A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 11, 2009

Where Did You Get That Hat?

Side view of my felted alpaca hat

Side view of my felted alpaca hat



Top view of felted alpaca hat

Top view of my felted alpaca hat









Where did you get that hat,
Where did you get that tile,
And isn’t it a nobby one,
And what a proper style.
I should like to have one
Just the same as that;
Where’re I go they shout, Hulloa,
Where did you get that hat.



Those words are the lyrics to a Ballard written by Joseph J. Sullivan in 1888 and then re-written by James Rolmaz in 1901.  I’m not sure anyone will burst into that song when I wear my hat, but you never know!


In the picture you can see the hat I made during my felting weekend with Judy Sims-Barlow of Spanish Peaks Alpacas.  What you can’t tell in the picture is how soft and how light it is.  Compared to Ric’s regular cowboy hats the alpaca felted hat is very light indeed.


The process of making the hat was not difficult, but there are a series of steps that have to be taken to get from raw fleece to a smooth felted hat and a few more tools were needed than were used for the scarf.


Again I was fascinated by the process of watching the raw fleece turn to felt beneath my hands.  This time we used hot soapy water for the felting process.  The one thing I will need to watch out for when making a felt hat on my own is getting the felt to the correct texture where the felt will hold together well.   I am sure with time and experience it will come.


With this hat there are a couple of weak spots where I didn’t get the felt as thick as over the rest of the hat.  One area Judy was able to fix for me by needle felting a patch of fiber over it, the other spot is on the crown of the hat and will not be directly against my head and so for now it has been left as is.  If over time I find that area does wear through Judy has offered to help me repair it.


The hat took a good day to make from start to finish.  The finishing touches of the hat (adding the sweatband, putting wire on the brim and edging the brim with grosgrain) seemed to take almost as long as the felting.  It is worth taking the time on those finishing touches though as if not done well they will detract from your hat.


Felting turned out to be a lot of fun, I liked that if necessary I could put my felting project to one side for a day or so and return to it without a problem.   I also liked the fact that when felting alpaca fleece you can see the results of your labors almost immediately as you work on the felt. 

Felting certainly provides a workout for your hands, arms and shoulders, but also brings with it time to think and reflect while you are working on the felt.


Working with alpaca fiber is an enjoyable part of the alpaca business and can give you products that you can sell to bring additional income to your alpaca business.  I am sure in time I will be producing more felted alpaca hats, thanks to the excellent tutorage of Judy who so freely shared her tips and techniques helping me to be so successful in my first felting adventure.


Now all I have to figure out is when and where to wear my hat.  Not doing chores I think, but I am sure there will be other occasions when I can wear my hat with pride!



April 8, 2009

A Weekend of Felting Fun

 My weekend in Colorado was a great success and a lot of fun too.  The weather behaved and while the drive up on Friday was a little windy, the snow cooperated by arriving on Saturday and being gone by the time I left on Sunday.  Those who know me know that I am not a fan of being out in the snow and even less of a fan of driving in it, so to enjoy the beauty of a snowy mountain landscape while having the luxury of staying inside and working on fiber arts was a treat.


Friday evening and Saturday morning were spent working on a silk and alpaca felt scarf using the Nuno Felting technique.  The combination of silk and alpaca is a great one and it was interesting to feel how quickly the alpaca felts beneath your fingers.  This was my first venture in felting alpaca this way, I have felted alpaca before by knitting and then putting the knitted product in the washing machine, but have not felted by hand until now.  The felting process was really not hard at all and under the guidance of my friend and teacher Judy Sims-Barlow I soon produced my first silk and alpaca scarf.


Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we moved onto the next project – making an alpaca felt hat.  This was a little more involved and sadly I was unable to use either of the two fleeces I had taken with me.  Both Chamberino and Ma Cushla’s fleeces were deemed to be too hairy and so they will need to be dehaired before being used.  Fortunately Judy had some alpaca batting from her alpaca Ruby Moonlight that was suitable for hat making.


By Sunday afternoon I had also completed the hat.  It’s amazing what you can do when you have the time available to work on nothing but that one project. 


I will post pictures of my two creations in days to come, for a first time attempt they came out really well.


A big Thank You goes out to Judy and Will Sims-Barlow of Spanish Peaks Alpacas for accommodating me over the weekend, for the wonderful meals they provided and for teaching me new skills I am now eager to put to use.



April 3, 2009

North To Colorado


This morning I will be headed north to La Veta, Colorado.  There I will spend the weekend with Judy and Will Sims-Barlow of Spanish Peaks Alpacas and receive lessons from Judy in how to make an alpaca felt hat and a silk and alpaca felt scarf.


Judy is extremely talented with her felting, I saw some of her hats a couple of years ago when I delivered one of our girls to their farm for a breeding to one of their males.  The hats Judy makes are beautiful with such a lovely smooth finish.


Ever since I saw Judy’s hats I have been asking her to show me how to felt alpaca, and now we finally have a weekend when we are both available!


I am taking two fleeces with me – Chamberino’s (a dark brown/maroon fleece) and Ma Cushla’s (a pretty medium silver grey) plus some fawn roving from one of our boys, Homer, and some white roving that is a combination of several white fleeces from the herd.


When Judy sent me information on the type of fleeces to use for felting she mentioned that the micron count of the fleece for the hats should be around 27 micron.  That made me happy as we still have Chamberino’s blanket fleece from 2008 and dear Chamberino is a consistent 30 microns across his fleece.  For an alpaca 30 microns is not a desirable figure.


Chamberino’s fleece still spins up to a soft yarn and has a lovely handle to the yarn partly due to the consistency of his fleece.  It will be great to have something different to use that fleece for and I am looking forward to seeing the end product.


While I am away learning how to felt alpaca, Ric will be home looking after the herd.  We don’t have any cria due yet and all that needs to be done is routine chores so it shouldn’t be too much for Ric to handle – except of course for the 75 mph wind gusts we are expected to get in Clovis on Saturday which might just make chores a little bit challenging.



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