Saturday, October 27, 2007

Yarn, yarn, yarn!!!

The first of my mill processed yarn has arrived. I send in about 80% of my fleeces to a mill for processing because I could never keep up with hand processing and hand spinning all of it. I keep the show fleeces and most of the grays to hand spin. It's also cheaper for a customer to purchase. Mill spun sells for between $12 and $18 per skein and hand spun sells for $25-30 a skein.

This is harvest for me, when I get to see nearly all of my alpaca fleeces in their yarn form. It's an exciting time for us all because the next step is to dye it. We'll do solids, dip dyes, space dyes, hand paints--you name it and we'll do it. We've never been very good at keeping track of our dye lots or our methods. It's just too much fun to apply color and let the chips fall where they may. This year, however, I have some customers who are asking for repeats of previous years, so it's time to start measuring (no! not that!), keeping records and sample cards, and trying to be more consistent.

My blacks, browns, and fawns will come in next week and I'll have close to 100 pounds of yarn to sell. Obviously, we can't dye blacks and darks, but as we found last year, the fawns and light browns dye up with terrific results. The colors are muted and earthy, rather than clear and bright. The grays give us rich jewel colors. Over course, we'll save back some of each natural color to sell as is, but the greatest fun of the season is the dyeing.

For those of us who have a serious yarn addiction, pictures like this can evoke tremors, salivating and even faints as we contemplate the possibilities and future adventures. If you're one of those, just wait until you see the pictures after the lot has been dyed. If you're one whose spouse has put out a cease and desist order on your yarn spending, I'm sorry for you. I'm sure we'll still have yarn left when the order is lifted!

I've requested some lighter weights this year--sport, fingering and lace--as well as some suri yarn. In case you've never heard of suri's, they are the type of alpaca whose fleece grows in twists and lock, rather than perpendicular to the body like wool. The look is kind of a "bed head" look, or somewhat like dread locks. They're amazing animals and there are much fewer of them around than the typical wool alpaca which is called a huacaya. Suri yarn is much more lustrous and behaves more like silk than wool, although it's wonderfully warm and less is more when working with it. A bulky or worsted suri yarn is overkill and the price per ounce for yarn ($15 and up) would break the bank, so we've got fingering and lace weights to work with.

We had three suri's until this year when they were sold to a new home in Pennsylvania earlier this fall. The first was a complete surprise to us when she was born. Her mother was a black huacaya and when her baby popped out, we didn't quite know what to think or what to do with her. She was the strangest baby we'd ever seen. As it turns out, the breeder we bought the mom from didn't realize that either the males got out and an accidental breeding happened or some other mistake happened and we got a half suri baby. I'm not posting a picture of her because she is ghastly looking by breed standards.

The offspring of this first suri became my favorite baby. Her name is Esme and she was born during a cold front, complete with sub-zero temps and driving winds. Her mama had not a drop of milk, so Esme came to live in my laundry room. For 11 days we bottle fed her and took her outside 4-5 times a day (with her little jacket on) to be with the herd and her mama. After 11 days, miracle of miracles, she took to nursing. Our vet was surprised, saying he'd never heard of any animal nursing after that length of time. So, Esme...not a high quality animal, but very sweet. The final suri was a little boy we called Tanner, born this year in June. Thankfully, all three went to the same excellent home and I'm out of the suri business. Whew!

So... I'm looking forward to digging into the dyes, but I'll wait until my sister arrives from Peru. I need her eyes and her judgment because I've put together some awful color combinations and my yarn is precious. I can't really afford to ruin any of it. To be fair, I've done nice combos, too, but two minds are better than one, don't you think?

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