Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alpaca Heaven

The highlight of this past weekend for me was a visit to AlpacaFest West. The name says it all – loads of lovely alpacas of all colors and kinds, fiber on the hoof. And so gorgeous. Just look at that cutie little face . . .

As much as I have read descriptions of the two types of alpaca – Suri and Huacaya, it took an up-close-and-personal look to get the idea across. This guy with the dreadlocks is a Suri –

And these two lovelies are Huacayas. They're even fluffier than they look in the picture --

Although there were a dozen or so vendors selling fiber, yarn, garments, etc., the focus of the show was on the competition. The alpacas were judged in different classes based on age, gender, type, and probably some other stuff I've forgotten. Here's one lineup waiting for the judge to check them out --

It was fascinating to watch all the different alpacas parade past and to listen to the judge explain her reasons for ranking one higher than another. "Conformation" was important. And fleece, of course! And evidently the shape of the jaw was a factor as well.

Here's one happy winner in the "two year old males" category. I was rooting for him because of that stunning cinnamon color. --

And a special thanks to Ranch of the Oaks for posting a notice of this event on Ravelry.

They had all sorts of lovely goodies. If you look closely, you will see a table piled up with yarn in the back of the booth. Not just alpaca either. And the ball bands were usually labeled with the name of the animal the fiber came from. I love that.

Altogether a perfect day.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Thought I Was Done

Well, I am indeed done with spinning this yarn. And I thought I was done with spinning altogether (more on that in a bit).

According to my Ravelry file I began this spinning project in June 2008 and finished it in October 2009. Rather a long time, wouldn't you say? Naturally there were some life events, like moving to the mainland, and a good bit of knitting along the way, but still.

So what is this stuff? Okay. The fiber is superwash merino from Crown Mountain Farms in the "Say A Little Prayer" colorway (Aretha Franklin song, in case you were wondering). The resulting yarn is a two-ply laceweight, of which there are 6 ounces and 1200 yards. And all of this yardage was spun and plied on spindles (as well as another two ounces that I messed up in the finishing and have put aside for some indeterminate future use).

Why laceweight? I'm not sure. It's just what the fiber wanted to be. Who am I to argue with a truly determined fiber? Just for fun I put it next to the Fiddlesticks Zephyr Laceweight I'm using to knit the Celtic Knot Stole. Take a look.

Yup, that's a laceweight. Mine is much more tightly plied than the Fiddlesticks, which may not be a good thing. We shall see when it comes to the knitting.

After taking such an incredibly long time to spin what is, after all, not so very much yarn – just enough for a nice shawl – I was feeling rather negative about the whole spinning thing. I tucked all the spindles into a basket and put them out of sight. And then . . . heh.

Then I learned that the Southern California Handweavers' Guild was having their annual fiber festival a mere 30 minutes' drive from my residence. Of course, I had to go. And of course (you can guess already, right?) I met tons of friendly, happy fiber-enablers. They showed me their spinning wheels, offered helpful tips, displayed gorgeous fibers. You know how it goes.

So, for the past week, I have been obsessively researching spinning wheels – a truly challenging task. There is a lack of clarity about terminology and functionality that is probably to be expected in a device with parts called "footman," "maiden," and "orifice." Alas, there is also a corresponding lack of solid information. Selecting a spinning wheel is not at all like buying a bicycle -- an apparatus with about the same level of complexity -- perhaps because there are far fewer spinners than there are bicyclists. Neighborhood shops do NOT abound. But I do not despair. There are 7-8 potential wheels on my current list (which leans towards smallness and foldability due to my tiny apartment), and the hunt is on!