We recently visited an alpaca farm in Salford, PA about five miles from our house. I met one of the owners, Alex Frazier, at a craft fair at Pennypacker Mills. He and his wife Sandy are the owners of the Little Lost Creek Alpaca Farm. He told us about their upcoming open house and we decided to take a look. By the way, it’s called Little Lost Creek because the creek so rarely has water in it that it gets “lost”.
One thing you should know about me is that I’m a knitter. Not only do I knit, but I love yarn and fiber. Whenever we go on vacation I scope out the local yarn stores and unless it’s way out of the way, we stop to check it out. I love the tactile-ness of yarn, the feel, the smell, and the look. Lately I have been learning about different kinds of fiber. While most of us think only of sheep as producing a product that finds its way into sweaters, scarves, blankets and socks, there are other animals that also produce fiber. The most common are rabbits, goats, and alpacas, but you may also run across something made from buffalo, camel, llama or qiviut.
Larry and I saw alpacas up close when we visited Machu Picchu in Peru about ten years ago. This trip was one of our most memorable, and looking back we were happy we did it when we were relatively young. There was a lot of climbing up and down tall rock stairs, so it’s a trip that requires a certain level of physical fitness. But I digress . . .
Alpacas live at high altitudes and are adept at climbing steep inclines and finding footholds in the mountains. They grow thick coats that help them keep warm during the cold Andean winters, so they feel right at home in Pennsylvania. When spring starts to head into summer their coats are shorn and the process starts all over again. Their fleeces are spun into fiber that becomes yarn.
Alex and Sandy Frazier bought the piece of land that became the alpaca farm when they retired. Alex was a sports writer and Sandy was a teacher. Their ten acres is the perfect space for their small herd of alpacas and angora goats. They explained that they have to keep the male and female alpacas separated because a female will become pregnant after sex, unlike other animals that only go into heat certain times of the year and will not breed–or become pregnant if not in heat. The period of gestation is nearly a year. One of the alpacas had a two month old baby with her in the field when we visited. Sandy explained that gray is a desired color, so when they breed the alpacas they try to get a gray baby. I’m guessing this is because gray is a neutral color and can be blended with other colors or dyed.
In addition to breeding and raising alpacas, selling fiber and yarn, Alex and Sandy sponsor a 4-H club. They are associated with the Montgomery County 4-H Center where the kids learn about alpacas and help halter train them on the Little Lost Creek Farm. Alpacas jump and can do agility. The Fraziers also give workshops for small groups where they teach how to dry or wet felt, dye and weave. Lastly, they sell alpacas and provide support and advice. You can learn more about their farm at their website http://www.littlelostcreekalpacafarm.com
I bought three skeins of yarn. It is 80% alpaca, 20% merino 2-ply sport weight. The band has the name of the alpaca the fiber came from. My yarn was made from Hepburn’s fleece. Hepburn was a female alpaca who died recently from a serious illness. Sandy said she was a lovely alpaca, and now I will have a beautiful reminder of her in the shape of a scarf for winter. I’ll write about what I make in a separate blog post.