How to Make an Alpaca Fiber Wreath

I try to find a use for every grade of alpaca fiber, even short fiber or more robust fiber from older alpacas.   Alpaca Fiber Wreaths are my latest idea.  Find out how!

Peacock

Recently I had a special order for one of these wreaths and the customer wanted “peacock colors”.

Click to Purchase Alpaca Fiber

I started by gathering together small amounts of my previously dyed fiber, in colors that I thought resembled a peacock.

Grapevine Wreath

I used both huacaya and suri fiber.  The huacaya was a good filler, as well as added color.  The suri added color in wisps and curls.

Dipping Fiber in Glue

Using glue in a shallow plastic dish, I dipped small bunches of fiber into the glue.

IMG_2404

With a nail punch (any pokey thing would work, a pencil for instance), I poked the fiber down into the grapevine wreath.  Very easy to make!

Suri Fiber Wreath

 Voila’, the finished project!

Fall Fiber Farm Tour

Ohio’s fiber farmers are opening their barn doors to you!
 
Drive from farm–to-farm through beautiful Ohio, visiting with fiber animals,
including alpacas, sheep and goats!
 
Meet the farmers who bring you Ohio-grown fiber for knitting, weaving and felting.
 
Shop for luxurious handspun and dyed yarns and hand-made fiber gifts.
 
          Watch demonstrations on skirting a fleece, carding fiber, spinning, needle felting, hand dyeing,
knitting and crocheting.

 
Meet fiber animals up-close and personal.
 
    Participating Farms

Criation Station, Oberlin
              That’ll Do Farm, Grafton
              Gemstone Alpaca Farm, Wellington     
              Melody Lane Alpacas, Valley City                     
              Little Farm in the Woods, Seville
              Alpaca Meadows, Mansfield  
              Sunny Meade Alpacas, Swanton
              Top Notch Alpacas, Madison 
              Sweet Criations Alpaca Farm @ Promised Land Farm, Chardon      
 
              “Ohio Natural Fiber Network – Our Homegrown to Your Handmade”

Needle Felting in Christmas Cookie Cutters

Nervous as I might have been about whether I am teacher material or not, the first of our Fiber Art Classes here at our NEW farm and fiber studio, was a fun one!

Christmas Needle Felting

Everyone seemed to have a good time …

Christmas Needle Felting Class - Mittens

… learned something new …

Christmas Needle Felting Class

… and went away with some completed, needle felted Christmas items!

Christmas Needle Felting Class - Ornament

Needle felting with a cookie cutter is a fun, and easy way to create flat shapes that can then be used for embellishments on other felted projects such as a journal cover or purse, or sewing projects, or onto a sweater, T-shirt or a jean jacket.

Christmas Needle Felting Class

They could be used to make a necklace, a pair of earrings, or a key chain.  Attach a ribbon or embroidery floss and hang them on your Christmas tree, or give as a gift, or use as a decoration on packages.

Christmas Needle Felting Class - Gingerbread Boys

Using a cookie cutter saves you from having to create a template for your shapes. It is an easy way to guide your needle while you felt.  There are felting molds on the market created specifically for needle felting, but if you have a variety of cookie cutters stored away you might as well try your hand at cookie cutter felting. The molds that you purchase are made of plastic, so if you have plastic cookie cutters try those first, if your cookie cutters are metal, take care near the edges so as not to break your felting needle.

Christmas Needle Felting

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Place the cookie cutter on the foam work surface.
  2. Lay roving inside the cutter so it fills the total shape. You can make a thicker shape by utilizing more roving, or a thinner shape by utilizing less roving.  Be sure you don’t have empty spots.
  3. With the cookie cutter in place, use the felting needle and begin jabbing the fiber, paying particular focus to edges and points. Be sure to hold the needle straight up and down, or it may break, and keep your fingers out of the way.  These needles are extremely sharp!   Felting sticks, or chopsticks from your favorite Japanese restaurant, are very helpful to hold the fiber down while you poke.  You will poke your fingers less by getting used to using these.
  4. Turn the felt over occasionally so it does not stick to the foam.
  5. You will see the fibers gradually compressing into felt.
  6. If any areas are too thin, add more roving and continue felting that region with the needle until the new roving is blended in.
  7. Continue felting with the needle until it holds together and becomes firm.  The degree of firmness is determined by how long you felt the piece.  The more you felt, the firmer it will be.
  8. Remove the cookie cutter and gently detach the felted shape from the foam.
  9. If the edges look ragged, felt around the edges until the shape looks smooth and finished.
  10. Your shape is now ready to attach to any project. You can also add embellishments, or embroider your shape with embroidery floss, beads, sequins, or charms.

Below were the books I had in class that had lots of great ideas in them.

 

We also covered how to felt a ball, and make it into a flower.

Christmas Needle Felting Class - Flowers

For larger balls, stuff a panty hose with loose fiber or batting, tie it at the top and cut off the excess hose.

