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Alpaca Shearing Day at Sweet Clover Alpaca

Baby Alpaca Gale Storm Thrilled for the invite to the annual alpaca shearing day, out at Sweet Clover Alpaca, I could barely contain my excitement.  This year, Deb invited 5 alpaca farms to bring in their alpaca for the spring shearing.  There was a whole lot of shearing going on and a tremendous amount of adorable, undeniable cuteness.

Painted LadyI was able to visit a few favorites from last year, like Caspian, Painted Lady, and Zorro.

Also, the opportunity to meet new cuties like Gale Warning was priceless.  She was born 2 weeks before the shearing day, during a very stormy evening.  She is awfully sweet and follows Deb, the owner of Sweet Clover Alpaca, around everywhere she goes.

It was wonderful to meet so many alpaca farmers too!  The passion for their animals is palpable.

Along with the alpacas, there was one llama.  Llamas need haircuts too!  He was a beast in size compared to the alpaca.  The poor guy was very upset though.  He was so hard to get into the laying down position required for shearing and once he was there, he screamed.  Like seriously screamed.  Screams that would have made Alfred Hitchcock proud.  He was definitely a drama llama.AlpacaI adore watching how the alpaca greet each other after being sheared.  When a new alpaca comes back, all the alpaca gather around the freshly sheared one. It’s like they are checking out the new do and either approving or humming out laughter at how skinny they look and other inside alpaca jokes.  It only lasts a moment but it’s interesting to watch the gathering. AlpacaSheared and NotAbove is a sheared alpaca next to one that’s still waiting her turn.PaintedLadyShearingDSC03197Last year I was able to buy the very first cria (baby alpaca) fleece from Painted Lady.  This year, I am hoping to get her second year fleece as well.  Here she is above just before shearing.  On the right, you see the experts from Top Knot Shearing, gently shearing off her beautiful fiber.

Although it looks a bit uncomfortable,  shearing the fiber off the alpaca is a total necessity.  Think about the hot summer days ahead. These poor babies would die of heat exhaustion without the spring shearing.  They need their coats in the winter, but come summer, they are happy to have them gone.

Here’s Painted Lady’s blanket from this year’s shearing.  It’s okay to drool.  I hope to have some yarn made from this to share with you soon. Painted Lady FiberGiddy being outside on such a gorgeous day, I adored observing each alpaca’s individuality.  Plus the fiber…oh the fiber!!!  Delicious.  I wanted to roll around in it.  I took a lot of pictures (probably too many, but who can resist those faces???) and will share more in future posts.

I’m super appreciative to Deb, at Sweet Clover Alpaca, for letting me in on this annual experience.  Just wait, lots of new alpaca yarn is on the way!

Post from last year’s shearing day: Journey of Alpaca Fiber From Farm to Scarf

This year’s shearing day made the front page of the newspaper.

On a side note, special thanks to Courtney Spradlin. She came out from the paper, took beautiful photographs, and wrote up the lovely story posted in the paper.  Her journalistic adventure is taking her outside of Arkansas.  I’m going to miss seeing her around all our local events and wish her the very best of luck in all her future endeavors. ♥

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Journey of Alpaca Fiber: Farm to Yarn to Scarf

