Alpacas & Art

Yes, you've seen other Alpaca-related blog posts here if you've been a reader for awhile. Here's another one! I'm a little obsessed with these sweet-faced creatures, but it's not just because they're so stinking adorable. They're also part of my art. Literally. 


Recently, I visited my dad and his wife at their new home in Brandon, VT (it's actually a very old home - built in 1880 - but it's new to them). They recently retired there, and I can see why. It's such a beautiful place! Just down the country road from their horse farm was an unexpected surprise. Maple Creek Farms is home to a few dozen alpacas, which is already enough to get me excited, but then I learned they actually process all of the fiber onsite and have a mini-factory for making roving, batting, and even yarn. All the things I'm interested in! 


I've been a knitter and felt fiber artist for almost 10 years now, so I know my materials and I work with a variety of tools every single day, but I have never actually seen how fleece is processed before I get my hands on it. I always buy roving and yarn that's completely ready for use - I don't do any cleaning or dying myself, so seeing how the fiber gets from the alpaca's back to a ball of colorful roving in my living room was quite the treat. 

Needless to say, I took about 100 pictures of the baby alpacas, some of which were just a few weeks old, and I stuffed my suitcase full of colorful roving for my return trip. I love seeing how things are made, and truly understanding the process by seeing it for myself, so this whole pit stop was right up my alley. Now I have an even deeper appreciation for the material I use every day. 




Alpaca Dreams

One day, maybe five years from now, or perhaps twenty five years, I would love to live on a small farm and raise alpacas. They are by far the sweetest animal I've ever encountered. They're fairly small, the tallest ones are about eye level with me, they hum, have long long eyelashes for flirting, and they each have their own unique hairstyle, it seems. But, the real reason I want alpacas in my life is because they are the source of one of the many materials I use in my fiber art. I spend a few hundred hours each year needle felting, and truly enjoy this tedious but highly rewarding form of fiber sculpture. It would be a joy to raise the creature that provides what I need to make more "felted curiosities", so I hope one day my alpaca farm dreams really do come true.

Sweet alpaca face

Sweet alpaca face

For now, I live in the burbs and sadly cannot keep an alpaca in the garage, so I get to visit the animals and buy their fiber from local farms at events like the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Asheville, NC. I've attended the festival for the last four years, and always come home with a couple of pounds of raw material, felting tools, and sometimes other things too. This year was no different! I scooped up several ounces of my favorite wool: corriedale, finn, and romney. I also got some alpaca fiber, which is a lot softer than sheep's wool, but is wonderful for felting and spinning. My big investment was a 24 needle holder, which looks dangerous (and it is, if you're not paying attention when felting!), a single needle holder, and a few fun things like a handmade ceramic alpaca magnet, alpaca socks, and a sweet ram sculpture made by an artist local to Asheville. It was a pretty good loot, a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, and I got to indulge my dreams of one day having a farm of my own, sourcing the fiber I need from my own backyard. 

Click through the gallery below to see photos from SAFF, my loot, and some more alpaca pics (okay, there's quite a few llamas in there too!)