Cria Fleece Is No Good..I Don’t Think So!

My post today for Fiber Arts Friday is somewhat boring and possibly a little educational.

6 hour old Cria-Taken at Shady Nook Alpacas

A few weeks ago, someone, somewhere mentioned on Twitter, I think, that rumor has it – cria fleece isn’t really good for much. At the time I responded that this simply isn’t true so I thought I would use my post today to elaborate.

One could use the same statement for many “baby fibers”. For instance, Lambs Wool. Lambs wool is not the 1st years fleece from a lamb. It is the fiber growth from birth to the shearing done just before taking the lamb to market. That’s looking at about 4 months growth on the fiber. The fleeces are very small with short staple lengths and full of stress breaks from weaning, diet change and general growth of the lamb. Lambs wool is difficult to spin but it’s beautiful, soft and very much desirable. The first years fiber from a lamb is called a Hoggatt. This fleece is probably the longest, strongest, best fleece you will ever shear from that sheep in it’s life.

A Cria fleece is much like lambs wool only in that it has a very short staple length. The cria fleece has it’s share of breaks in the fiber from diet and stress changes too. The fleeces are tiny but absolutely gorgeous (as any Alpaca or Llama breeder will agree). When you have one, you want to do all kinds of wonderful things with it but the fleece is hard to work with. Where mature Alpaca and Llama fiber tends to be more difficult to spin, because of the lack of memory, the cria fleece is multiple times worse. The staple length often resembles dust, but keep in mind, that is all cotton is and it’s spun into very strong yarns and thread. So, from this seasoned spinners perspective, I don’t find cria fleece to be undesirable to work with at all. I’ve heard many alpaca and llama breeders, through the years, say, “Cria fleece, oh yeah, we have it micron tested (why I’m not sure), judged and then we chuck it!”.

I think of all of the wonderful things I’ve done with cria fleeces. I’ve spun them as is-makes awesome yarn for baby garments! I’ve blended it with a little bit of mohair and wool. I’ve even blended it with silk. It’s absolutely beautiful dyed and over dyed and added as fine strands to a stronger more mature fiber. If you raise Alpaca’s, and have fleece from one of your animals that’s not so great, cria fiber can be blended with it to soften up the yarns spun from that fleece. What is they say? “The possibilities are endless!” Don’t forget felting too. Tiny little fleeces can always be used in felting projects.

I don’t want to step on any toes here but sometime people will tell you something is no good and it’s simply because they don’t have certain fibers readily available or they’ve had one bad experience. I am not a Master Spinner but I have been a dedicated spinner since 1994. I’ve spun rabbit, chinchilla, kid mohair, sheep, cotton, flax, soy, corn silk, dog and cat. Every fiber has it’s place.

Me personally, I love the baby fleeces the best! There is no garment more beautiful than a baby blanket made with baby yarn. It may take 4 fleeces to complete it but the end result is to die for.

Be sure to check out Fiber Arts Friday and join in!

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Fall Fiber Festival & Sheepdog Trials

Yesterday we decided a day off from everything was necessary for mental and physical health. We got up early, took care of the livestock and headed for Montpelier in Orange county, VA, to the Fall Fiber Festival & Sheepdog Trials.

What a beautiful day! We still can’t believe how clear the air was . It was a little cool when we left home but by the time we arrived, it was in the mid 70’s. An added benefit to the trip was the leaves are starting to turn. We took in everything – all 5 large tents with rows of vendors selling everything fiber – beautiful hand dyed silk and wool blend yarns and rovings – there was a lot of yarn. It seemed that the vendors choose to cater more to the hand worker than the spinner.

We passed by the outside tents and went over to the Livestock Exhibit tent. They had a good example of various different fiber producing animals – the Angora Rabbits, Llama and Alpaca were not represented very well in this exhibit but I later found more of them in the outside tents. After looking around we found our friends Magi & Jay from Magi’s Wood Farm, you know, where we just got our Icelandic’s from.

Magi & Me

Magi & Me

She was happy to see me because she had let a child play with her wheel and it wasn’t working. She’s been having a problem with it every since she got it but it was worse. Later in the day, hubby found the same wheel and discovered her problem is incorrect set up. Hopefully the pictures he took of the correct set up will fix her problem.

Hubby wanted to take in the sheep shearing demos and I really did want to check out those outside tens, so I left him. My first stop was the Fleece Sale tent. Lot’s of beauties in there.  I found a CVM Sheep fleece that was really beautiful – when I looked at the price, I came very close to passing out – 2.2 lbs./$102.00. Needless to say that didn’t come home with me.

As I walked by the outside tents – something caught my eye – A spinning wheel! It looked to be very much like an Ashford Traditional but then again..it didn’t. I’m not going to tell you the price yet. This wheel had suffered a child assult on Saturday and it was broken. I got a handful of roving and a chair and set out to fix this cool little wheel. Whatever this child had done to it, I don’t know but it would not spin at all. Hubby came to find me and got involved in the fixing process. An hour later, I walked away with a fixed $60.00 spinning wheel! It is a mystery wheel though. I’ve added a photo, maybe one of you may have an idea about who made it. It does need work but it will spin yarn.

The New Old Wheel

The New Old Wheel

Armed with mystery wheel, we set out for food and Sheepdog Trials. I was a bit disappointed in the food options. In years past there has been lamb chili and fruit plates. Not so this year, so we got a heavy BBQ, set up our chairs and became spectators. The dog trials were great! We stayed to the end and we got lots of photos.

At The Pen - Look real hard..see the green on her shoulder? It's a Parrot!

At The Pen - Look real hard..see the green on her shoulder? It's a Parrot!

