince Regent and Dona Cleia had the honor of being the first breeding for our Junior Herdsire Windrush White Blast.  We will look forward to seeing pictures of the crias once the girls deliver next year.

Next on our delivery list is Ameripaca’s Theresa who is owned by Troy and Mary Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas in Kaufman, Texas and bred to our Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel.  Theresa was due to deliver on October 25 but no cria yet so we are watching and waiting.  Hopefully Theresa will not decide to do as in her last pregnancy and go 368 days gestation – I have warned her that if she waits that long she may well be delivering in the snow as our weather is definitely on the turn.

It was good to have a break away from the farm, but it is also good to be back home.  The crias have grown since I left, Blue the puppy is looking more like a little dog than a puppy (although she is still chewing anything paper or plastic including the Windrush Alpacas check book!) and Ric didn’t look too exhausted.  All in all everything looks good – so I guess that means I can leave again sometime!

Rosemary

 

October 8, 2009

Welcome to Our Newest Arrival

Our newest cria - son of Ana Lynette

Our newest cria - son of Ana Lynette

 

Now this is the sort of cria delivery that is fun.  Here I am on vacation in England while in New York one of our newest additions to our alpaca herd “Ana Lynette” delivered her cria – a beautiful light fawn boy.  Talk about a stress free delivery – well it was for me anyway!  A big thank you to Lindsay Butkiewicus of Wild Thyme Farm for keeping us updated on the cria’s delivery and for looking after Ana Lynette and her cria until we are able to move them to our farm.

Ana Lynette is being a wonderful mother, very attentive to her cria and producing lots of milk, while her cria is enjoying life as crias tend to do.  Lindsay says that there is a chance that the cria may be more rose grey than fawn, which is a distinct possibility given his genetics (black sire and beige dam with black in her background).  Some greys become more apparent as they age so time will tell for our little boy.  Now we just have to come up with a name for him (and if you have been following our blog you will know how boy crias always prove a challenge to us when it comes to names)

 

We will not get to see Ana Lynette and her cria until after I return from England.  We want the cria to be at least three weeks old before he travels as it will be a long trip for him and Ana Lynette.  Hopefully by late November Ana Lynette and her boy will be with us and maybe we can even get our new junior herdsire Champ on the transport too.

 

Ana Lynnette and her cria

Ana Lynnette and her cria

Here in England it is still sunny but the temperature has dipped to the mid fifties, still not too bad for October.  Ric reports that things are cooler in New Mexico too and so I think we can say fall has arrived.

This evening I will be attending the Baldock Knit Together Group.  I tried to attend the group last year when I was over but was unable to do so.  Since then I have kept in contact with the group organizer Rhona and we are looking forward to meeting in person at the meeting tonight.  Of course I will be taking my latest alpaca knitting project with me, and I am sure I will pick up many new tips and free patterns during the course of the evening.  It is wonderful that knitters and crocheters the world over always welcome each other and enjoy admiring each others knitting projects while being willing to pass on tips and tricks.  Being part of a knitting or crochet group is a great way to meet some lovely people who share a common love of fiber arts.

Tomorrow my mother and I will set off by train to go to Totley in South Yorkshire where we will visit my Dad’s cousin Stella.  I have many happy childhood memories of times spent with Stella.  There were at least two summers when my brothers and I went to stay with Stella for a few weeks and had a wonderful time exploring the Yorkshire countryside and learning more of our family history.  It has been at least 20 years since I was in that part of the country and so it will be nice to visit again and enjoy the many beautiful sights of South Yorkshire.

So on that note I had better turn my attention to packing my bag for my trip.

 Rosemary

August 25, 2009

A Small Fiber Distraction

Inca's The Llama's Fleece  - Washed

Inca's The Llama's Fleece - Washed

While looking for a document on my computer the other day I came across some instructions for washing alpaca fleece that I had kept from a couple of years ago.  Usually we don’t wash our fleeces before sending them to processing.  Often when I prepare alpaca fleece for hand spinning I don’t wash the fleece until after the yarn is processed, but I tend to use the cleaner fleeces for hand spinning projects.

