Alpaca Bird Nesting Balls

What is an Alpaca Bird Nesting Ball, you ask? It is a ball made of grapevine stuffed full of alpaca fiber, for the birds to pluck out and carry away to build nests for their young! Alpaca fiber is very soft, and very warm. Can you just imagine what a comfortable nest a mama bird could build for her babies!

The birds really do use this fiber and I frequently find it when cleaning out birdhouses in the Fall.  The grapevine balls are approximately 4″ in diameter and generously filled with 3 ounces or more of alpaca fiber inside, and sticking out of them. Nesting balls hang from a piece of twine, and can be hung on a branch or tied.

Alpaca Bird Nesting Balls make unique gifts for bird loving friends, hard-to-buy-for family members, and gift exchanges. They can also be used as Christmas ornaments. Or enjoy one, two, or three in your own backyard!

Most birds construct nests purely for the purpose of holding their eggs and chicks. However many species will use the nest outside of the nesting season as a place to sleep, so why not help them make it comfortable.  Alpaca Wool: A Great Nesting Material for the Birds shows pictures of birds caught in the act of using this wonderful fiber for their nests.  For other ways to help the birds, you might want to read Top 10 Ways to Help Nesting Birds.  Many birds breed and lay eggs in the spring, but some begin as early as winter, some lay their eggs late in summer, and yet others breed and lay year-round.  Alpaca Bird Nesting Balls can be hung outside year round and even when it rains, the alpaca fiber repels the water and dries quickly, retaining its original softness.  If you feed the birds, consider hanging a nesting ball or two near your feeders.

The alpaca fiber used in our Alpaca Bird Nesting Balls is considered Seconds and Thirds.  The picture of the colorful alpaca above illustrates from what part of the alpaca this fiber comes.  Typically the fiber is shorter, and not as fine as the Prime fiber that can be made into yarn.  At shearing time, each section of fiber from the alpaca is kept separate, to preserve the integrity of the Prime fiber (also called the Blanket) which is the most uniform in length and fineness.  While not all alpaca fiber should be made into yarn, it all can be used for something!

Alpaca Bird Nesting Balls can be used year after year, and can be refilled as the fiber gets used.  Refilling them is just a matter of pushing fiber through the holes of the grapevine ball with a pencil, knitting needle, screwdriver, your finger, or some other pokey thing.

Alpaca Bird Nesting Ball Kits are available if you’d like to make your own!  This is a very simple fiber craft kit, suitable for both children and adults.

 

Liven things up a bit with some colored fiber in your nesting balls!  This fiber has been hand-dyed with our colorfast Gaywool Dyes.  It’s always fun to find colored alpaca fiber in our neighboring bird nests!!

 

Purchase Alpaca Bird Nesting Balls in Fun Colors by clicking here.

Kits available too!

Fiber from both breeds of alpacas in a variety of hand-dyed and natural colors is used in the nesting balls, and comes from the alpacas that we raise on our farm in Mansfield, Ohio. Did you know that there are two breeds of alpacas? One is called a Suri, the other a Huacaya. Find out the Facts about Alpacas.  Suri fiber grows vertical to the alpaca’s body, and huacaya grows horizontal. The Suri is very elegant, the Huacaya is very cute!  That’s the difference.

 

Take a look at more of our Kits here.

 

10 Reasons to Raise Alpacas

Why did we start raising alpacas? We fell in love with them, and the alpaca lifestyle! There are soo many more reasons to choose to start an alpaca farm…here’s just ten of them!

1. Love of the Animals

Like I said, we fell in love with the animals! When we visited that first alpaca farm and saw those intriguing looking animals, it was love at first sight! There is a peacefulness about these gentle animals, with their long elegant necks, large eyes, long lashes, and gentle humming. Alpacas continue to transfix us, making them irresistible for those of us who have taken the “taken the plunge.” 

We raise both suris and huacayas!