Trial Shot

Trial Shot

Trial Shot

Trial Shot

"Nice Job"

"Nice Job"

This lady works without a crook or a whistle..she's amazing!

This lady works without a crook or a whistle..she's amazing!

"The Shed"

"The Shed"

"The Pen"

"The Pen"

It’s so enjoyable watching a dog work..they take their job seriously. I am so happy we have 7 Border Collies of our own to work with.

We left the event feeling invigorated and hungry. In the town of Orange we went to a restaurant called the Silk Mill Grille. As you may have guessed from the name, it is an old Silk Mill and the place is decorated much of the old salvaged accessories and processing equipment. Had a great meal and we were home by 7:00.

I have a lot of readers that know very little about this side of my life – they know me for the goats and goats milk products. You see fiber and fiber arts is my true passion. Any opportunity I get to do a day like this, I will put all else aside to do it. My only regret – Didn’t go both days!

I’m going to add an events page to my Blog so everyone might have an opportunity to see and possibly attend what’s going on the rest of 2009. Some I will be a vendor..some I will just visit.

Parting comments and a little rant! Please, if you bring your children to events like the Fall Fiber Festival, try to pay attention to what they are doing. One of the wheels that was messed up yesterday is a several thousand dollar wheel. We want everyone to come to these events..especially children, they are the ones who will keep this going in the future but vendors and demonstrators put their life into this and it shouldn’t be destroyed by an adults carelessness of not watching their child. At this event, I saw big pulls of rovings run off with, a driveband ripped right off a spinning wheel, Angora bunnies being plucked through the sides of their cage by uncontrolled little fingers, hand crafted wooden knitting needles being used as swords and a grape snow cone dropped on a beautiful silk scarf. Please bring your children and please be good, aware parents! Rant is done.

Have a wonderful day!

Alpaca Farm Farm Tours and More

It’s a beautiful morning. Grey, rainy and cooler temps. Love it! The late garden seems to be enjoying it too. I will probably can tomatoes this weekend. Those will be most definitely appreciated this winter.

This weekend, all over the country, is National Alpaca’s Farm Tour. Our friends, Lois & Ken Pocock of Shady Nook Alpacas here in Powhatan will be hosting farm visits. Also, our new friends Katy (you know her as Alpaca Farm Girl) & Stephen Spears in Fairhope, AL, will be participating too, so if you’re in their area, be sure to check out their farm.  If you’re looking for something to do or are thinking about starting a small farm, it’s worth the trip out to your local Alpaca farm to see what it’s all about.

I thought in honor of these farm open houses I would share this website dedicated to handspinning. The site covers all fibers for spinning and even video’s. Never hurts to expand your fiber knowledge, even if you have no desire to learn how to spin. Oh, and by the way, if you don’t spin and would like to learn how, I am available to teach you. Did you like how I did that??

Well, I’m off to work. I haven’t milked the goats yet this morning. I thought in celebration of the rain, I’d let them sleep in this morning. Once I’m done with that and have made a batch of soap, I’ll be working on the grant proposal for our new endeavor on the farm. I can’t wait to share this with everyone but not yet. Don’t want to jinx it..don’t cha know.

We Have A Winner!

I know I told everyone in the Giveaway Blog that I would announce the winner for the 2 bars of Goats Milk Soap and the Wool/Alpaca blended socks tomorrow but I’m not going to be around to do that, so we held our drawing and we have a winner and a copy of her comment:

Diane Muska

New soap sounds wonderful and hard to beat alpaca socks with the cold winter weather we have coming up.

Congratulations Diane!

Everyone, be safe the rest of the Holiday and enjoy.

Good Day, Observation & A Giveaway!

Yesterday was a really good day. I had someone helping me make my Co-op deliveries, so I was able to visit more with my wholesale customers when I made their deliveries. We were all talking about the holiday season and wondering what it will be like this year. It really is hard to predict. While many of my customers businesses are thriving, several have closed their doors over the last few months. As I spoke with people yesterday, it seemed that there was one topic we all agreed on, everyone has had to ramp up customer service. While it’s true that folks may have less to spend, when they do spend, their expectation of how they are treated has changed. Going that extra step to keep customers happy and coming back is what it’s all about. There are so many times I wish I had a “brick & mortar” shop, but then I come back to my senses and it doesn’t take me long to realize – no I don’t. While I work steady 8-14 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week, I can get away from it, when I feel like it without posted hours being affected. I really hope we all take our numbers off the chart this season.

Speaking of business. When I promised everyone another Giveaway today, little did I know it would be another celebration of a new retail outlet! New shop, Real Goods Virginia in Mathews, Virginia has become our most recent customer. They will carry our full line of products and they should be in their shop with in the next two weeks.  So, in celebration of this new addition, we are offering another Giveaway! Are you excited, wondering what it will be? I bet there will be soap involved. OK, here it is:

1 Pair of  our Wool/Alpaca Blended Socks

2 Bars of Goats Milk Soap (winner chooses fragrance from website list)

The socks are made with a blend of our sheep wool and alpaca fiber from another local farm and are commercially made. They are one size fits all up to a size 10 (mens or womens). If a lady wins and has a tiny foot, we do have small socks too. You will love these socks and it’s a great way to sample our fibers made into a garment.

All you need to do is make a Comment to this Blog post, before the end of the day Friday, September 4, 2009. The winner* will be announced on my Blog, Tuesday, September 8, 2009 . This is a big Giveaway for us, so let’s start seeing the Comments come rolling in!!

Good Luck & Have a Great Day!

*There will be a shipping charges for any winner outside of the Continental U.S.