How To Use A Ball Winder and Swift

Anyone that plays with yarn will be interested in two great tools, a Swift and a Ball Winder.

Swift                  Ball Winder

Otto and Joanne Strauch, owners of Strauch Fiber Equipment and makers of fine tools for spinners, demonstrate how to make a center-pull ball using these two must-have tools.

Inside the Barns at the Richland County Fair

From Richland Source
By Brittany Schock

MANSFIELD, Ohio – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Richland County Fair. Guests may wander through the barns looking at the cute animals, but few are aware of the hard work put forth by junior fair members weeks and even months in advance.

For 15-year-old Laurasen Combs, her fair project began with the birth of her alpaca – and it was hard work from the very beginning.

“I really like the challenge, so I picked her because she was the hardest one to work with out of the whole herd,” said Combs. “She was the baby no one could catch and was the most ornery.”

Combs’ risk paid off, she won first place in obstacles and second in showmanship with her alpaca. She explained showmanship is judged on how well handler and animal work as a team, but obstacles are all about trust as the animal is led through various structures designed to simulate being out on the trail.

Laurasen Combs at the Richland County Fair

15-year-old Laurasen Combs won first place in obstacles and second place in showmanship with her alpaca at the Richland County Fair on Wednesday. Brittany Schock, Staff Reporter

“I only ran through obstacles with her twice, but we worked on trust a lot,” said Combs. “I sat in the pasture and her on a long lead, and I’d pull her close to me and let her go. That was she doesn’t associate me with work and not having fun, and having to constantly do what she’s not used to.”

While the awards are an added bonus, Combs noted her favorite part about the fair is ultimately the people.

“I like meeting new friends, seeing all my old friends and seeing how hard everybody worked on their projects,” she said.

Working with a smaller animal at the Richland County Fair this week is 15-year-old Macy Eicher of the Lucas Leaders II 4-H club. Eicher was preparing to show her rabbit on Wednesday, and she noted judges are mostly looking for meat on a rabbit.

“They flip your rabbit and they see what the meat looks like, their fur and their feet,” she said.

While there isn’t much she could do to improve the meat on her rabbit, Eicher said she learned to feed her rabbit sunflower seeds to help with their fur quality.

“I like learning what you can learn from the fair and from the rabbits,” she said.

Across the fairgrounds in the pony barn, 11-year-old Chase Davenport from Sandusky County said he’d only practiced working with his pony Penelope about a week before the Richland County Fair. But his aunt, Jessica Garcia, was quick to counter Davenport’s dedication.

“He’s been driving carts since age five – he’s always loved to do it,” said Garcia.

Garcia explained Davenport has been working with Penelope for a long time in preparation for a few other fairs, but only started preparing for the Richland County Fair last week. Davenport’s bond with Penelope was evident on Wednesday when he won first place in the 9-12 age group of the Junior Draft Horse Halter/Showmanship competition.

“We show halter by walking them in, setting them up and making sure their front and back feet are together,” said Davenport. “You walk in front of the judge and follow their directions, they look at you and then you go back in line.”

Davenport said he prepared Penelope for showing by braiding her tail, combing her mane and cleaning her feet. Garcia added the entire family camps out at the fair throughout the week, and it’s hard to keep Davenport out of the barn.

“It’s a fun family experience – we spend lots of time together,” she said.

Read the original here.

Free Crochet Shawl Patterns

I’ve been on a roll with shawls lately and have rounded up a few of my favorite FREE crochet shawl patterns for you for a little inspiration – some of these I’ve tried and some are on my to-do list!  I’ll be using Alpaca Yarn, of course!  Click on individual images to see pattern for that image, or follow this board on Pinterest.

Follow Alpaca Meadows’s board Crochet – Shawl Patterns on Pinterest.

