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!