Alpaca from Sweet Clover AlpacaEarly this spring, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Sweet Clover Alpaca’s shearing day.  I really got to know these adorable animals and their gracious owner.  I’ve fallen in love with the unbeatable softness of the alpaca fiber.  Look at all that cuteness…Aww!Cute AlpacaI came home with bags and bags of alpaca.  (Bags and bags and bags)  Thinking oh yeah, I can spin this up in no time flat.  Ha!  If only all I had to do all day was spin, then maybe. Look at all the colors and did I mention the softness.  Yum!!!Bags of AlpacaThe idea of being able to spin local alpaca was so delicious.  Alpaca raised right here in Conway and then turned into handspun yarn here too. Talk about keeping it local!  There’s no better way then this.Basket of AlpacaPictured above is a basket of the large variety of the colors found naturally in Alpaca.  I took the basket of fluff and blended it together through my drum carder to mix all the colors.Alpaca Fibers Blending on a Drum CarderThe fibers are blended on my drum carder to become a carded batt.  Carded Batts are easier to spin.  The drum carder lines all the fibers up going the same direction which makes spinning on a spinning wheel faster and smoother.  Plus, although alpaca are a whole heck of a lot cleaner than sheep, the drum carder helps remove excess hay and dirt before spinning.Alpaca Fiber Spinnig on WheelThis is the yarn on the spinning wheel being turned into handspun yarn.  First the yarn is spun directly from the carded batt to fill up the bobbin.  The fiber goes through the spinning wheel once, it can then be considered a finished single ply yarn.  I like to ply my yarn either with a strong thread to add texture, or with itself depending on the colors.Handspun Yarn made from Arkansas AlpacaAbove is the finished alpaca yarn.  After this step, the yarn has is rinsed and the twist is then set.  Being this fiber is directly from local fiber, some hay and dirt is completely washed and cleaned from the yarn.  Although a lot of the extra stuff gets pulled out while spinning, the yarn gets a good rinse to remove any excess dirt and barnyard.Alpaca Handspun Yarn turned into a ScarfHere’s a finished scarf made with the above alpaca.  It was hand weaved. Simply divine to touch!  Wrapping up with this on a cold winter’s day would be the best! That’s the entire journey: farm to fluff to carded batt to spinning wheel to yarn then finally into a scarf.Alpaca Weaved Scarf up closePictured below is Caspian, another Sweet Clover Alpaca.  He was a Cria (which is a baby alpaca) and I was fortunate enough to watch his first shearing and buy the coat.  His fiber was so fine and full of fun crimp.Alpaca into YarnThe yarn spun into what looked like a boucle style yarn, with little wispy curls all around. Handspinning AlpacaSince he was such a little guy, there were only two skeins of yarn made from his gorgeous first coat.20131008-071256.jpgHere are a few more skeins of finished alpaca.  The all natural colors are perfect.Four Skeins of Beautiful AlpacaThis last one has a touch of added bling with sequins on the thread.Handspun Alpaca with added blingPlease let me know if you have any questions. I’m working on putting together a few more “This is how it’s done” type of posts.  I tend to ramble on and on about spinning and carding and felting and realize a lot of you do not know the variety of steps or even what the heck I’m talking about.  Here is a earlier post with a video showing how fiber goes from fluff into yarn using all the tools mentioned above.

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New Spinning Fiber

Here is Drew’s Yarn! I LOVE it! “BIG N TASTY” is the name. The name has a long history, and maybe someday I will share it with you…but today, there is much to talk about! We got our tax refund! YIPPEE! The hubby was rather happy at the “loss” my business took and how it helped us with our refund. He even said I should look into getting a new spinning wheel! That is really cool…I have my eye on an Ashford Joy. But, I will talk more about that too later. With having a little extra disposable income, I figured there was nothing in the world better than getting some extra spinning fiber! I have some yummy purchases to share. Some yummier than others…

One Pound of super soft brown alpaca. It is so amazing, very little hay or anything to pick out. I just can’t wait to spin this up. I am starting on it tomorrow.
Next is three bags of fiber from a seller on Etsy. The one is the middle is washed Border Leicester. I will be dying it and playing with it some. The bag on the left is black n brown border Leicester and it is not washed. You want to feel like you just stepped on a farm, you should open up this bag. I have always purchased my fiber preprocessed into carded roving until now. The bag on the left and the bag on the right will be a new experience for me. I will be sure to tell you how it goes. The bag on the right is also Leicester in gray. I am still waiting for one more pound from this seller to come.

“Bah Bah Black Sheep have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir three bags full!”

I took one of their bags! Woooooowoooo! This is a LOT of fiber. Four pounds to be exact. And it is actually alpaca, not from a black sheep, but this picture did get the lovely tune stuck in my head.

Just so you get an idea of the amount of this, here Brady is admiring the fiber.
The idea of blending fibers is very intriguing to me. Making my own yummy blends. I thought a alpaca/angora would be super soft and gorgeous to feel. So, I had my alpaca (and boy do I have a lot of it) I just needed to get the angora.

The angora below is from another wonderful seller on Etsy: Yarntospin

Be sure to check out her shop. I got the honor of being her very first customer. First of many more to come, I am certain! This is fiber from one of her angora bunnies. Believe me, you just want to roll around in this stuff.

So that is about it, for now! Hope this gave you a nice fiber fix for the day. I have a couple more exciting things to share, but I will wait for tomorrow. This post is already long enough, and my spinning wheel is calling my name. Happy crafting! ♥