Read more

Preparing for Shearing Day

Shearing day is one of the most important days of the year on alpaca farms. It is the day that we harvest the beautiful fiber that our alpacas have grown over the last year. Getting organized for the day ahead of time certainly makes the day less stressful and chaotic. Teamwork and a well thought out plan will make shearing day run like a well oiled machine.

That being said, shearing is one of my least favorite parts of raising alpacas, because though our shearers claim it takes them just eight minutes to shear an alpaca, and though they are not harmed in any way, it still is a scary experience for them. Some tolerate it better than others. All of them feel better when it’s over.

Read more

Cleaning Suri Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs

I’ve been going to write a post for quite some time, maybe even do a video, on cleaning suri alpaca fiber for doll wigs.  This morning I ran across the following video on that very topic, and it is using some of our own suri fiber!  To be more specific, it is white fiber from an alpaca named Miss Miami.  Credit goes to Beth Alvarez, whose YouTube channel is Lomi’s Playground.  If you do a search for “alpaca” on her channel, you can see all the videos Beth has made on using alpaca for doll wigs.

In each of our pastures, there is a bare spot where our alpacas like to roll.  It must really feel good, but they do get very dusty.  The suri fiber we sell gets tumbled which helps get out much of the dust, then rinsed multiple times.  As you can see in the video, there still is some muddy water when washing it again.  Each step of the processing is a step towards cleaner fiber.

miss miami suri alpaca

This is our sweet Miss Miami, though we have sold her and she no longer lives on our farm. We were visiting our son in college at Miami University, when Miss Miami was born, hence the reason for her name!

suri alpaca fiber miss miami

And this is her beautiful fiber!

Be sure to check out our Suri Fiber, both in raw form and separated into locks for you.  Visit Lomi’s Playground to see more videos by Beth on using Suri Fiber for doll wigs!

 

Be sure to see:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
How to Make a Suri Alpaca Doll Wig
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

 

 

 

How to Make a Suri Alpaca Doll Wig

Lara Nance, doll customizer, author, (and frequent customer of doll hair from Alpaca Meadows), has a YouTube channel called Artistic Adventures.  She has done videos on many aspects of doll customizing, and most recently put together a video on Processing Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs.  It seems there are various techniques for making doll wigs.  Lara makes a wig cap out of T-shirt material and glue that is molded to fit the doll’s head, as shown in the following video.  This is much easier and less time consuming than another doll wig technique called rerooting.

This video focuses on how to prepare Suri Alpaca Fiber for doll wig making.

In this video, Lara completes the wig by sewing the glued alpaca wefts to the wig cap with needle and thread for a beautiful finished wig with bangs and a center part.

How to Make a Suri Alpaca Weft for Doll Hair is a mini-tutorial by Fabiola at Fig and Me.  The method she illustrates involves sewing suri fiber onto yarn with a sewing machine, then sewing it onto a crocheted cap.  For a tutorial on how to sew weft to a crochet cap, see this video by Gabi Moench-Ford or this tutorial on her blog called Fairywool Dolls.

Be sure to see:

Using Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair
Cleaning Suri Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Shop for Suri Fiber and Suri Locks at Alpaca Meadows!

What I Did With This Year’s Alpaca Fiber

There are many options when it comes to processing alpaca fiber into a value added product.  Finding a fiber mill that will help you evaluate and determine the best use of your fiber is very helpful.  Morning Star Fiber Mill, an artisan fiber mill in North Carolina, offers custom processing and did our processing for us this year.  I brought our fiber to the Great Lakes Fiber Festival in Wooster, Ohio for pick up, which was very convenient, and I had my product back in less than a month’s time.

Alpaca Roving - Medium Fawn  Alpaca Roving - Bay Black

Two of our huacaya girls, Annalise and Amelia, have been at our farm just a year.  Morning Star has a six pound minimum per color for processing into yarn and I did not have that much fiber from these two girls, so I had their fiber made into roving for spinning.  It is super soft and lovely, and I can’t wait to spin some of it!

