Fibers and Textiles: shows and links

I was looking for information on shows where textiles and fibers like alpaca are shown and sold, within driving distance for us.   I would really like to start attending and learning more about the textile industry. I am not a knitter, weaver or spinner, but my dad handcrafted for me a pretty and traditional, and functional, spinning wheel years ago where it has graced a corner of the living room of the houses we have lived in over the years.  I really want to learn how to spin.  I have the fiber from our alpacas, I just need to get to work.

A local spinner bought some alpaca fiber from me and commented that she taught herself by spinning every day.  She said she started out by spinning whenever she decided to sit down and give it a try.  But because she was not seeing a lot of improvement, she decided she had to spin every day.  Kind of like learning to play an instrument.  You must practice, practice, practice every day.  So, she learned and now participates in some area club get togethers.

I think this will be my goal for this new year, to concentrate on and learn how to spin.  I have been researching fiber events and here are some links that can be helpful for you.,_wool_and_fiber_festivals/

We love Pagosa Springs, Colorado,anytime,  and Wolf Creek in winter:

Pasture pedicures

Sarah's Flashback

Sarah's Flashback

Our pretty alpacas will be getting nails trimmed soon.  We did a trim when they got sheared and they were immobilized on the shearing mat.  Our fantastic shearer does it all, just for a few dollars more.  He shears of course, then checks nails and trims them up, and checks their teeth and trims them if too long (using the fantabulous Tooth-a-matic device).  The tie down system he uses for shearing is the Pro-Tie.  It is great; I recommend it.

It did take 3 of us to get an animal in place on the mat just because we each had a different function to do, hold the animal strategically to prevent potential kicks and get feet in the loops and tightened, and then pull the pulley line to stretch out and lower the animal onto the mat.  Not a big deal, but 2 people just would not be able to be efficient I don’t think, unless the animal was extremely calm and didn’t move around trying to get feet in the loops with no kicking. Ours were quiet for the most part, and the real advantage of course is the animal is quiet and calm and the shearing is fast and less stressful for the animal. 

Nail trimming has no fancy tools; just a sharp, straight edged nipper, like a foot rot shear from Tractor Supply, or even a garden shear if it has straight edges and has a short blade.  Our shearer showed us a nifty little blade sharpener he uses on these to keep them sharp. We have some great guidelines in some books on the shelf (Caring for Llamas and Alpacas, by Hoffman and Asmus) that show how to trim and I found this helpful article too  .

  Alpacas and llamas don’t have a hoof, just a soft pad on the bottom of the foot  and then the two nails grow out from the foot topline.  If they get too long, they may break off and can hurt or they will cause the toe to lay on its side as they walk, also uncomfortable.    So, very soon our alpacas will have pretty little happy feet.

A Surprise in the pasture

Lovey dovey

Lovey dovey

Where'd the milk bar go?

Where'd the milk bar go?

Here I am!

Here I am!

There just isn’t anything cuter than new babies of any kind. We were not expecting any so soon! Sunday, Father’s Day and the first day of Summer, we walked out into the pasture to check on a couple of new chicks our broody hens had hatched. Some movement in the pasture made us look and there was a little alpaca! Where did that come from? It was from our pregnant girl, Dash of Flash (Dash for short) who we thought was due sometime in late fall. We were shocked and amazed that she gave us no clues she was ready. These animals are really hard to observe as being in a pregnant form. They just don’t get really bulky. Her baby girl weighed in at 17 lbs. and we surmise that she was only an hour or so old. We discovered them about 6 p.m. hanging out in the pasture. Dad is in the pasture next to them, Hershey Surprise.

A little background: first of all, it’s a good thing I didn’t know she was due now or I would have been really nervous since this is our first on-site birth. Her first cria a couple years back at another farm had been a stillbirth with difficulty and Dash almost did not survive but she did and we gave her a long rest, not breeding her until last year. Their gestation is 11-12 months. We did not think her first breeding to our herdsire last spring was successful (we are novices at this and they were not real thrilled to be in a pen together).

We then decided to pasture them together for a week. We thought this was not successful, but apparently at some point it was. We tried them together again in the fall and they did not like each other so we pastured them again (again, novices. We were not aware at that time she was probably pregnant). We started back into the breeding again this spring with all 3 girls and Dash was spitting off the male immediately so we knew then probably she was pregnant from the fall breeding, and it would be a fall birth. The other 2 girls bred with Hershey just fine.