The article I had kept had piqued my interest when I read it.  I know that prior to preparing sheep’s wool for spinning washing the fleece is a must in order to remove the lanolin from it.  As alpacas don’t have lanolin in their fleece that is not an issue with alpaca fleece.  Still that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t wash alpaca fleece prior to processing for fiber arts projects at home and the article had some points on what to do and (probably more importantly) what not to do.

I have one alpaca fleece in mind to wash, that of our black alpaca Queen, but I thought that before I tried my hand at washing fleece that I really wanted to use for a specific project, perhaps I should find some other fleece to practice on first.

Down in our shearing area are several bags of llama fleece from shearing customers who just didn’t want to take the fleece with them.   I hate to see all of that fleece just thrown away, some admittedly was not the best or is too laden with vegetable matter to be useable, but other llama fleeces had a nice soft hand and were relatively clean.  Those llama fleeces make good candidates for experiment and I will probably get something nice as a result too!

Looking over the llama fleeces I decided to first try one of our own.  Our silver gray llama Inca has a lovely soft fleece in a pretty color (that’s her fleece in the picture) so I pulled out an amount of blanket fleece from her bag and off to the kitchen I went.

Before anyone starts to get concerned about the hygiene of washing fleeces in the kitchen sink I have to explain that our house has two kitchens.  One we use as our food kitchen.  The other is used for our alpaca medical supplies and various craft projects.  This second kitchen is large and has a large center pedestal making it a great work area.  I love having the two kitchens and if we were ever to think of moving I am afraid I would want to kitchens in the next house too!

The llama fleece washing commenced and the first step involved setting the fleece in hot water that had either shampoo or a soap such as Dawn dish soap or Orvus.    I have a lovely soap that I use for washing my fiber arts projects and so I decided to use that.  You should have seen the color of that water!  It was a lovely shade of Clovis orange (courtesy of the fine red sand in our area).  I was amazed at how much dirt came out, so amazed that I decided I had better repeat that step just to make sure all the dirt was removed.

The rest of the process went smoothly; I did find that some of the fiber felted a little.  Perhaps I had a little variation in the water temperature, or perhaps I had too much fleece in the water at one time.  Next time I think I will try the process in cold water just to see how different the results are.

So now I have a nice quantity of washed llama fleece sitting on the work surface in the big kitchen.  I have already decided that I am going to use my five point English combs on the fleece to produce roving.  From there my intention is to make some felted balls that can be used as cat toys, but… if that roving looks really nice when I have finished it then I may just have to spin it into yarn.  On that note excuse me while I go off to the kitchen to play whoops I really meant work on that fleece.

Rosemary

August 21, 2009

It’s That Time of The Year Again

When the temperature starts to cool a little, the sun sets earlier and the spinning wheel starts calling me!

Having knitted several projects recently I think it is time for a change, so the spinning wheel will be getting a workout

Right now my spinning wheel has some alpaca fiber on it that has been spun but that has also been grabbed by puppy Blue and entangled.  I really need to untangle the yarn and ply it then I will be able to move on to a new project.

I have some white roving ready to go and recently have been viewing some pictures of blended fibers (thanks Theresa and Nichol!) which have set my imagination going and are tempting me to try blending something with the alpaca roving I have.  I still have that really pretty lilac colored tussah silk which I think would look nice against the white roving I have on hand; I just need to pluck up the courage to give it a try.