Online Crochet Class

How to Remove Fiber from Strauch Carder

Strauch Fiber Equipment not only makes quality products, in the USA I might add, but they provide quality support, tutorials, and helpful advice.  They have a number of helpful videos, this being one of them, to help you use and enjoy their products.  Watch Otto Strauch’s video on his technique to remove all of the fiber from the large drum, useful when you want to prevent contamination of the next batt.

According to Otto, “Because of the fineness of the carding cloth, there will always be fiber left on the drum after you pull off your batt.  The amount of fiber left is usually the same quantity. So if you’re only putting on a small amount, say one-tenth of an ounce, percentage wise, a lot of it will remain on the drum. If you fill the drum with one ounce of fiber, the same amount stays on but the percentage of fiber coming off will be much greater.

Cleaning out this fiber after each batt removal is too time consuming. So, here’s what I do: After the first batt is removed, I leave the left-over fiber on the drum. I then card another batt, remove it and card the third batt. Keep doing this until you’ve made the number of batts your looking for. Now clean off the fiber still on the drum. I don’t clean the drum until I am either finished using the carder, or switching to carding a different color or type of fiber.

If you are dealing only with a small amount of fiber and need to get it all off at one time, here’s the technique I use. It’s illustrated on a one minute video entitled “Removing all the fiber at one time from the large drum”.  As you watch it you’ll see how the doffer brush is used to remove all the fiber on the drum while pulling off the batt. (The doffer brush is the brush that came with your carder and used to clean off the large drum)”.

See our selection of Strauch Carders available through our online store.  I will be posting more videos from Strauch Fiber Equipment Co, so do check back!

First Sale Ever At Strauch Fiber Equipment

Big Sale on Fiber Equipment

Strauch Fiber Equipment is offering 10% off on on their products, now through July 31st, 2015, and I am passing on this savings to you!

Strauch Fiber Equipment tends have substantial price tags attached, but well worth the price being asked because it is quality equipment, AND it is made in the USA.

Strauch Fiber Equipment

This is the first sale ever that Strauch has offered – think of it as Christmas in July!  Use Discount Code DJ0XAE4N0A81 when checking out to receive the discount.  If you’ve been contemplating the purchase of their Jumbo Ball Winders, one of Strauch Carders, or a Swift/Skeinwinder, now is the time!

This Must Be A First: Alpacas Blessed In Nation’s Capital

Here’s something you don’t see every day in Washington, D.C.

Standing just a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol, a group of Peruvian highlanders, draped in handwoven cloths and ponchos in all the colors of the rainbow, pray to Mother Earth, to the mountains, to the spirit of their ancestors. They offer wine, incense and flowers.
Their wish is that their alpaca “cover the earth like the grains of sand by the ocean.”

Blessing of the Alpacas - Alpaca News

Alpacas, in case you don’t know, are llama-like animals in the camel family. Their wool — called fiber — is prized for its softness and warmth. It’s woven into textiles and garments. So the more alpacas, the better. That’s why Peruvians hold a traditional blessing ceremony, performed since before Columbus discovered the New World and re-created at the national mall last Friday for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The Peruvians kneel in front of the alpacas’ pen to prepare their offering. Behind them, six alpacas, on loan from Sugarloaf Alpacas in Maryland, stand nervously. It’s apparent they’ve never been blessed before.
A weaver named Timoteo, from the village of Chinchero, leads the ceremony. As he speaks, a translator echoes his words.

“Lightning storms, please, I supplicate you with this offering. Please be gentle with us, support us and allow our animals to be fruitful and multiply, don’t be harsh.”

Before the ceremony began, I spoke with Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, a traditional weaver. Callañaupa is a cofounder of the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, a nonprofit formed to preserve the art of weaving. As we talk, her hands never stop moving as she spins alpaca fiber into yarn.

The alpaca ceremony, Callañaupa explains, takes place once a year during their rainy season, which in Peru lasts from November through April. The people ask Mother Earth — Pachamama in the Quechua language — and the spirits to look out for their animals.

“Spirit of our ancestors, angels that protect us, please take care of us. We offer to you this blessing.”

