Tag Archives: alpaca

Project Day

Today is a day of luxury for me. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I have the time to do whatever I want.  What do I choose to do when I get such a day? None of you who have read this blog will be surprised.  I decided to celebrate by making it a fun project day. How many already started projects can I complete? If I add some new ones will they get done?  I will list them now and check in at 1:00 and 5:00 at which time I will complete my completing projects day.

So,  I know I am tempting the fates when I claim I will complete these things and so far the fates have:

  1. caused the dishwasher to start pouring water into it rather than spraying and washing. I have stopped it and will deal with it later which means Steve will deal with it later. 🙂   Washing those dishes by hand after 5 today doesn’t bother me. Had it been the clothes washer that would have been different. I don’t want to scrub clothes on a washboard like Loretta Lynn’s mother. I will listen to many of her songs as I do these things. More on LL later.

2) suddenly only letting me enter items on this blog post from the top. hmmm. I will not be pushed off my path to fix it right now!

hemming project

Pippi precariously trying to join in my every activity as usual. Yes, I pulled her off right away. No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog. This is material my friend gave me that was woven on historic looms in an old textile mill in Lowell MA. I want to use it as a table cover and don’t have a sewing machine so will hem it by hand. It has only sat around for 2 years waiting to be completed!

Only the bread and the wool washing have to be completed once I start and I am doing this for fun. No pressures or deadlines. Once I finish this post I will be off and running. I have 7 hours. Except for time to eat lunch and 45 minutes to put my feet up, eat some cookies and drink tea, and read. I am not driven enough to forgo caffeine and chocolate. Ever.

On my list are:

alpaca and BFL to spin

Alpaca and Bluefaced Leicester Locks whose fleeces I washed and dyed. I’d like to start spinning them today.

bobbin for teaching

Get everything in order for the class we are teaching on Sunday including hoping this newly glued bobbin will cooperate.

Finn and silk yarn to ply

Finish chain plying this Finn and silk yarn


sourdough to knead

Make this sourdough sponge into bread. I started it last night because I add no yeast and it needs more time to rise. It rises by using the yeast it collects from the air. Aren’t those bubbles great considering the magic?


Wensleydale to wash

Wash this gorgeous Wensleydale wool from Ramona (the sheep, not her owner)

Surprised by Musk Ox

Twice in my life-so far- I have been surprised by Musk ox.


m ox

Musk Ox

First, some background. Musk ox were native to Alaska until the 1850s when they were hunted to extinction. In the 1930s some were imported from Greenland to study for domestication. These Musk ox were set free when that project ran out of money. (Why do I want to say the more things change the more they stay the same.)  In the 1960s they were studied again and it was determined they could be raised on farms. Some are on farms, some live in the wild.

I had read a lot about them in a knitting book called Arctic Lace which told about native Alaskan knitters and a co-op there. From the book I knitted this scarf. I used the fiber from an alpaca named Marcus who lived on the Great Rock Farm in Barre MA. But I digress.marcus scarf

I never thought I would work with Musk ox fiber. They grow various fibers including coarse outer hairs for protection against snow and rain and a very soft, warm, durable and highly prized by spinners undercoat- qiviut. Due to the lack of great numbers of them and the process of dehairing  it generally sells at wool festivals for $50 an ounce and often only one vendor has it. That is out of my league. Unless that is the only thing I want to bring home which it never is. So I would enjoy touching it when I came upon it and then move on.

