alpaca fibre

Making a Parka for an Alpaca

Posted on

I should probably apologize right now, as this is going to be another of those oddly-specific posts that you are going to either get VERY excited about, because it’s exactly what you need, or it’s not relevant to your life at all. This post is about making coats for alpacas! 🙂

These coats lay across the animal’s back and attach under the belly with a strap and fasten across the front of their chest with overlapping panels and either straps or velcro. Let’s start with the basic shape. I found this pattern image online and used it as a guideline. I would love to give credit to the originator, but all I have is this google drive link.

The U-shaped part at the top is where the alpaca’s neck will go, and the chest straps will connect across the alpaca’s chest and the belly straps will connect under the belly. You will need 2 measurements for the alpaca you are making the coat for: around-the-belly circumference and length of back (from neck to tail).

My first venture into making coats was last fall, when we knew we had a baby on the way and it would be due in October. What a heck of a time of year to be born! So I made two coats — a lightweight one and a warmer one. I used measurements off the internet for the sizes of coats that were for sale. I was so glad I did. That little guy really needed his coat! He was basically born shivering and after I dried him off, I put it on him and he perked up a lot!

Look how pink his ears and nose are!

The next day, I made him a neckwarmer and put that on him too.

As he got bigger and winter got colder, we put his thicker coat on him. This one was insulated with alpaca fibre from his mama!

Isn’t he adorable!?! He grew up really well and is still very gentle and likes to come nose-to-nose with me. I think he knows we will take care of him no matter what!

Okay, we are in danger of getting sentimental, so let’s get down to business and look at how I made these coats! 🙂

I guess I didn’t take many pictures of the construction of the first coat, but here it is all finished, waiting for the little one to be born! My mom supplied the light blue fabric and wide velcro — thanks Mom!
Making the second coat: The pattern piece overlaid on fuzzy cloth.
To add an insulating layer, I hand-carded alpaca fibre and made it into mini-batts which I laid out inside the coat, overlapping a little.
I machine quilted the coat and added a windproof layer — the dark blue fabric (thanks again, Mom). It puckered quite a bit, but at least the alpaca fleece layer would be anchored well.
I underestimated how big Pigpen was getting, so it didn’t even fit him! I had to make the coat bigger… or the straps longer!

I felt pretty good about how that went! We used the light blue coat for Rupert for a few days when he was born this summer too!

I think he likes it!

If you just can’t get enough of these little ones, check out my posts here.

One cold evening last year, I noticed our elderly female, Uki, shivering. I felt so bad for her! She was still nursing little Pigpen and earlier in the year, she had been putting a lot of energy into growing him and not her coat.

The proud mama, not long after Pigpen was born! (He had just stood up!) Yes, that’s a washcloth on his back. I had to run back in the house for his coat!

So, I quickly made up a three-layer coat to help her keep warm. This year, with more time to work on it, I made some alpaca fibre into batts and added a quilted layer! I used the existing coat as a pattern and cut out the cloth from an old but very soft sheet.

Here is the coat laid out on the floor. The batts are different colours because it is fibre from different alpacas!

Using full-size batts was far better than hand-carded fibre, and I only anchored it every 3-4 inches.

I quilted the coat by hand with thread, tying small knots. I seem to love projects that take a lot of time!

I machine quilted the section at the chest, so that it isn’t quite as puffy. I figured out how to do it without the cloth puckering (thank you, internet). I then stitched it to the windproof layer in ten or so places. We put it on her tonight, even though it isn’t forecast to be too cold. She is pregnant again, with her cria due in June, so I think she might just wear this coat all winter!

An alpaca in a parka!

Last year, the coat was a bit too loose and would sometimes creep forward and end up bunched up around her neck. Hopefully now that it’s a puffy coat, it will stay put better. I did it up as tightly as I could.

I should make another one in case Daisy needs it! She is still nursing little Rupert, but at least she is not pregnant too. What a toll that must take on a body!

Now I have friends asking if I can make coats for dogs! I’m not sure I want to get into that racket… but then I hate to see an animal cold! 🙂

Take care, everybody! Stay warm!

Refurbishing my old Drum Carder

Posted on Updated on

Hi everyone! As you know, I raise alpacas and I have been wanting to make my own yarn from their glorious fibre! To help with that, my grandma gave me her good spinning wheel and her drum carder. I learned to spin this summer with the help of an instructor from the weaver’s guild — God bless you, Brenda!! — but this post isn’t about spinning. It’s about the drum carder.

I have made quite a few batts with it, but I was starting to notice a lot of the teeth coming out — 3 or 4 for every batt I made with it! I was starting to really worry!

Don’t you love how the cloth is actually thick leather and the teeth look like blunt thumbtacks pushed through from the back? I wonder what year this drum carder was made? If you have any idea, leave a comment because I would love to know!

When I looked into ordering a new carding cloth — that’s what they call that spiky material that goes on the outside of the drum — I couldn’t seem to find a Canadian source for it. Since the US postal system is quite broken, I was not keen on ordering from south of the border and I prefer to buy local or at least Canadian when I can. I asked my aunt-in-law who owns Legacy Studio if she had carding cloth, or if she could get it for me. She said the best stuff comes from Europe, so I found a supplier from the Netherlands, Golden Fleece Carders. Want to hear the best part? I got my carding cloth — which is the perfect width for my machine! — in 17 days! From overseas!! I am so thrilled! I ordered something from the US in July and it took over 6 weeks!

So, anyways, I am really excited to be refurbishing the old drum carder. It’s like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle got another R: Refurbish! So, let the not-quite-tutorial begin!

I took the old cloth off using a flathead screwdriver to pry the staples and nails off.