Alpacas are native to South America, where they are sometimes raised for meat (which is low in calories, fat, and cholesterol) but are primarily prized for their fleece, which grows naturally in over twenty colors. Alpaca fiber is not only soft, Callañaupa says, but warmer and finer than sheep’s wool.

Ann Rowe, a researcher at the George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum in D.C., says these attractive properties of alpaca fiber are due to its structure. “Alpaca is softer than wool because [the shaft of each fiber] has fewer surface scales,” she says. “It is warmer because many of the fibers have a hollow core.”

It also costs more than wool, Callañaupa says, an advantage for the farmer. Peru is reportedly home to 3.6 million alpacas — that’s most of the world’s population and produces 80 percent of the world’s alpaca fleece. Those exports, however, are managed by large fiber mills.

“The export industry is an entirely different thing than local use of alpacas” for textiles, says Rowe.

“Let the alpaca be as strong as can be because their bones are like steel. The mountains should run with alpacas like grains of sand, and their caretakers should be so overjoyed that their eyes run with tears.”

It’s a long road from animal to textile. It starts, Callañaupa says, with shearing the animals, which is done every year or two (in warmer climates, annual shearing is more common).

Next, the fiber is spun by hand into yarn on a traditional drop spindle — a wooden spike that is weighted at one end. The spinner fixes the fiber to the spike, then pulls and twists the fiber while holding the spindle between the legs. When the twisted fiber reaches a certain length, the spindle is dropped toward the floor, and its weight makes it rotate, twisting it into yarn.

The finished yarn is washed and can be dyed. The Cusco weavers use natural dyes made from leaves, flowers and insects.

When the yarn is ready, artisans use a Backstrap Loom to weave bright, intricate textiles. Each community, Callañaupa explains, has its own designs and style of weaving. “It’s part of our identity,” she says.

“Let there be a great abundance of alpacas, so that the alpacas should be like the condor and appear to fly from one mountain to another, and let them come in all the beautiful colors.”

People sell their woven textiles. If they have a lot of alpaca, they’ll sell the actual fiber as well. Callañaupa says that in many of these villages, raising alpaca is the basis for the economy. “In high altitudes where the alpacas are kept, there is not agriculture,” she says. “So all the food will come through [sale of the] fiber.”

Is it enough to make a living?

She doesn’t look up from the creamy, pale fiber she is spinning into soft yarn. “Most people, that pays for living,” she says. “The food, the education. No savings.”

When the ceremony is over, necklaces of carnations and woven tassels are hung around each alpaca’s neck to show it has been blessed. In Peru, the end of the ceremony marks the beginning of a festival, so right there on the National Mall, to the beat of drums and the whistle of flutes, the Peruvians dance their thanks to Mother Earth.

Back in their pen, the blessed alpacas pace, perhaps not yet aware of their good fortune.

From NPR
By Jessie Rack

Read the original here.

Free Crochet Pattern – Half Moon Shawl

Featuring a bobble stitch, this pretty Half Moon Shawl has a bit of a textured look with lacy, open stitches, a luxuriously soft feel, and an elegant sheen that will make you feel like a queen!

Half Moon Shawl, Astral Yarn5 (640x538)

Adapted from a pattern from the Lion Brand Yarn website that calls for a super bulky yarn and Size N hook, I’ve used yarn from our Astral line and a Size J hook.

Ha

The rich, beautiful color I chose is called Gemini.

Half Moon Shawl, Astral Yarn2 (480x640)

SKILL LEVEL

Easy

HOOK

6.0 mm (J)

MATERIALS

625 Yards or 3.2 skeins of Astral Yarn
I think I’ll use a smaller hook next time to see if I can’t get the yardage down to three skeins.  The thicker the yarn, and the bigger the hook, the more yarn you’ll need so stepping down a few sizes should help to cut the yardage.  I will keep you posted.  On that note,  How Much Yarn Do I Need from the Fresh Stitches blog is a very helpful post for trying to calculate yardage required for different weights of yarn.