Within a few months I hope to have a large supply of gray roving on hand as I have finally got around to skirting my collection of blanket fleeces from our one and only gray alpaca Ma Cushla.  Cush is not the softest alpaca in the world but her fleece has a beautiful even silver gray color to it.  I am sending Ma Cushla’s fleeces in to be dehaired and put into roving, some of which I will spin into yarn for knitting and crochet projects and some I want to use for felting (a nice nuno felt scarf maybe).   It will be fun to work with Ma Cushla’s fleece during the cooler months and while I am waiting for it to return from the mill I can start to think about some potential fibers to blend with it.  (I can also think some more about the small rigid heddle loom I have my eye on – but don’t tell Ric who claims I already have too many fiber arts toys as it is!)

That’s the thing with fiber there are so many different things to do with it and so much fun to be had trying new techniques.  The real trick is to find the time to do it all, but it’s amazing what even 15 minutes a day will create.

Rosemary

August 19, 2009

It’s Not Alpaca But…

Filed under: alpaca, alpaca products, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, suri, yarn — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 6:37 am
Front View of Black Trellis Shawl

Front View of Black Trellis Shawl

It looks really nice! 

A few months ago I was asked to make a black shawl out of some trellis yarn.  I did find some trellis yarn that was made out of suri alpaca and tried to persuade the lady who had asked for the shawl that I should use that beautiful alpaca yarn.  Unfortunately the lady’s budget didn’t stretch to the suri alpaca trellis yarn and so she asked me to make the shawl in an acrylic yarn instead.

I knew that the shawl would take a while and it did, partly just due to the size of the project and partly due to squeezing in some knitting time during shearing, cria season and then the arrival of our puppy Blue (who thinks that all knitting projects need to be seized and dragged off into the distance – arrgh!)

The pattern was a very simple one, but with the character of the trellis yarn it was very effective.   At times it seemed as if the shawl was not growing, but stitch by stitch, inch by inch it did grow.  When I thought the shawl was about the right size I called my customer and took the shawl to her to try it on.  It was a perfect fit.    Next we had to decide on the fringe and both my customer and I felt that a long fringe would suit the shawl, partly to give the shawl some weight and partly to help proportion the shawl.

Cutting and hand tying the fringe on the shawl took more time, but once I got a system in place I started to pick up speed with the fringing.  The fringe is 16” long and the yarn developed a pleasing gentle curl to it once it was cut.

It was amazing to me to see how that 16” fringe changed the shawl from a plain piece of knitting to a glamorous shawl.  Unfortunately the pictures I have taken do not really do the shawl justice, but at least they give an idea of how it looks.

Back View of Black Trellis Shawl

Back View of Black Trellis Shawl

 

The next stage was to wash and block the shawl to help it memorize its shape.   I must admit I was nervous that the fringe would react badly to washing, but I carefully wound it around the folded shawl and washed the shawl by hand very gently.  Once I had the shawl laid out and blocked I maneuvered the shawl so that the fringe hung over the edge of the work surface as it dried, allowing the fringe to dry with a nice drape to it.

My customer was so excited when I called her to tell her the project was complete and we made arrangements to meet so that she could collect her shawl.  As she opened the bag and pulled out the shawl her eyes lit up and she immediately tried the shawl on, it looked very effective and my customer was extremely pleased with her new acquisition.

It was very satisfying to see the shawl’s new owner enjoying the shawl so much, she tried it on in several different ways and twirled around to show it off, that alone made all those hours of knitting worthwhile.

I have already had someone else ask me about making another shawl like this one,  she saw my customer trying the shawl on before I had fringed it and immediately wanted to know if I could make another one and how much I would charge for it.  At that time I hadn’t priced the shawl but now I have figured my costs and labor I can get back with her and give her a price – I wonder if I can persuade her to let me make her shawl out of the suri alpaca trellis yarn…  (wishful thinking on my part but you never know!)

 

Rosemary

March 11, 2009

Well That Was Lucky!

The Unintentional Two Tone Balaclava

The Unintentional Two Tone Balaclava

 

A friend of ours recently asked me to make him a balaclava out of alpaca yarn.  He works on the flight line at the nearby Air Force Base, a place that is exposed to the cold and the wind.  Our friend had tried other balaclavas but found that they made him itch and so wanted something softer.