Our herdsire looks to have the ability of one breeding equals success, as our other two girls appear to be pregnant for next spring births. I am keeping more precise records now and know when he was successful with the girls. We also have gotten 2 10×10 catch pens (one for the girls side and one for the boys) since last Fall which is much better keeping them in a more confined space for a short time while breeding. And we also know if they don’t get together pretty quick, try another day and relieve them of the additional stress of being together when they are not interested. Dash can be rebred 2-3 weeks after birth, so we will have hopefully 3 new crias next spring.

Summer Surprise is gaining weight and running around, has learned to use the poop pile (they have a communal dung pile; easy to keep the pasture cleaned up), and she is so curious she will drift away from mom to investigate the wandering chickens or wild rabbits running through the pasture. An occasional burst of energy sends her bucking around the pasture. Her dad, Hershey Surprise, is a stunning mahogany brown with dense fleece and I hope she will have his good fleece qualities. My original goal was to have grey as a color emphasis, so all of our animals do have strong grey backgrounds. Hard to know what color she will end up as they tend to change a little from the color they are born with, but right now she has medium brown with smoky grey tipping all over and more around her face and neck.

The temps are reaching 100 this week so making sure they have cool clean water and hose down their bellies makes them happy. The big barn has good cross breezes and the fans are running during the day to help move the air around.

Yea or nay? The mysteries of breeding

Well I wrote last about attempting to get our 3 girl alpacas bred to our herdsire Hershey.  We have a system in place now, along with the addition of catch pens, that have aided tremendously in having success this year I hope. 

No matter how you look at it, or how you try to deny it, you have to have the right tools to achieve success.  Sometimes you try to do without to save money, but evaluate how well that is working for you.   We did not have catchpens last year and since we acquired one for the girls and one for the boys this year it has improved our processes tremendously.  You have to “catch” them up in the pen to halter them, or groom them, or whatever.    It was just an accidental/unintentional purchase when a nearby farm was retiring and selling everything and when we visited them they had catch pens for sale.  We bought two. 


So with spring breeding we have hopefully been successful.  I have my notebook with the girls names on each page and recording the dates they rendezvous with Hershey.  It would appear at this point in time that he was successful in each first time breeding with each girl.  We have done followup rebreeds at one week intervals spaced a couple days apart for each girl  and so far they all are spitting him off (and I mean plastering him with the green stuff, and us as well if we are in spitting distance).  So I will move our “spit tests” now to monthly and see if pregnancies are holding, then have the vet do progesterone tests later on.  I record everything we do for each girl.  We record everything we do for all the animals healthwise, but the breeding requires more detailed notes.  We have been doing breedings in the evenings as it fits better with our schedules.  There have been many conversations about how farms “create” the female cria/baby, and several said time of day made a difference, with evening being high on the list.  We shall see.

After much frustration last year, without catchpens, and trying to get Hershey and a girl together in his fenced in barn space, it just didn’t work well.  There was too much room where she would run away and he would stand in the corner timidly.  We learned the trick is to get them close together (i.e., catch pen) .  The female needs to kush; our guy just will not be aggressive enough to chase.  Some farms I have heard “help” the girl kush to get things going.   We halter both animals and can hook up a lead if needed.  Getting in and holding the girls tail out of the way helped a lot.  We didn’t try wrapping the tail as some recommend.   Hershey also learned what the catch pens were for if there was a girl in there; and was much quicker in getting down to business each time he was taken to the pen. 

I really, really hope we have three successful pregnancies.  I bought all my animals focusing on grey and rose grey and they all have grey, silver or rose grey in their lineage.  The gestation is 11 months to 12 months and I will be very anxious for  successful  deliveries.  I am keeping my fingers crossed we are on the right path this year.

Alpaca fashion

I have been paying attention to how often I see “alpaca” in the fashion pages and it seems to be increasing.  My daughter worked as store manager for The GAP  and they were bringing more alpaca fibered fashions into the store for sale.  Also, some of the “green” fashion businesses are also using alpaca, like Viva Terra!stmenu_template.main

and Ten Thousand Villages .


Alpaca is such a nice fiber; softer than scratchy wool and no natural oils to interfere with producing fiber and garments.    Some of the big fashion designers are also incorporating alpaca into the materials they use.

Watch the fasion world as they get more into the “natural” fibers and start promoting more alpaca fashions.

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