STITCH EXPLANATION

*Bobble Holding back last loop of each dc, work 5 dc in next st, yarn over and pull through 6 loops on hook.

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS

Approximately 32 inches/ 81.28cm long and 64 inches/162.56cm across the top edge

Half Moon Shawl, Astral Yarn3 (480x640)

DIRECTIONS

Ch 3, sl st in beg ch to form a ring.
Row 1: Ch 3  (does not count as st in this row and in all following rows), 9 dc in ring, do not join.

Note: The turning ch-3 does not count as first dc in each row. This means that you should work your first dc into the very first st (at base of turning ch-3), unless you are instructed to sk the first st. When you reach the end of a row, do not work into the top of the turning ch-3, unless instructed to do so. When counting sts, do not count the turning ch.

Row 2: Ch 3, turn, (dc in next dc, 2 dc in next dc) twice, bobble* in next dc, (2 dc in next dc, dc in next dc) twice – 13 sts.
Row 3: Ch 3, turn, (2 dc in next st, dc in next st) across, end dc in last dc – 19 dc.
Row 4: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in next dc, (ch 2, sk 2 dc, 3 dc in next dc) across – 6 ch- 2 sp.
Row 5: Ch 5 (counts as dc, ch 2), turn, (3 dc in next ch-2 sp, ch 2) across, end dc in top of ch-3 – 7 ch-2 sp.
Row 6: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 3 dc in next ch-2 sp) across – 6 ch-2 sp.
Row 7: Ch 3, turn, skip first dc, dc in each of next 2 dc, (4 dc in next ch-2 sp, dc in each of next 3 dc) across, end last dc in top of ch-3 – 44 dc.
Row 8: Ch 3, turn, dc in each of next 3 dc, (bobble in next dc, dc in each of next 8 dc) to last 5 dc, end bobble in next dc, dc in each of next 4 dc – 5 bobbles.
Row 9: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg dc, dc in each st across to last dc, 2 dc in last dc – 46 dc.
Row 10: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg dc, (ch 2, sk 2 dc, 3 dc in next dc) across – 15 ch-2 sp.
Row 11: Ch 5 (counts as dc, ch 2), turn, (3 dc in next ch-2 sp, ch 2) across, end dc in top of ch-3 – 16 ch-2 sp.
Row 12: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 3 dc in next ch-2 sp) across – 15 ch-2 sp.
Row 13: Ch 3, turn, skip first dc, dc in each of next 2 dc, (2 dc in ch-2 sp, dc in each of next 3 dc) across, end last dc in top of ch-3 – 77 dc.
Row 14: Ch 3, turn, dc in each of next 2 dc, (bobble in next dc, dc in each of next 8 dc) to last 3 dc, end bobble in next dc, dc in each of next 2 dc – 9 bobbles.
Row 15: Ch 3, turn, dc in each st across, inc 2 dc evenly spaced – 79 dc.
Row 16: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg dc, (ch 2, sk 2 dc, 3 dc in next dc) across – 26 ch-2 sp.
Row 17: Ch 5 (counts as dc, ch 2), turn, (3 dc in next ch-2 sp, ch 2) across, end dc in top of ch-3– 27 ch-2 sp.
Row 18: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 3 dc in next ch-2 sp) across – 26 ch-2 sp.
Row 19: Ch 3, turn, skip first dc, dc in each of next 2 dc, (2 dc in ch-2 sp, dc in each of next 3 dc) across, end last dc in top of ch-3 – 132 dc.
Row 20: Ch 3, turn, dc in each of next 2 dc, (bobble in next dc, dc in each of next 8 dc) to last 4 dc, end bobble in next dc, dc in each of next 3 dc – 15 bobbles.
Row 21: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg dc, dc in each st across – 133 dc.
Row 22: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg dc, (ch 2, sk 2 dc, 3 dc in next dc) across – 44 ch-2 sps.
Row 23: Ch 5 (counts as dc, ch 2), turn, (3 dc in next ch-2 sp, ch 2) across, end dc in top of ch-3 – 45 ch-2 sps.
Row 24: Ch 3, turn, 2 dc in beg ch-2 sp, (ch 2, 3 dc in next ch-2 sp) across – 44 ch-2 sps.
Row 25: Ch 3, turn, skip first dc, dc in each of next 2 dc, (2 dc in ch-2 sp, dc in each of next 3 dc) across, end last dc in top of ch-3 – 222 dc.

