Sunday, April 18, 2010

Art for your Feet!

I'm celebrating with my friend, Fay, today!

I met Fay when she started coming to my farm shop to buy yarn. She always bought the nicest sock yarn and talked so passionately about knitting. It turned out Fay was quite a knitter and quilter with an amazing artistic touch.

Well, that was about 2 years ago and we've become great friends. She's started spinning with great projects in mind. She's also eyeing the weaving that my friends and I have been doing. Fay starts to talk faster and more intently when she starts thinking about a fibre arts project. She's a gem in my life.

I kept seeing Fay buy my sock yarn, but whenever I saw her, she was wearing store-bought (ugly) socks. I assumed that she did what many fibre artists did...loved the process of knitting and then gave away the finished product to love ones. One day, the topic came up. Fay told our little knitting group that she had a huge bag full of beautifully hand-knitted socks of the best yarn. She didn't feel that she should wear such precious things on her feet just for everyday.

Well, I'm glad to report that Fay came to my home the other day and this is what I saw!'s not my yarn in those socks and it's not alpaca..but Fay's made a start and is feeling worthy enough to wear her art everyday!! It's a start!

There is something comforting in just knowing that you are wearing pair of socks that were the output of a process that has been past down from generation to generation. Mostly by women caring for their families.

The ultimate is wearing handknit socks from handspun and handpainted yarn. If these are alpaca, the experience is almost sensual. My friend, Suzanne, wears hers with sandals and her blue jeans so they can be noticed.

Some sock yarn is machine-washable and other needs to be cared for like fine lingerie.
Hand washing socks has become a ritual for me...I handwash my handknit, natural fibre socks because I want to preserve them. These socks bring me pleasure when I wear them and are worth the small effort of handwashing.

I have some totally utilitarian socks that my husband's late grandmother knit from thick indestructible acrylic. These socks are probably 25 years old. I wear them in my barn boots when the temperature doesn't require the warmth of alpaca. Gary's grandmother loved this farm, I loved her and those indestructible socks she made remind me of her.

Most commercially available socks come from overseas mass-production with an attached environmental cost, and, in some instances, a human rights cost. You can buy a pack of 8 cotton socks at the big-box store for likely the same as some moderately priced yarn for one pair of hand knit socks.

But, those socks won't last very long and I can promise you that you won't get the same feeling that I get when I wear my hand knit socks. Especially my alpaca ones!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Destiny, The Show and a Hat

I have a special find that I have to share with you.
One of my fellow alpaca producers, Shannon Cassidy-Rouleau has written this book called "Destiny's Purpose".

The story centres around an alpaca called 'Destiny' and the journey that takes place when Destiny rises above his unique challenge to find his purpose.

There are many layers to this story. Anyone who has struggled to overcome obstacles or supported someone else’s struggle, will identify with the characters in this touching read-aloud.

Included in the book is a non-fiction section about alpacas.

The illustrations by Dennis Auth are beautiful.

A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation – to advance research for a cure, to educate the public about this condition, to provide hair prosthetics for children in need, and to bring child sufferers to national conferences to meet other children like themselves.

I'm excited to carry this book in my shop now. It's also available online here.

Last Friday, I hopped in my PT Cruiser and headed down to the Alpaca Ontario Show 2010 in Orangeville, Ontario. I was excited to see my alpaca-lovin' friends and discuss industry topics. Also, I looked forward to viewing those 375 alpacas in the beautiful ag centre that they have there.

I used to be quite involved in showing and with the show committee. I haven't shown for over 3 years now. Friday night, I was missing that pre-show excitement that I saw in my friends. But, all in all, I don't miss the pre-show stress and travelling with alpacas. Maybe another year, I'll have more tolerance for it again.

I was able to visit with many good friends in the industry and also talk with like-minded business people. I saw some inspirational fibre art on display and for sale as well.

After a positive experience, I had a sunny drive home up Highway 400 on Saturday.

Things might have ended differently. Sunday, while driving around close to home, my car started making very loud sounds with everything vibrating under the hood. I found out later that one of the bolts that hold the motor to the mount completely sheared off and was rolling around in the splash guard. I'm very thankful this didn't happen when I was doing top speeds on the highway on Saturday.

This is a picture of alpaca fibre taken from my young herdsire, MHA Striker.
Unlike sheeps wool, alpaca fibre has no lanolin. This makes alpaca easier to process without heavy scouring with detergents.

The little ridges that you see in the fibre is called 'crimp' and it is a desirable trait.

This alpaca's fibre is brilliant white. What you see as discolouration in the picture's right is actually dirt in this unwashed fleece...the dirt doesn't penetrate to base of the fibre, as the fibre is packed to densely on the animal.

By the way, Becky "The Unknown Knitter", scolded me for not showing a picture of that big hat once it was finished, fulled and dyed. Here it is!
Rest assured, it's an old picture...we don't have snow.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The alpacas are pretending to's spring, they love to stretch their legs. Actually, this picture was taken last week, and it has really greened up since then. Now that the ground is thawing, I'll need to keep them off the pastures as the grass tries to sprout.
You might notice Pepita, the fawn alpaca with her head down, is showing a bit of a belly...hopefully there's a cria in there!

I'm trying to spend more days at home doing my fibre arts. It doesn't always work that way. I'm a roadrunner by nature.

My car is in for repair and I turned this into a positive thought. I would be 'captive' at home without any errands to take away from my fibre arts projects.

I had a few distractions yesterday morning. The power went out and the generator didn't start up automatically like it should. With cell phone in hand and hubby on the other end, I was able to get it going. Then, I noticed the chickens were out of the pasture this morning...again...and went to corral them back in.

I was, however, able to accomplish some handpainting of sock yarn.

Also, I fulled some mittens that my knitter, Becky, knit for me. I'm lucky that I have Becky, who is a obsessive knitter, in my life. Becky is a better and faster knitter than I. Knit items that are sold in my shop and samples for my Misty Haven Alpaca yarns are mostly knit by Becky.

Here's a picture of Becky modelling a hat that needs to be fulled.

To all the people who admire her work in my shop, she remains..."The Unknown Knitter".

The shots of the mittens are before and after fulling in the washer and dryer. The perspective of the camera shot doesn't give an appreciation of how much they shrank, but you can tell by the tape measure. The mitts became thick and solid - they'll be warm, warm, warm...and with the natural fibres only, they'll repel the water.

The men's rust and forest colour pair are still quite large, but we'll find some big hands to go into them.

You'll notice the white cotton edging at the wrists of the berry coloured mittens? That will come off after the mittens are fulled, and a ribbing cuff knit on. Neat, eh?

This coming weekend (April 10th, 11th) will be the largest alpaca show ever in Canada. The Alpaca Ontario Show is happening at the Orangeville Fairgrounds in Orangeville, Ontario. It will be amazing. I haven't shown my alpacas in the ring for 3 years now, but I still like to get to the show to see the great animals and of course, my alpaca-lovin' friends.
It's a neat thing to see, if you are in a day-trip distance to Orangeville.
Here's the link to the Alpaca Ontario site, if it interests you.

If you tune in to my blog because you like farm blogs, you need to check out
Life on a Southern Farm.
This lady and her hubby in Georgia seem to have found heaven on earth it seems to me, anyway.
She shares lovely photos, her videos and her life. Her goats are having kids these days and they are cute, cute, cute.