LondonDairy Alpacas.

About a year ago I purchased my spinning wheel and shortly after that my family was up visiting at my parents’ house. It just so happened that a local alpaca farm was having an open house that weekend. If you are into fiber at all, at this point you probably know where this is headed.

LondonDairy Alpacas is a pretty neat place for me to visit. The ranch used to be a family dairy farm — believe it or not as a child my mom used to stop at the little shop across the street to buy milk & other fresh dairy goodness. If my sister & I behaved (and/or had luck on our side) we sometimes scored one of those  individual serving ice cream cups that came with the little wooden spoon — usually a delicious blend of vanilla & with swirls of fudge. According to their website, in the mid-90s the farm began changing — the bottling plant closed, many cattle & chickens were sold, and alpacas were purchased.  The little dairy store of my childhood which was whimsically painted with the classic black & white spots of Holstein cows prevalent all over farms in Wisconsin is no longer used, but the bottling plant was converted into an alpaca gift shop. I loved that dairy shop, but the spinner in me is pretty happy with the changes.

When I visited the open house, I was mostly just excited for my kids to have a chance to see an alpaca up-close. I knew the gift shop had some fine alpaca fabrics & other luxury ready-made items. What I didn’t expect to find was roving — I believe most of the roving available when I was there was an alpaca/bamboo blend, but I have to admit I was new enough to spinning that I didn’t really know the difference. I just was excited to have alpaca to spin. I picked up natural, brown, black and pink balls of roving — all in the neighborhood of 8oz balls. In retrospect I may have gotten a bit carried away, but — as with most things fiber-related — stored properly it’ll wait for you to get to it. (No comment on how many times I asked my mom to stop by for more roving — I am blocking those details out of sheer embarrassment)

Yesterday I finally pulled some of the alpaca roving out to spin. Having never spun any alpaca, I didn’t really have much of a plan as to what I wanted to make. In the end, I played for a few minutes to see how it felt and settled on attempting a bulky thick & thin 2-ply. It was an…. interesting choice seeing as though I have never tried to make a thick & thin yarn, but I went with it. I recently used a lovely thick & thin yarn and was inspired to try my hand at it. My focus was to make a thick & thin yarn that wasn’t sloppy. As a beginner I have made a lot of uneven yarn in my day, but never on purpose. It is usually a lack of control or patience that leads to the unevenness in my spinning. This time I wanted a deliberate unevenness. I didn’t know if I would be able to see the difference once all was plied, but I was sure going to try.

I have to say, I am really happy with the results. The trick for me was to be pretty free in the singles, but disciplined in the plying. Proportionally I took much more time plying than spinning the singles. I think that is what made the difference in sloppy vs controlled unevenness. I’m not expert, that’s just my guess. I got about 106yds and am not yet sure what I’m going to make it with, but I can’t wait to try it out!

If you are in the area & interested in visiting LondonDairy Alpacas they are located just north of  Two Rivers, WI — for directions you can check out their website here. They are having an open house all Thanksgiving weekend and then every weekend in December from 10 – 3pm. If you can’t make an open house, you can always contact them and they can open by appointment. Don’t miss a visit to this awesome place!

Sunday morning spinning.

Cloudlover Illustrus colorway – 80% merino, 20% silk
Spun on Lendrum DT – Navajo plied

Today I finished up a spinning project that has taken me a L O N G time. Not because it was particularly taxing, more that life is busy and I live in a small space. Every time I spin I bring my wheel up from the basement. If I stop in the middle of a project (which I often do because I have small children… and — gasp! — responsibilities beyond the fiber world), we all trip over my wheel until I wrap up the work. When it involves an overnight stay upstairs, my wheel ends up on my kitchen table to insure our puppy — 7month old lab superstar, MooseBurger — does not get any fancy ideas about turning my beloved wheel into a chew toy (he is an angel and would never, but I’m not taking chances). As you can imagine, all this relocating and stopping & starting can sometimes turn 4oz of fiber into a weeks long project. Can I just say though, that it is so worth it.

Let me introduce to you the latest addition to my yarn stash. This is a handpainted roving I purchased from Cloudlover a few months ago (don’t hate me for the time lapse — remember all the moving involved!). I always love the job Natalie at Cloudlover does with her roving. I adore that she often takes color inspiration from current trends, stirs them ever so slightly, & translates it all magically into these wholly unique, beautiful braids. I don’t know how she does it, but I never want her to stop!

This lovely braid was the Illustrus colorway in an 80% merino – 20% silk blend. I spun the single for the yarn at a lace weight and yes, it almost killed me it took so long. Don’t get me wrong, I love spinning and I don’t mind that it takes time. Sometimes though… when I know it’s going to be beautiful…. the wait from roving to finished yarn can feel… very long. But I digress.

Knowing it would be exceptionally light if I just did a 2-ply with it, I decided to be a tad more ambitious and try Navajo plying. Now I had toyed with Navajo plying before with some leftovers so I knew I could do it. I practiced with some ‘lesser yarn’ I had lying around before setting this single up. The start of the plying was a little less than spectacular. So excited that I had a couple of hours to get going on the plying while my kids were at school, I raced to get set-up and going. After over 30 minutes fighting with the technique and it just not working, I set it aside. Flabbergasted I grabbed some alpaca roving I had nearby to try to cleanse my palate. As I reached to get the wheel spinning I realized the problem. Yes. It helps to spin the wheel in the correct direction (sometimes I am less than a genius). Back to the plying, it went smoothly from there on out.

I won’t lie to you, it is not perfect. Ironically, as a knitting instructor I tell my students all the time to not be too hard on themselves for little imperfections. I love little inconsistencies in the yarns I buy. I actually love those little spots where the dye is just a bit different. I like the impression that human hands have touched the very materials I am using. When I spin yarn that isn’t perfect though, I tend to focus on the 2 or 3 spots that could be better. With this skein, I am embarking on an attempt to appreciate my handspun for what it is and to be thankful. Despite the hurdles and inconveniences this hobby poses around my house, I appreciate every moment that I get to pursue it. I love that I get to create a yarn that has my own imperfections, my own little signature. I was here. I made this. And it is lovely.

I usually prefer natural light, but I wanted you to see the colors in this yarn. So pretty, no?