Fasten off.

FINISHING
Edging

From RS, join yarn at any edge of shawl.
Work [sc in next st, dc in each of next 2 sts, tr in each of next 2 sts, dc in each of next 2 sts] evenly around Shawl.
Weave in ends.

To print pattern, click Half Moon Shawl Pattern.

Half Moon Shawl, Astral Yarn4 (469x640)

This Half Moon Shawl is available to purchase, just click here!  Custom orders are welcome in any of the pretty Astral colors available.

How to Separate Locks of Suri Fiber

 

Fiber of the suri alpaca grows vertically down the side of the body, hanging in long, separate, distinctive locks.  These individual locks are made up of many lustrous fibers.  Separating the locks of fiber is not hard, but it does take time.  I am a novice when it comes to video, so hope you’ll bear with me.

1.  Identify the tip of the lock, versus the cut end which will be more blunt.

2.  Hold the upper tip end of the lock tightly and pull it away from the base of the fleece, while holding the base of the fleece around the lock.  This keeps the other locks intact and ready for their turn at being removed.

3.  The lock is pulled up and the fleece around it is held intact by my other hand.

This can be done wet or dry, as seen in the video, depending on your preference.

Be sure to see:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Coming Soon:

Washing and Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

We offer our raw suri fiber in two different forms.  Our Natural Suri has been carefully skirted, tumbled, and washed. Suri Locks have been taken one step further in that the individual locks of fiber have been separated from the rest of the fleece.

Natural Suri          Suri Locks

Doll makers are finding that suri alpaca makes beautiful doll hair!  There is some fiber terminology that may be helpful for doll makers purchasing suri fiber for doll hair.

Blythe Doll by Chris Hegarty

Purchasing the Natural Suri is the most economical way to purchase this silky, lustrous fiber.  There is a huge cost savings if purchasing an entire fleece, but this is usually way more fiber than needed for doll wigs.  Separating Suri Fiber into Locks is not difficult, but it is more expensive to buy fiber this way because of the time involved.  See How to Separate Locks of Suri Fiber.

Alpacas in the Pasture

The Terms:

Fiber is the hair of an alpaca.

Fleece is the coat of an alpaca, after having been sheared, but before being processed into yarn or thread.

Micron is the unit of measurement used in assessing the diameter of a fiber.

Micron count is scientifically devised by measuring the diameter of several individual fibers and determining the average. The lower microns are the finer fibers.  The larger the micron count, the courser the fiber.

The textile world generally uses six Grades of Fiber for Alpacas:

Grade 1 Ultra Fine (less than 20 microns)
Grade 2 Superfine (20-22.99 microns)
Grade 3 Fine (23-25.99 microns)
Grade 4 Medium (26-28.99 microns)
Grade 5 Intermediate (29-31.99 microns)
Grade 6 Robust (32 microns and above)

Locks
are the natural divisions in an animal’s fiber.  A single lock of suri is made up of multiple individual fibers.

Skirting is when fleece is shorn off an alpaca, the blanket or primary fleece is brought to a table where the guard hair and vegetable matter is hand picked from the fiber.

Staple is an independent cluster of individual fibers.

Staple Length is the actual length of shorn alpaca fiber.

Tumbling is when fiber is placed in a machine called a tumbler and, well, tumbled, to removed dirt, dust, vegetable matter, etc.

Vegetable Matter is the little pieces of hay, stray, dead leaves, seed heads, and sometimes burrs that find their home in alpaca fiber.

