Monday, 13 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

This is the ultimate seasonal use of alpaca fibre:

Made with a long strip of white felted fibre from Ambrosia, with a smattering of black from Moira, the whole piece dyed green and sewn around a wire frame. Eighteen white felted discs from Ambrosia and six red merino discs fashioned into Christmas flowers with large crystals for centres. Three strips of the green trimmings plaited together at the bottom and a length of spun Pela to attach to the front door! et voila.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

To wash or not to wash? That is the question.

No! Not me, I had a shower this morning.

The middle of Ambrosia's fleece is so dirty that the carded stuff tooks positively brown. If I spin it like that it will be impossible to get the grime out of the twist but I have had problems washing fine baby alpaca before.

I decided to try one batt, call it the sacrificial batt if you like. I filled the sink with tepid water with a very small dash of hand wash liquid, as I pressed it under the water I caught a wiff of the first rain after a long hot spell in the summer (quite evocative). The water instantly turned brown so I swished it about a bit then fished it out, it looked like a sheet of fine felt. I rinsed it anyway and carefully stretched it out onto a towel were it could be rolled up and wrung out. Lo and behold, when I unrolled the towel I had a fluffy white batt ready for drying and spinning.

So I have now washed six batts and can't wait to get spinning.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Hello, I'm back!

It's been 6 months since my last blog, I just got carried away with the lovely warm summer days and light evenings and didn't think about sitting in front of the keyboard, definately an outdoor person at heart.

I have had lots of time to practice my spinning technique and am doing quite nicely thank you. Photographs were taken by our in-house professional photographer as usual. I might be achieving on the spinning front but I know my limits and cameras are strictly off limits.

Hats, scarves and wrist warmers have been flying off knitter sister's needles at a fearsome speed. She knits a mean cable stitch and the neck warmer/scarves are absolutely gorgeous.

I had a sale of hand created alpaca items last week and raised a goodly sum of money! Well,
enough to cover the cost of shearing at any rate.

We had a new addition to the herd, Pela gave birth to a lovely chocolate brown cria so I can't wait to get my hands on her beautiful fleece.

I have started experimenting with acid dyes, the ones that are set in the microwave, ready in 8 minutes! This photo was actually taken by me so just ignore the clutter in the background. This was supposed to be marine blue but because alpaca fibres are hollow, there is less density of colour, something to take into consideration in the future.

Monday, 31 May 2010

It has been quite a rush this past few weeks. The girls are due to be shorn in two weeks so I had to process last year's fleeces. All of Pela's fleece is now turned into batts awaiting the big spinning session.

Ambrosia's 5 week old fleece is too short to spin but it is so soft and curly I just had to card it. I now have 5 batts of something like white lint. I have done a trial felting using merino as a middle layer to provide structure with the "baby lint " on either side...more on that another time.
I have had a go at making felt buttons, starting with a long thin 'worm' layers of fleece are wrapped around until you have what looks like a hairy fat cucumber. This is rolled and battered until it felts. The cucumber is sliced up to reveal the layers!

I think the blue ones look like fish eyes!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

knitty gritty

It's been a while since my last blog, this has a lot to do with the vegetable plot and poly tunnel.
Most crops are in now, I just need a bit more rain to get things going.

Knitter sister came down from Greenock with the latest knits from Minnie and Moira's fleece.

First this goegeous little girls cardigan, its incredibly warm and soft.

Then another hat, this one smaller than the last.

And finally a pair of wrist warmers with a dashing cable down the back and Moira's beautifully soft black fibre trimming around the hand.

We had a great weekend and I taught knitter Sister the rudiments of spinning and felting. She produced her own ball of wool from the bats prepared at the last blog and we created this little bag using jacobs sheep wool, decorated with alpaca and merino.

Lastly, littleholder produced a bag of scrap leather and we spent a happy couple of hours creating these cute little drawstring purses.

Happy days!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Tufty club

I still have more than half of Pela's fleece waiting to be processed. I found that (in my short and very limmited experience) getting a perfect ball of wool requires a considerable ammount of time and effort in the fleece prep. department so I spent a couple of hours flick carding some of the fleece one small tuft at a time.