There are so many teeth missing! Especially along that one edge. The batts always looked like they’d been to hell and back. So many holes.

So, I continued prying staples and nails until I had them all off! Avert your eyes — that’s a naked drum there! 😮

Check out the new cloth! There are quite a few more pins per square inch…

I was so thrilled that this company carried the carding cloth in the exact width I needed. The American ones were never the right width (I don’t mean to sound anti-American, it’s just true). This cloth is only 72 DPI, because I wanted it to be multi-purpose. For alpaca, some people go A LOT finer!

I measured how long it needed to be and started taking out pins so I could cut it. I took out 3 rows in total and they came out easily. Then I cut it with regular scissors!

Now here is where things start getting interesting! See how close together those two drums are? The top one, with the old pins, is called the licker and its pins are NOT supposed to touch the main drum, or maybe just barely touch. Because the pins on the new cloth are quite a bit longer, the pins on the two drums are grinding together at this point! (The old pins touched more than they should have, but I didn’t know better.) So, I had to figure out if I could move either of the drums. It turns out, my little old drum carder is pretty adjustable! I was able to loosen the bolts on the sides (you can see one on the left) and back the main drum up so that it would have more room! It was a bit of work, but I’m happy — the teeth barely touch now.

I then got to work stapling and nailing the new cloth in place. I forgot to get a picture of the stapling, but I just used an ordinary staple gun. Then, I had to nail the little nails back in where the cloth meets up. See the problem below?

You can’t nail them in because you’ll end up pounding on the pins of the carding cloth! Luckily, we had a punch, which worked great! I just carefully positioned it on the head of each nail and pounded them in.

Sorry, you can’t see the top, but it’s just flat for the hammer to hit it. This let me hammer those little nails right down snuggly!

And now my drum carder is like new, sort of!

For now, I’ve decided to leave the licker drum as is. I might change the cloth in the future, but it’s working okay, so I left it!

I have to tell you: I LOVE giving new life to old things! It is one of my favourite things to do, and probably why this project was so much fun! (If you feel the same, I recommend Laura Kampf videos on YouTube because she is the best at this, and her videography is a pleasure to watch!)

Of course I had to put the new/old carder to work! Since the new teeth are longer, it makes thicker batts. They still look a bit ratty; they don’t come off the drum as easily because there are so many more teeth! I also might need to work on my technique…

I made 2 batts and then took the next one off as a rolag, which seemed to work better. Dang, it’s a dense rolag though!

I should probably apologize to my regular readers, as this is one of those oddly-specific posts and if you don’t know what a rolag is, I don’t blame you! A rolag is a small roll of fibre that spinners can spin from. Anyways, thanks for hanging in there with me all this while and I hope it might help someone else who needs to change carding cloth on their old drum carder!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbish, Repair, Repurpose! So many great Re’s! If you have any examples of Refubish, Repair or Repurpose, share them in the comments! 🙂

Alpaca Fleeces for Sale!

Posted on Updated on

I’ve been hoarding all my alpaca fleeces, but I’ve decided it’s time to sell some! This fibre is a spinner’s dream. It is great quality and I will skirt it for you (shake the dust out and pick out most second cuts and vegetable matter). They generally have 3” staple lengths or so (see photo with ruler).

If you are interested in buying some beautiful alpaca fibre from our fuzzy family, please send me an email! 🙂

The boys:

Boeing, our big white guy has excellent fibre (he won second in a contest) with lots of crimp. It’s a very dense fleece and pure white once cleaned, so you can dye it any colour! 🙂 He has a big fleece and a long staple length. Asking $25/pound.

One Boeing fleece, skirted, is a bag and a half! All other fleeces fill one bag!

Ziggy is a little guy but he also won second place in a fibre competition. His fibre is a beautiful cinnamon brown, excellent quality and spinning it might impart some of Ziggy’s zen attitude to you! Asking $20/pound (generally about 2 pounds per fleece).

Frankie is Ziggy’s boy (also cinnamon brown) and they are very hard to tell apart! Right now we only have 2 of his fleeces (because he only 2 yrs old)! His fleece is also excellent quality and nice and soft, and we’re willing to part with one. $20/pound.

Fozzie is our only black alpaca, but you’ll notice the tips of his fibre do bleach out a bit from the sun. His fibre is soft and crimpy. $20/pound.

Alex is Fozzie’s son and his fibre is really soft! It’s a touch lighter so I’m calling it brown/black and the tips really lighten in the sun. Asking $20/pound.

The girls:

Marley is a big girl — she’s like a linebacker! — and she grows a very nice cinnamon brown fleece too. Asking $20/pound.

Daisy is a lovely light fawn colour and she has grown some beautiful fleeces. I gave one to a friend and she spun it and weaved it into a gorgeous tapestry! It’s soft and has a good staple length, and it’s light enough, you could probably dye it other colours. $20/pound.

Miss Uki is Daisy’s mama and we have no idea how old she is! She was one of our original alpacas, so we have several of her light fawn fleeces! Sometimes, the staple length and quality suffers a little due to her being pregnant or nursing. She’s had 4 cria for us in 5 years (she’s a good mama)! $15/pound.

If you would like it cleaned, contact us to discuss a price. If you would like it carded, we could talk about a price for that, too! We also have quite a bit of second-grade fibre (mainly from their necks) that can be used for pillow stuffing (in batts), or needle felting. It is not really suitable for spinning. It certainly is not as soft or fine, and it has some guard hairs in it from the chest area (visible in Marley’s photo). Contact me to discuss getting some of this second-grade fibre.

Please leave a comment or email me if you are interested in buying some Fozzie, Boeing, Ziggy, Frankie, Alex, Daisy, Uki or Marley!

🙂