My friend, Allie Neas, who raises alpaca (visit her on the web here) invited me, and 5 other women, to visit her at her house, play with her alpaca, and take a fiber lesson from Claire Walker, a local fiber artist. It was as if I had died and gone to heaven. What a wonderful day! We had a blast, and we learned a lot, too.
Claire began by teaching us the finer points of wool preparation. She demonstratated and she discussed carding wool, and rolling it into rolags and punis. She makes it look so very easy.
Then, she demonstrated how to comb wool with dog combs...
...and she gave us each a hunk of scoured wool to practice combing. Winnie jumped right in...
...and Lisa seems to be having just a little too much fun. You know, Lisa always seems to have fun, no matter what she’s doing, lol.
Next, Claire demonstrated how to pile our hunks into a larger hunk, and then to attenuate it, then draft it, then…. Spin it! Take a look at Julie! This is the first time she’s ever done *anything* with fiber! She doesn’t even knit! Look at her go! I think that she’s a natural, don’t you?
Once we got the hang of spinning wool, we moved on to the alpaca. Take a look at this stuff! What a dream. Claire is quite picky about her fiber preparation, and take a good look at what’s in her hands. It’s perfect!
Next – the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Allie gave us each a nice, long section of alpaca roving.
Y’all, it’s to die for! This stuff is as soft as cashmere, without a doubt! Allie sent off some fleeces to be processed, and oh, this stuff is so nice! I had no idea that alpaca was so lovely. The processor did a really good job, too. I could spin this stuff all day long…
Claire showed us how to attenuate our piece of roving, and here you see Lisa, Emily and Winnie attenuating their alpaca, and winding it onto their wrists.
Here you see Julie, the fiber natural, beginning to spin hers.
Then, while we were playing with our nifty spindles and our roving, Allie brought out a table and an alpaca fleece, just as it comes off of the animal. There’s a bit of hay and so forth in it, but surprisingly, not too much. Allie and Claire pointed out that since the alpaca’s fleece is so dense, not too much stuff is able to get past the very outermost parts of the fleece.
Claire picked out a lock, and showed us how to comb it. I tell you what, Claire has patience enough for a dozen women.
Next, Allie pulled out some skeins of alpaca yarn that were processed at the mill. See the black on the lower left corner of the picture? This is from one of Allie’s black alpaca – it’s not dyed, but it comes *this* black, right from the animal’s back! Isn’t this amazing?
It is sooooo black. The red, green and golden skeins were originally fawn, then dyed and the colors are so vibrant. You see the fawn skeins in the picture, too.
That pile of dirty old alpaca fleece doesn’t look like much, especially in the photo, but oh my gosh, it’s the softest cloud of fiber that you can imagine. I’m going to remember this day for a very long time!
Here you see the bunch of us, right before we got into our cars and drove home. We really had fun. Left to right – Emily, Lisa, Allie, Claire, Julie (in back), Lisa (in front), Winnie.
Allie and Phil live in Westcliffe, and I was so excited about the whole day that I completely forgot to take pictures of the mountains. The view is spectacular. In the photo below, I was testing to see if we could use the mountains as a backdrop for our group photo, and I decided that the faces would come out too dark (Lisa and Julie were kind enough to stand in while I decided how to best take our group picture), and you can see just a smidge of the mountains. Imagine nearly 180 degrees of these mountains. Just imagine! But, that’s what you get in Westcliffe – the whole western horizon is nothing but the white Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. I tell you, it’s breathtaking!
In the right of the picture, mostly hidden by the little pine tree, you can see Allie and Phil’s brown barn, filled with alpaca. I think that Phil said that they have 40 animals - some grown females, some grown males, and some of the cutest little alpaca babies you could ever imagine! Oh, I wanted to hug them all! Like a stupid-head, I completely forgot to take pictures of these charming cutie-pies. Well, visit their web page for an idea. They are simply too cute!!!
I couldn’t resist buying my little spindle, which I used in the class. Claire makes these by hand, and each one has its own, unique design. Isn’t mine pretty? These are really tiny little spindles – you can see Lisa’s in her hand, in the photo above. But, they do spin really nicely. They are very well balanced, and don't wobble at all.
Take a look at the roving… ahhhhh…..
It spins so easily. I like to use the “long draw” (I think that this is what you call it, lol) because it seems to let the fiber spins to however it wants to spin - - I *know* that the fiber doesn’t have any desires of its own, but still, it seems like the fiber does, indeed, want to be lace weight, or want to be worsted weight or whatever. Humor me - - and let me tell you, *this* fiber wants to be really thin. It spun so evenly. I surprised myself. I’m proud and happy, too.
Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS is fine yarn!
Thank you, Allie and Phil, for inviting me to participate in this wonderful day! Thank you, Claire, for being such a wonderful, patient, and informative teacher! I learned a lot today! (You can contact Claire at this web address - firstname.lastname@example.org. You might recognize her name - she writes for Alpacas magazine. She sells spindles, wrist distaves, introductory spinning kits and more! She also sells prepared roving - you won't find it any better prepared ANYWHERE! She teaches an awesome workshop, too.)
Everyone: Go out and spin some alpaca!