Then my opportunities changed. A few years ago on a summer day a package arrived for me from my sister-in-law. She had been to Alaska and sent me silk/qiviut yarn and yarn with the outer hairs and undercoat blended together. It felt like Christmas. Very exciting. I knit the silk/qiviut into a small cowl I wear whenever I am going to spend time outdoors on a cold winter day. So warm, light and luxurious.

qiviut cowl

Silk/Qiviut Cowl

So I enjoyed those yarns and continued to touch the qiviut at festivals and walk on.  Until a few weeks ago.  Elizabeth at the yarn shop where I teach, Auntie Zaza’s Fiberworks in North Easton, told me she had a present for me. A man had come in with a small dirty bag of musk ox fiber he had collected 20 years ago while hiking in Alaska. Musk ox do shed all year long so it was possible. He had thought he would do something with it but realized he never would and was passing it along.  What great provenance.  What a fun challenge!

qiviet in dirty bag

Musk ox in zip lock bag

The fiber weighed about 2 1/2 oz and expanded greatly out of the bag.

qiviet opened

2 1/2 oz of raw musk ox fiber

No moths, no deterioration, looked like much can be spun. It will be a labor of love because I must dehair it and get rid of some other things in the fiber. It might be years before I finish it because unfortunately other things in my life are often of higher precedence than picking at qiviut. I never feel anyway that I have  to spin up yarns quickly, even those I sell. I enjoy the process of it all so much that when they happen to be done, they are done. I also believe that since  there are enough things in life that we have to do that we don’t enjoy much, spinning should never be pressured, always be kept fun.

I have made a sample.

flick card qiviut

Flick carding qiviut

I dehaired it, flick carded it gently to get out other things, then hand carded the locks together to get a bunch to spin at a time.

qiviut on hand card

Qiviut on hand card

Not being a perfectionist- I don’t think handspun yarn should look like a machine made it-I took it off the card, drew some out and spun it with a lot of twist since the fibers are short.

qiviut ready to spin

Qiviut ready to spin

puni qiviut

Qviut puni

I could have made punis which are small rolags which are rolled off the hand card in this case with a knitting needle. But I wasn’t in the mood so I didn’t. I made one for show though since they are so cute.




I then took it from the bobbin and put it around my hand to so I could ply it. There is such a small amount that this is easiest. Please note that the bobbin on the right is not full of qiviut! I spun it on top of an almost full bobbin because in a class on spinning exotic fiber with Robin Russo she recommended we do that to reduce the pull on the fibers. I take everything she says without question!

This sample made nine yards. It didn’t even weigh one gram and could even be spun finer for more yardage. Light, soft and warm!

qiviut yarn

Spun qiviut sample


In other news we have opened an Etsy shop with yarn, hand dyed  batts and locks for spinning and felting and fiber in a few other form. We decided to focus on promoting the rare breeds of sheep whose numbers are also small. Each item is 50-100% rare or unusual wool. We call it Eagle Lake Fibers since we met when we both lived near Eagle Lake. We do want to try using some of its water for dyeing just for fun.

We will not however follow the precedent set long ago by those who ran the old empty woolen mill that is still on it. I remember an elderly man years ago saying that as a kid they would go and look at the color of the water gushing into the lake since it could be red, green, anything depending on the dye they were using and pumping back out into the environment. Oh gosh. Glad we got to swim in it and ice skate on it when it had only its natural colors.


Treasuring Abundance

Today is one of those rare and wonderful days when I can shut the door to the outside world for several hours, appreciate the abundance in my life and, naturally, spend a lot of time working with my fiber.

cat sleeping

my little sweetheart

I can’t possibly take time to make the bed because the cat is sleeping on it.

Mother Nature is on my side and it is raining so I don’t have to water.

I have good books to read.books reading

And I have an abundance of alpaca that I have dyed to work with all day long.

alpaca dyed and natural

Thanks to alpacas named Wilmington and Lenox.

I have alpaca yarn and batts I have made which I can admire.

alpaca yarn

Alpaca batt for spinning from dyed and naturally colored alpaca







white alpaca (2)

Yet to be washed white alpaca

alpaca batt

Alpaca batt for spinning from dyed and natural alpaca fiber.

I can revel in the thought that even with this much alpaca I still have a lot more to wash,  dye and enjoy in the future.


white alpaca (1)

Alpaca to dye or leave white.