More Alpaca Fiber Terms can be found on the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of
North America, Inc. website.

Vegetable Matter

And now the TIPS:

 

1.  Be aware that there is a lot of waste when combing out the locks. Be sure to purchase up to an extra ounce for your project, to make sure you have enough.

2.  For whatever reason, the darker colors seem to work well in the higher micron range – 26 microns and up.   The fiber tends to have less static, is stronger for combing, but is still very lustrous and the fibers hang together well.
Dark Brown Suri Fiber

Dark Brown Suri Fiber Separated Into Locks

3.  On the flip side, the whites and lights work better in the finer micron ranges, say 20 – 28 microns.  Finer than 20 microns and the fibers will break.  Over 28 microns, the fiber just looks bad with no luster, the fiber looks coarse, etc.
White Suri Fiber

White Suri Fiber Not Separated Into Locks

4.  Lengthwise, the 7″-8″ fiber works the best.  That is just a year’s worth of growth for many animals, so it is easier to comb out, has less breakage, and overall has less damage than most of the two year growth animals.  Some doll makers opt for longer fiber, 9″ – 12″.  Though premium prices are charged for this longer fiber, it can be hard to comb out and tends to have more vegetable matter embedded in the locks.  Of course, it is lovely but can be more work.
Suri Alpaca Fiber, 6.5"', Medium Fawn, 2 Ounces, Simeon
5.  Stay away from fleeces of alpacas that the alpaca owner has shown extensively in the show ring.  This fiber is going to be prone to fiber breakage due to repeated stress and length of time the fiber is on the animal.
6.  Be cautious of first year fleeces.  Again, breakage due to stress of weaning can make the fleece problematic for doll hair.
7.  Buy from an experienced fleece handler who knows the doll hair market.  Many suri farms will offer their fleeces for sale in this market, but only a few will really understand the characteristics needed to make good doll hair!
 2012_634733645411868000
Thank you to Liz Vahlcamp and my doll maker friends for helping me with this post!

Other related posts:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Coming soon:

Washing Alpaca Fiber
Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

 Suri Alpaca Fiber has become quite popular for use by doll makers that use it as doll hair.  See Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair.  Pictured are below are dolls made by some of our my favorite doll makers with suri fiber from our very own alpacas.

 
Katty Van De Sype

Katty Van De Sype

Blythe Doll by Sofie Bell

Sofie Bell

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Blythe Doll by Ingrid Gilbert by

Ingrid Gilbert

Blythe Doll by Chris Hegarty at Blythe Kouklas

Chris Hegarty

Zeina by Belén de la Morena

Belén de la Morena

Blythe Doll by Sofie Bell

Sofie Bell

Blythe Doll by Morgon Orton

Morgon Orton

Blythe Doll by Justine Hewett

Justine Hewett

Blythe Doll by Sharon Avital

Sharon Avital

Blythe Reroot by Cindy Sowers

Cindy Sowers

Blythe Doll by Ingrid Gilbert at Sweet Days Dolls

Ingrid Gilbert

Blythe Doll by Cindy Sowers

Cindy Sowers

Blythe Doll by Sofie Bell

Sofie Bell

Blythe Doll by Sophie Bell

Sophie Bell

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Blythe Doll by Sophie Bell

Sophie Bell

Sharon Avital Dolls

Sharon Avital

Blythe Doll by Belén de la Morena

Belén de la Morena

Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Cindy Sowers

FAVORITE DOLL MAKERS

Cindy Sowers of Burlington, VT
Chris Hegarty of Blythe Kouklas, in Melbourne, Australia
Ingrid Gilberty of Sweet Days Dolls, in Ngaruawahia, Waikato, New Zealand
Sharon Avital of Sharon Avital Dolls, in Ramat Gan, Israel
Belén de la Morena of DCBE Handmade in Valladolid, Spain
Katty Van De Sype of Earthstone Girls Europe in Alost, Belgium

 

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Separating Suri Fiber into Locks

Coming soon –  Washing and Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

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