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April 13, 2008

I organized a field trip to the Alpaca Valley Ranch last weekend. The more I learn about alpacas, the more I like them. Environmentally, they live lightly on the land compared to other domesticated animals. When you hear about the realities of Chinese cashmere farming , it makes you think harder about your choices in luxury fibers. Locally grown alpaca, processed nearby and available in a range of natural colors seems like a choice you can feel pretty good about.

And besides, the alpacas were pretty darned cute! We had a marvelous afternoon getting to know the critters. They're very calm and quiet, a bit skittish, but really pleasant animals. Less smelly and dirty than a dog, and, according to our hosts, Kari and Wythe Davis, easier to take care of.

And their fleece? Delightfully soft. Warm and light (alpaca hairs are hollow which makes them marvelous insulators). And much cleaner than sheep's wool because they don't produce lanolin. Even an unwashed fleece seemed at most "dusty" rather than dirty. The hairs are shorter, straighter and slipperier than a nice crimpy sheep's wool, but even as a neophyte, I didn't find it much trouble to spin. Alpacas come in a range of colors from a rich chocolatey black to creamy white. So even undyed, the color choices are interesting.

We got to wander around with the alpacas in their pen and learn about them and finished up our visit looking at the fibers, fleeces and yarns Kari had for sale. Meanwhile, the children were entertained with a box of kittens. Really. So if you're interested in alpaca yarn or fiber drop the Alpaca Valley Ranch a line. She's happy to ship fiber... but not kittens.

As far as what I'm knitting, I agreed to give myself a little vacation from my current must-knit, 3/4-done, all-the-mystery-is-gone project and cast on with my creamy fingering weight alpaca. What's on the needles? A pattern I've been rhapsodizing about for a long time, Hanami from Pink Lemon Twist. I have just finished the first repeat of the basketweave pattern. I have no expectation of getting it done quickly. I think it's one of those things your relish slowly.

*Or, one llama named Tina and some alpacas.

04:03 PM | Comments (4)

At my request, a friend sent me a pair of long-desired alpaca slippers during a recent trip he took to Peru. They're super soft, super warm, and they make me look part-wookie. The only issue I have with them is their tendency to collect leaves. But our floors have never been cleaner!

For those in the San Diego area looking to get up close with the alpacas, Shearing Day is Friday April 25th. A small number of (grown-up) spectators are welcome. Contact the Alpaca Valley Ranch for information.

Hi! Are those sweet faces on those alpacas? I read the article about the Chinese cashmere and it makes me a little sick. I'll never touch the stuff again. Thanks for the info.

Kristi - you truly are the sweetest for writing our ranch up like this. The photo you posted is PERFECT and we're so happy you included Tina, our guard llama. Please come out again, anytime! We love ranch visitors! Oh, btw, the kittens are now ready to go to good homes!
Alpaca Hugs, Kari