Alpaca Yarn - White Mocha

I had been saving fiber from Sunshine and Sunscape, mother and daughter, for several years so I did have enough of their fiber to have yarn made.  I didn’t want just solid colors, so gave “artistic license” to JC Christiansen, owner at Morning Star, and said he should “play”.  He ran Sunshine’s white fiber and Sunscape’s brown fiber side by side at the carder to produce the yarn above.  I am calling it “White Mocha” even though it looks rather silver grey.

I decided on a two-ply worsted weight, a less rounded yarn with a nice “squish factor”.

Alpaca Yarn - Cappuccino

I’m calling this yarn “Cappuccino“.  It is a result of more of Sunshine’s white fiber run side by side with medium fawn, from an alpaca named “Brawny”.  For the last few years I have bought fiber from a local 4-H girl, so the remainder of the yarn was made from her fiber.

Alpaca Yarn - Milk Chocolate

The colors used in this yarn are white, and a white and medium fawn mixed to make a medium rose grey, fed side by side at the carder to produce a color I’ve called “Milk Chocolate“.

This yarn called “Dark Chocolate” is medium fawn and dark fawn, fed side by side at the carder.

Suri Alpaca Roving - White

I had several years’ worth of suri seconds, so had roving made from the light colored colors, see Suri Alpaca Roving.  I have been dyeing this roving and have had lovely results, be sure to see Circus Time and Summer Delight.  Check back for a post on dyeing roving if you’d like to try this yourself, or try out one of our Roving Dyeing Kits!

Suri Alpaca Roving - Mabelle

The brown Suri Alpaca Roving is from Mabelle’s fiber.

Suri Fiber - Natural Colors

suri_alpaca_fiber_tiger_lily3

I have a market for selling raw Suri Fiber to spinners, and the longer length suri fiber to doll makers.  I sell both natural colors and hand-dyed fiber, so that is what I will do with my prime suri fiber this year.  This involves skirting, tumbling, washing, dyeing, and packaging, more labor for me but less expense.  Who knows what I’ll do with our fiber next year.  I love that there are so many options.  Keeping products unique and marketable is a fun challenge!

See products made from our fiber in past years. More coming soon on how to evaluate your fiber.

Suri Alpaca Merino Lopi Lite Yarn
Mother Daughter Suri Alpaca Yarn

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers

I love hats with flowers, maybe not on me, but a flower just sets off a hat, makes it so much more stylish!  I love flowers, and it is Spring, so thought I would share my Flowers, Flowers, Flowers Pinterest Board.  On it you will find crocheted, knitted, fiber, and felted flowers, some with instructions and some just for inspiration!  Be sure to check out our Classic Alpaca Yarn for many, many pretty colors of 100% alpaca yarn for flower making, and my favorite patterns for Knitting and Crocheting Flowers!

Follow Alpaca Meadows’s board Flowers, Flowers, Flowers on Pinterest.

There are also many FREE flower patterns for knit and crochet, or perhaps you can create your own!  Some of the flowers shown are knit, then felted by throwing them in the washing machine and dryer.  Some have been cut out of felt, others needle felted.  Our Bloomin’ Brites Needle Felted Flowers Kit uses a combination of both cutting flowers from felt and needle felting fiber onto them.

Our Felted Bouquet Kit uses another felting technique called wet felting. Check out How to Make Wet Felted Flowers!

Happy Spring!

 

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

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 fiber                             

 

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
Cleaning Suri Alpaca Fiber for Doll Wigs
Doll Makers – Customer Gallery

Coming soon: 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 BellBlythe Doll by 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

Natalia

Natalia

Sandra Lócre

Wig with Suri Fiber from Rocko

Lara Nance

Wig with Suri Fiber from Alpaca Meadows

Lara Nance

Lara Nance

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
Sandra Lócre of Little Cosmos Dolls in Barcelona, Spain
Lara Nance of Artistic Adventures in Port Orange, Florida

 

Tips for Purchasing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Separating Suri Fiber into Locks

Coming soon –  Washing and Combing Suri Fiber for Doll Hair

Alpaca Meadows