The Alpaca Cat Toys referenced in the article are actually felted, not knit. They are very simple and fun to make and I sell lots of them! If you are interested in making some yourself, I offer kits to make them complete with the fiber, foam block to work on, a special felting needle and illustrated instructions! Great gift idea!
Ben also wrote about the fur of alpacas. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to it this way but it did make me wonder and I frequently get asked, what is alpaca hair called? I thought maybe I should be sure about what I tell people so I Googled it … and the following is what Wikipedia has to say.
Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is light weight or heavy weight, depending on how it is spun. It is soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite.
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals including alpacas, so hair from alpacas can also be referred to as wool.
So, I think of fleece as the coat of the alpaca, the whole boat. Fiber then, refers to the individual pieces of the fleece. Looking a little further I did learn that fur is a synonym for hair, so there you go! Call it hair, fleece, fiber, wool, and yes even fur.
The magazine article follows…
Quick, name the one item in this group that can’t be found at Easton Town Center: a sequined camouflage handbag from J. Crew, a sterling silver heart lock bracelet from Tiffany & Co. and a knitted cat toy made out of alpaca fur.
It’s a trick question. They all can be purchased at Easton. That is, if you include the items at the Easton Farmers’ Market, which debuted this year in one of the mega shopping complex’s many parking lots. Among the vendors there is Alpaca Meadows, a Mansfield-based farm owned by Julie and Matt Petty. The couple fell in love with the camelids during a visit to a farm with their children one summer several years ago, and raising them, according to Julie (shown), “looked like something we thought we’d enjoy doing.” Despite having no farming experience (“the closest thing we’d ever been to a farm was ‘Green Acres’ on TV,” says Matt), the couple opened Alpaca Meadows, where Julie, who specializes in crafts, began incorporating alpaca fur into her daily works. Though strikingly exotic and foreign to most American farmers and consumers (alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains in South America), the animals are surprisingly simple to care for, the Pettys say. “They don’t get sick easily and can roam on a relatively smaller amount of land” than cattle, Julie says. Adds her husband, “They don’t eat a whole lot.” Alpaca fur, noted for its incredible softness, is the luxurious older sibling of wool, with many similar uses. Among the items the Pettys sell at their farm, from their tent and on their website (alpacameadows.com) are hats, scarves, mittens, rugs, sweaters and novelty toys—all made entirely of alpaca fur. Additionally on sale are alpacas themselves. Ranging from roughly $2,000 to $12,000, the animals are priced according to their proportion—their overall shape—and the quality of their fleece. “We want to be producing a soft, luxurious fleece,” Julie says. “It all depends on their diet and bloodline. All of that comes into play when figuring out their price.” Hold back your excitement, though. The alpacas are available at the farm only, not at Easton. And even so, it’s doubtful they’d let you ride them.