Christmas Needle Felting Class - Felted Balls

Wrap the ball with rovings, overlapping, and wrapping different directions making sure to cover all bare spots and tacking in place with your felting needle as you go.  Decorate with colored rovings, and other bits of fiber or yarn.  Begin the felting process as described above.

Felted Alpaca Ball OrnamentI

Be sure to see our Alpaca Wool Roving Sampler in Christmas colors!

Guess Who’s In The News?

I was one of the vendors at the Easton Farmers Market that was featured in Columbus Monthly magazine!

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!

Felted Alpaca Cat Toys

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.

Alpaca Fleece

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…

exotic offerings

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.

—Ben Zenitsky

Susan Gibbs Speaks at Paca to Product

On Saturday, I attended Paca to Product in Wooster, Ohio.  Paca to Product is a network involving Morning Star Fiber Mill and the Ohio Alpaca and Breeders Association that “hosts a yearly forum which exists to establish a cottage industry level platform from which the exotic fiber producers, harvesters, processors and artisans will be able to realize an ever expanding market that is both profitable and sustainable for all involved.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the keynote speaker, Susan Gibbs. She originally started niche farming on Martha’s Vineyard an island off the south of Cape Cod and created the first ever Yarn and Fiber CSA. She has since moved to Virginia to start Juniper Moon Farm.

Susan shared her story of leaving the corporate world as a CBS news producer in New York City and moving to the country to reconnect with her agricultural roots and also what she would do if she had the chance to do it all over again.

The Program at Paca to Product was good and included topics such as Shearing for Maximum Profit – you can watch the video,  An Alternative to Common Market Strategies, Social Media Marketing, and Evaluating Fiber for Processing.  I would highly recommend Paca to Product for any alpaca breeder looking to further their knowledge of the fiber that their alpacas are producing, as our industry moves forward in developing an alpaca fiber industry.

Next year’s event is already being planned and the dates set for November 11-13, 2011. You might want to put that on your calendar!


Shearing Day Is Behind Us

Today is Thursday, we sheared on Monday.  I just now feel recovered!
Shearing Day at Alpaca Meadows
Our shearers were scheduled to arrive at 10am Monday morning.  Sunday night we received a call and were told the time would be changed to 2pm.  I contacted our helpers and hoped they would still be able to come.  Considering the forecast of 100% rain we thought this might actually work out better.  We would be able to get alpacas into the barn and fans on in an effort to get them dry.Shearing Day at Alpaca Meadows
We did not pen them in the night before because we thought we’d have time to deal with wet alpacas first thing in the morning.  Instead, at 7:30am we received another call saying the shearers would be there at 10am.  The owners of the farm scheduled at 7 were not home when the shearers arrived, so this put them ahead about 4 hours!
Shearing Day at Alpaca Meadows
We shifted to high gear, contacted our helpers, brought the alpacas in, set up pens so they could spread out, and turned on the fans!!
Shearing Day at Alpaca Meadows
All’s well that ends well.  Suris dry more quickly than huacayas, we learned that!
Shearing Day at Alpaca Meadows
Trying to stay organized, keep helpers organized, and shear alpacas in an orderly fashion we started with our light colors, shearing suris first, then moved to browns, multis, and black.  We are working with a certified sorter apprentice this year and by doing so are hoping to learn how to sort fiber ourselves. The fiber from all alpacas was taken off and carefully laid on a sheet of plastic, then rolled up so it can later be unrolled on a skirting table.
Shearing Day at Alpaca Meadows
Head, tail, and belly can then be more easily identified and coarser fiber skirted away, versus throwing it all in a bag and having finer fiber contaminated by coarser fiber.
Grades of Alpaca Fiber
It was a great plan except that at the end of the day, all our neatly rolled blankets had to be unrolled and spread out on the barn floor to dry!  The best laid plans . .
 Shearing Day Fiber Crop
Several days later the fleeces were dry.  We rolled them back up until next week when they will be unrolled again and sorted!

Shearing Day Fiber Crop

And now the alpacas all look a little silly.  Several days of cold weather followed shearing day.  I am sure we had some cold alpacas.  I would rather err on the side of having some cold weather than go into June with pregnant females still in full fleece.  With fiber that is warmer than wool, alpacas get hot!  Teeth, toenails, topknots and tails are trimmed on shearing day.  It’s kind of like a day at the spa, well not exactly . . .

Shearing Day at Alpaca Meadows

Today the sun is shining.  It is warming back up and we have a herd of happy alpacas!

Meet Sunshine!

Raw Alpaca Fiber

And lots of beautiful fiber!

Raw Suri Fiber

We’ll be sorting our fiber next week, then making decisions about what we will do with our crop this year.  All grades of fiber can be used for something!  Click Raw Fiber  if you’re interested in purchasing some before it goes to the mill for processing.

See more pictures from Shearing Day.



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