My chickens have even brought me lunch for today and longer.


Thanks Lilac, Marigold and Daisy!

Tomorrow I will face the outside world again. Today I will let myself get absorbed in

Alpacas For Sale – Pet and Fiber Boys

Beautiful alpaca!

Here is hoping that during the next week everyone can have a few hours to enjoy the  abundance in their lives and emerge refreshed! I would love to hear about what is abundant and enjoyable in your lives.


“In Heaven There is No Dirt”

That title sure is different from the one I wrote last week! It is a quote from Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the utopian community of the Shakers. The Shakers were supposed to create heaven on earth and so were advised to be meticulous housekeepers because for some reason she felt there was no dirt in heaven. I have been thinking about the Shakers because a few days ago we were “hawking our wares” as a mutual friend said at the Fiber Loft (thefiberloft.com) in the town of Harvard MA.

This town is not to be confused with Harvard University. Harvard MA is a beautiful little New England town that is picture perfect. I remember one winter day years ago being there and kids were sledding down the hill from the white Congregational Church. It almost looked as though Hollywood had designed a set to look like New England. We are selling our handspun yarns and our hand dyed spinning fibers there and were lucky to go on a perfect spring morning.  Harvard is also historically known for its Shaker settlements in the 1800s into the 1900s and is the site of the first one in MA. All the buildings are now privately owned but it is fun to drive through the area and look at the Shaker architecture still preserved. I like to think about them going about their business creating beautiful furniture, and selling seeds.

The expression also sticks in my head because I have been cleaning everything here, or so it feels.  First, several hours were spent on the annual spring cleaning of the chicken coop. All the bedding was removed and the walls and floor and everything else scrubbed. All my pets have always been fascinated with whatever I am doing. Maybe I am sort of their tv. The hens watched with interest but no alarm until the shop vac was brought in and then they understandably freaked out. They calmed down after it stopped. Here they seem to be saying “Why did you make our cozy coop look like a jail cell?”


Everybody look in different directions until we find our bedding!


Phew- that’s better. But everything is better with treats anyway!






Next day I took on the attic. Spent hours organizing and getting rid of things, lots of things. People who have old houses may recognize this sight:


Hundreds of chances for tetanus.

The eaves slope and are full of old old nails. There is a wide berth in the middle of the attic where I can stand upright. There are no nails in the ceiling and I never come in contact with the nails in the eaves but it is imposing. However there is one vaccination spinners keep up with and that is the tetanus one. We work with sharp pointy metal things a lot so it is best to be prepared!

Our little scaredy cat even confidently participated with the attic clean up. Last night after I went to sleep Steve said she came up to him with a mouse in her mouth! Maybe I dislodged it from the attic. She then did the let go and catch again game with the poor thing but after awhile got distracted and lost it. Since this morning when I opened my eyes she wasn’t next to my head on the bed staring intently at me to be sure she gets her breakfast, I suspect she found it and wasn’t hungry. I may yet find pieces of it as I used to with another cat in another home. Yuck.


If I can’t get out of this house at least mice come to me.


Wool blanket drying on future chicken tractor.


Glorious alpaca drying.


I’ve been washing wool and alpaca. Wool fleece for spinning and snuggly wool blankets that we won’t need again for a long time. There is room for them now in the attic! Steve is building a chicken tractor for our pampered hens so they can be moved around the yard and eat bugs and grass but not get eaten by our ever present predators. Right now it is a good blanket dryer.


Lovely colors and scents

And of course doing a lot of gardening. May is one of my favorite months because so many bulbs, bushes and trees are blooming.


So bright.


The hummingbirds have already found this one and it is only beginning to bloom.

I can’t say that I agree with Mother Ann that there is no dirt in heaven. How would I garden? And see all my pets again? It wouldn’t be heaven for me without gardens and animals. I do like to clean things up and get them fresh again- but there is still a lot of dirt in my world and I hope there always is.