Thursday, June 19, 2008

alpacas among us

On Tuesday my sister and I made a grueling trek to the alpaca farm closest to my parents' home. We had to traverse steep hills, cross rivers, and make countless left-hand turns, but after three miles of traveling the rough terrain that is route 145, we finally made it. Our destination did not look like an Alpaca farm from the front; it was a large cape cod with picture windows overlooking a small gravel driveway and neatly trimmed patch of front lawn. I was convinced we had parked in some unsuspecting person's driveway, so we sat in the car for a few minutes, debating whether we should knock on the door or turn around and spare ourselves from an embarrassing encounter with a non-alpaca farmer.
We did decide to get out of the car, and as we neared the front door, I could see a few alpaca, freshly shorn, grazing in the back yard. This was indeed Saltaire Alpacas. After Pattey's (the farm's owner) son let us in the front door, we waited in a living room full of fiber (and an ashford traditional spinning wheel just like the one I have at home) until Pattey emerged to take us on our tour.
Saltaire Alpacas is not a huge farm, in fact, it's more of a very large backyard that's been converted to small pastures with a few shelters. Despite it's small appearance, the alpaca had plenty of room to frolic, graze, and do whatever it is that alpaca love to do. We met a number of the herd ... rather, they deigned to sniff at us occasionally. But to offset the adults' standoffishness, we did have a close encounter with the season's first cria, a little apricot-white male who had not yet received his name.
After visiting with the herd, we did, in a sense get to pet them. Once inside the house, Pattey showed her collection of yarns spun from her herd, rovings, and my favorite, entire alpaca blankets stuffed into giant plastic bags. After inspecting every animal's fleece, and talking to Pattey about what makes a good spinning fiber, I chose two blankets to take home (a gift from my sister, who will be getting a lot of handspun as a thank-you!).

The first belongs to Thel, a true black and one of the Saltaire herdsires. His coat was so beautifully crimpy and lush that I had to take it home with me. The other blanket belongs to AJ. It's soft, soft, soft, and is a lovely light fawn color. My sister bought herself a skein of handspun, and in addition to our purchases, Pattey gave us a bag of second cuts from one of her cria and some roving from Erin, a fawn alpaca.
I spun up a skein from Erin's roving as soon as I got home, and I was in love. The roving is really well-prepared (it shed virtually nothing on my leg as I spun), and there's a bit of a reddish tinge to her coat that adds depth to the finished yarn.
Our field trip has inspired me to make the most of my time in the northeast, and visit as many fiber destinations as possible. My next stop will be the twist of fate spinnery, in Portland, CT. And this time I'll be dragging my mom along for company!

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