 

I took various samples of yarn to him to test before I started on the project and he picked out a rose grey lopi style alpaca and wool blend.  I was a little surprised that he picked that particular yarn as the wool in the yarn may cause it to have some prickle, but he tested all of the yarns against his face and that was the one he liked the feel of the best.  The wool actually will lend some elasticity to the balaclava, which is a good thing.

 

With the yarn chosen and having found a suitable pattern I started on the project.  I did make some adjustments to the pattern as I felt that the neck ribbing would be too short.  Fortunately Ric had a balaclava that I could use to compare sizing on, which was very helpful as I tried to judge what changes I needed to make.

 

As I worked on the pattern I received a couple of surprises.  First the amount of yarn I ended up using was much less than the pattern required.  If I had been going by ounces I could understand that as alpaca weighs less than acrylic or wool yarns, but the pattern specified yardage rather than ounces, so either the pattern is wrong or my skein of yarn was longer than the label said it was.  I ended up using about 1 ½ skeins of yarn, which is not too bad.

 

The other surprise was that all of a sudden my skein of yarn changed color.  What started off as a definite rose gray became more silver grey part way through the skein – oh dear, that’s not what a knitter wants to see in a yarn.  Fortunately the color change occurred just as I finished the neck ribbing and started on the head portion of the pattern so it doesn’t look too bad.  I must admit I held my breath when half way through the head portion I had to start a new skein of yarn, but fortunately the new skein matched the silver grey of the previous skein – whew!  I was so lucky that the color change occurred at a good place on the balaclava, imagine though how that would look if I was making a sweater.

 

I will be getting in touch with the yarn processor to let them know about the color change in the yarn.  I was able to continue my project so will not be asking for a refund on the yarn, but I feel that they need to be made aware of the problem so that they can try and prevent it from happening again.

 

The balaclava has now been washed and is drying before I take it to its new owner.  I did try it on before I washed it and it feels nice and is definitely warm.  I hope our friend likes it and that it does not irritate his skin as the other balaclavas have.

 

Now I am on to my next project, a shawl made out of a ladder yarn, not alpaca I am afraid, but an effective yarn all the same.  Despite my efforts to persuade the lady I am making it for to let me use a suri alpaca ribbon yarn that I had found she eventually went with the acrylic yarn, mainly because the suri ribbon yarn would take the shawl out of her budget.   So I will have to wait to try out that suri ribbon yarn, but I am betting I will find a project for it sometime in the future.

 

Rosemary

January 22, 2009

A Bright Little Project Completed

One of the completed Nordic headbands

One of the completed Nordic headbandsThe second Nordic Head band. Both headbands are made from 100% alpaca yarn

 

Fresh off the knitting needles come these two Nordic headbands, both made, of course, from alpaca yarn.

 

The yarn is some that I had in stock for a while; it was spun and dyed for us at Royal Fiber Spinnery in Ruidoso, New Mexico.  The yarn comprised of a group of single skeins in brightly dyed colors and I decided rather than let it languish on the shelf any longer I would make it into something that I could sell.  When I came across the patterns for the Nordic headbands I knew they would work well for those single skeins of yarn.

 

It was lovely to work with some brightly colored yarn for a change.  It seems that all of my recent requests for knitted goods have been for black colored items.  Now I know that black is always a chic color, but I have to admit that things become a bit monotonous when every project you work on is black.  So it was definitely time to put some color into my life – literally.

 

The headbands work really well in our wind blown climate, they keep your ears warm and also help keep your hair in place.  I will take them down to our booth at the Crafters Mall this weekend and see if they sell.

 

Now having made the headbands I am left with several partial skeins of brightly colored yarn left, so I will need to research a new project or two for the remaining yarn.  In the meantime I have a request for me to knit an alpaca balaclava in – yes, you’ve guessed it, black.

 

Rosemary

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