Saturday, April 13, 2013

Finding Greener Pastures

Well, I sure didn't last very long with my blogging resolutions, did I?  Let's do some bullet-point blogging before I get to the meat of this post.

  • Not much has been happening since my last post.  The sweater is still unfinished.
  • I started a lace shawl with some handspun, but I had to put that down pretty early in its development because
  • I agreed to do some more sample/test knitting.  This means I can't show you what I'm working on.
  • My LYS now carries BrooklynTweed yarn.  It takes every ounce of strength to not go there every day.
  • Last week (two weeks ago?) I was working a later shift at the coffee shop than I normally do and discovered a secret knitting group comprised of young, hip knitters.
  • They said they tend to intimidate new people because they're "serious" about their knitting.
  • I said bring on the cables and leave the crying at home.
  • I'm playing with a symphony again, but I still get paid more to knit than I do to play my clarinet.
Alright, now we're all caught up.  Wanna know what I did today?

I drove down to the Minnesota Alpaca Expo and hung out with these camelids!  I had seen a post on Ravelry a couple weeks back about this event and immediately took the day off of work so I could be there.  I had never gone to a fiber festival or anything of the sort and I thought it was high time I saw what all the hubbub was about.

Today the hubbub was all about alpacas.  The expo was less about fiber crafts and more about the animals themselves.  They had a halter competition (like a dog show) and there was a silent auction for live animals.  Alpaca farmers from all over the midwest showed up with their best show animals to compete for a blue ribbon.

I, however, simply showed up to see these cute faces.

As I wandered around taking an obnoxious amount of blurry pictures of alpacas looking away from me, one of the handlers asked me if I had any questions.  "No, I'm just looking..." I heard myself say.  "Wellllll, maybe just one question."  45 minutes later and I had met two local alpaca farmers and was walking away with plans to start volunteering at an alpaca farm starting next weekend!

You think wool fumes in a yarn shop are bad?  By the time I did one loop around this place I was ready to drop everything and start an alpaca farm of my own!  The next best thing to do, in my mind, is to volunteer at someone else's as much as possible.  The one I'll be visiting has 80 alpacas.  I'm so excited!

Did you know there are two different kinds of alpacas?  Huacaya alpacas are the ones I've been showing you above.  They're soft and fluffy and have shorter fibers than the second type.  Huacayas also make up 97% of the world's population of alpacas.

And just look at all the different natural colors they come in!  Be still, my beating heart.  (Full disclosure: I walked away with 8oz each of black, gray, and white fiber.  I couldn't resist.)

The second type of alpacas, the 3% that's left, are the Suri alpacas.  They have a very long staple length (the length of their fiber), which naturally forms into beautiful dreadlocks.

I apparently didn't do a very good job taking pictures of Suris.  You can see that when there are children present, the alpacas won't even give you the time of day.

Suris make up 17% of the US population of alpacas, but even so, there are less than 20,000 of them in the country and they're no longer being imported.  I'll be sure to get better pictures for you later because the farm that I plan on volunteering at?  All Suri alpacas.  I have to admit, I think they're less photogenic and look a little nerdy, but that's what makes me like them so much.

All together now:  Awwwwwwww!


  1. Suris tend to be a little more skittish and more susceptible to cold weather, since their fleece doesn't insulate them quite as well. It makes a very drapey & lustrous yarn - nice for lace. We have a couple of suri breeders here in Maine, but all the ones on the farm here are huacayas.

  2. One of my friends has a small farm with around 25 alpaca and 2-3 llamas. I've helped out on shearing day for several years and can tell you it's hard work. You'll love it as caring for animals is quite different than what you do. You'll use your mind and body quite differently than you do now. I look forward to hearing more about your adventure.

  3. Good to hear from you.

    Those alpacas are silly looking!

    Glad you're volunteering and not starting your own farm.

    Did you make the other knitters cry yet?

  4. Yay for playing in the symphony! Who ever said that your music degree(s) would get you money was probably laughing at you secretly. At least you have something else "on the side"... How are you enjoying the symphony?

    When you apply for your fiber festival enthusiast's membership card, be sure to include in the essay section a note recounting your blurry photos of alpacas looking away; you should be accepted right away.

  5. Awwwwwwwwwwwwww...

    So glad you've found some young hip serious knitters to hang out with. Far too many knitting groups seem to be all about attention seeking. o.O

  6. I thought you were going to say you came home with one of the Suris. :)

  7. It seems strange that alpacas are attracted to children. You'd think with how grabby and eager children hands are, they'd run the other way!

    That's so exciting that you're volunteering. I'd love to volunteer like that but I'm a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to animals. I've been attacked by dogs (just outside, walking in the street, completely unprovoked) 4 times, and it's made me afraid of most animals.

  8. I'm so jealous of this! You're going to have so much fun with the alpacas. I can't wait to read all about your livestock adventure!

  9. Peter, I just want to tell you that I am so jealous of your life! You're currently earn a living by:

    Playing in a symphony
    Working in a coffee shop (with COFFEE!!)

    If you want to do some Freaky Friday type of switch, I can take a trip up to Minn. with my magic crystal skull!