The easy part is now feeding this through the drum carder to produce batts. This mixes the sun bleached tips throughout the fibre and should prevent the uneven pattern seen in my crocheted scarf. I just have to spin it now. The resulting ball of wool will have taken about five hours to make!

Pixie loves alpaca fleece, she stole two of my early balls of wool, tangled them up and hid the evidence under the bed.

For some light relief, I rustled up another felted scarf (you have to keep up the practice) in blue merino with black and green alpaca.(no we don't have green alpacas, it was just a failed attempt at dyeing)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Tap dancing with seaside rock

I have been getting to grips with felting, inspiration came from Liz at the Futurity. I first tried a pebble bag using some jacob sheep wool. The bag worked fine but the bit of chiffon used to keep the pebbles in place kept floating away so I gave up on that and just made a plain bucket bag. I don't have a photo as it was a pressie for my friend the jacob sheep owner and she arrived before I could get the camera out.

Next I thought to try the lacey merino scarf, it ended up looking like a stick of seaside rock and was too short to wear! (felting tends to shrink stuff).

Time for a longer piece of merino in violet and using black fibre from Moira to fasion a scarf for my son's girlfriend, this was more successful as I used bubble wrap on the top as well as the bottom of the scarf. This seemed to keep the fibre in place during the felting process. ( see the way technical terms are already creeping into my vocab.)

Monday, 8 March 2010

Pela in a spin and crochet in the crocuses

I have started spinning my last fleece, this one from Pela, a fawn girl. Its always tempting to blame the tools but really I'm just not an expert yet. This ball was about 60% even and acceptable and 40% thick or thin which is an improvement.

There is only so much substandard wool I can pass on to Knitter sister so I taught myself to crochet and created this rather dashing scarf. The buttonhole was too big for my button so I created a piece of felt from Pela's seconds to make the button larger.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The future's bright...........

The alpaca futurity is a weekend packed with all things alpaca. This year's seminars were mostly about the fleece, spinning and felting. I took part in a felting workshop which greatly inspired me. My feet had hardly touched home soil before I was in the workshop and up to my elbows in warm soapy water. My creations leave a lot to be desired but they are original, the black and white scarf has a layer of Moira on one side and some of Minnie on the other side so 100% alpaca. The other piece has a background of blue dyed alpaca and a centre square of merino with some alpaca.

If You Want To Get [ahead] Get a Hat

The knitter sister's latest creation is a rather comfy, very warm black and white hat, knitted as with the tea cosy from some of my earliest balls (of wool). Modelled here by Mrs Littleholder...

Felt Good

Books taught me the basic methods of felting. It's a simple process in it's basic form and can quite easily be a complete accident (think expensive woolen jumper on too hot a machine wash). I've made a few small felted pieces - a brooch, some bookmarks and a few sample pieces (A4 size). I've also purchased some felting needles and created a rather useless blue circle of felt (which is almost something useful, but not quite).

Friday, 29 January 2010

Sheer Heaven

The resident alpacas (Minnie, Moira, Pelachuta - adults and Ambrosia - baby; Autumn was not yet old enough) were shorn last June and resulted in three full fleeces and a bundle of fluff from Ambrosia.

Of these fleeces, I washed some for spinning, and some for felting. Some was dyed also, to give variety to my early projects. With a drum carder, some of the saddle fleece was processed for spinning ~ I took a day long spinning course in winter and with my recently aquired spinning wheel, my technique is coming on well.

From this spinning, my first balls of wool were plied, and were promptly sent off to my sister - an expert knitter. The first product was born - a beautiful fawn and white tea cosy!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Welcome Along...

I'm Mrs. Smallholder - you may have heard about me throgh the criticaly acclaimed 'Apple Vale Alpacas' blog : From 'paca to product, a.p.p.l.e follows my journey aquiring the skills needed to turn this highly-regarded fibre into useful and desirable products.