Thursday, April 29, 2010

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Monday, April 26, 2010

I’ve got nothing to wear……!!

After owning alpacas for nearly five years and my herd now standing at 30 animals it is a shocking fact that I do not possess one single item made from alpaca. I can’t count the number of times I have extolled the virtues of this wonderful fleece and exquisite yarn so why is it that I own not a single sock, a scarf, or even a simple bobble hat?

The main stumbling block was fear.

Fear that I didn’t know how to sort and skirt,

Fear that I didn’t know where to take it; mini mill versus large scale mill

Fear that I will make the wrong decisions and end up with yarn that is not fit for purpose and yet has cost me a fortune to process.

However I have tackled these issues one at a time. I have attended fleece sorting workshops run by my regional group as well as a more intensive four day course. I have visited a variety of mills in neighbouring counties, learnt to hand spin and am now attending knitting classes.

This long journey of discovering culminated on a cold winters morning in February when I drove from my home in Cambridgeshire to Suffolk to work alongside Giles at his mini mill.

I had previously taken my bags of carefully sorted and skirted fleece to him in December which had been scoured when I arrived. (washed to you and me). The plan was to set me to work on all the machines (with supervision) over the next two days so that I could follow my fleece through the whole process. The fleece that we were going to be working with was white grade 1 which I wanted blended with 10% tussah silk. I had also sent some grade 2 which was to be blended with merino and grade 3 with bamboo.

After being with Giles for two days I began to understand the reasons for the processing costs. The whole process is very labour intensive and if done well (which this was) requires understanding, expertise and patience: none of which can be gained in two days. Giles has been spinning yarn for over six years. He mainly works with alpaca but has done all varieties of sheep, and even some yak!

It was great to be really involved in the spinning and plying process and to start to gain an understanding of all the variables that affect the finished yarn. This is the point that required the most experience and patience. When I was happy with the “feel” (that’s about as technical as I get!) we were away. It is so important to know what you want to produce with your yarn even at this stage so that you can tell the processor exactly what you want. If possible take a sample so that the spinner has a reference point. To go in with a vague idea or unrealistic expectations can cause disappointment.

I wanted to share this story with you not only to encourage other alpaca owners but also to highlight that your journey need not be as long or as daunting as mine thanks to the newly formed British Alpaca Society Fibre Committee which I am a member of. (

The committee is made from representatives from the regional groups throughout the UK who want to raise the profile of the fibre produced from our wonderful animals. We want to help and encourage you to get out there and promote and use your fibre whether you have a few alpacas or hundreds.

The BAS Fibre Committee has some great plans and ideas afoot so please watch this space to keep informed.

Frances Bath

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This is me trying my best to be artistic! This is a cushion cover I made for my sister's Birthday. What a lucky girl! I made it from my first batch of Abravo Alpaca Yarn. It is made from a 100gram skein of a blend of 90% abravo alpaca and 10% bamboo in aran weight. It feels absolutely gorgeous. It was knitted on size 10mm needles and I used 100% abravo alpaca felt for the reverse. As my knitting skills are limited attached the felt flower onto the front where I pearled a stitch rather than knitted it, I think it looks very fetching. I cast on 45 stitches using cable cast on method and then continued to knit until it was large enough to cover an 18 x 18 cushion. To add a little more interest I knitted the turn over at the top where it buttons in rib. The cushion cover is closed at the back using matching red shell buttons. If you would like to dye the yarn it is possible because it is in a skein, but I prefer it in the natural neutral colour. If you wanted to follow my example the abravo alpaca yarn would cost £13 (100 gram skeing) and the abravo alpaca felt £12, (50 x 50 square centimetre swatch). what a bargain for a unique and beautiful cushion to have in your home.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Great Gransden Show

Abravo Alpacas went along to the Great Gransden Show in Cambridgeshire in Late September. We took along a possy of our boys: Wizard, The Great Gatsby and Mallaca Paca. This was only their second outing but they behaved beautifully. The Abravo Alpaca Pen was right next to the showring so the boys were very intrigued as all the other animals: sheep, pigs and cows were paraded and judged.

Frances had a small information stall with posters and pictures and also took along some samples of fleece and fibre. Everyone who came along and touched the fibre were very impressed with the softness and enquired where to purchase either raw fleece or yarn however because we had been granted a free pitch as an information only stall I was unable to sell any yarn on the day, but did give out quite a few business cards.

Abravo Alpacas went along as a contingent of the Eastern Region Alpaca Group, which is a small group of Alpaca breeders that are affiliated to the British Alpacas Society. The main aim of the group is to meet together to share information to benefit the welfare of our stock.

Now that Abravo Alpacas is a more established herd (over 31) we feel the time is right to start offering alpacas and yarn for sale. We also intend to enter some of our alpacas into Alpaca shows run by the British Alpaca Society next year, so watch this space.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Our little crias are a joy to watch they are most active early in the morning and late in the evening. The scamper and run about chasing each other, wizzing all over, they are very agile. The also have a rough and tumble too, trying to get each other down onto the ground, its a bit like wrestling. They use their necks to push each other down or try and bite each others legs to achieve the same results. When they get each other down the lay over each other to keep the other alpaca pinned to the groun. They also explore other things like goose feathers in the grass. Sometimes they will come up to us as we sit in the field and they sniff at us or pull our clothes or hair with their teeth, they are sooo cute.

We have a cheeky chappie at the moment; Gallant, son of Masala, it seems that he is not getting enough milk so while the other adult alpacas are feeding he sneaks up and has a quick suckle from someone other than his mum. Most of the time he gets away with it because he is white (his mum is brown) and the other white mums do not seem to notice especially when they are feeding. We have also given him the odd bottle to supplement his feeding but at the moment he does not readily come for it so I guess most of the time he is able to get enough from various sources


Bumper crop of alpaca crias

This summer we have been very busy here at Abravo Alpacas with our bumper crop of crias (baby alapacas). We have had 11 cria born, the highest number yet. Sadly on of our girls Caitlin had a stillborn which was very sad for us all, but she seems to have got over it and we have already mated her with our best boy Abravo Wizard, so hopefully all will go well next year.

We have had five females (Timora, Nerrissa, Nira, Candy Charm and Saffron) and six boys (Invicta, Tybalt, Galahad, Albion, Viscount, and Gallant). To date all are doing well and some have some really stunning fleeces. Our latest little girl was a surprise as she was a month early however the biggest surprise was Masala's cria. We did not know that she was pregnant until April having no record of any mating. However I think it was more a case of an escapee rather than an immaculate conception. But the biggest surprise was that she has had the brightest whitest cria and she is brown so it looks quite strange in the field to see this little cria sat next to a brown mum.


Friday, June 26, 2009

A day out for some of Abravo Alpaca Boys

On a beautiful sunny day in June Abravo Alpacas went for a day out to Laxton Junior School Fete. The day was a great success. Abravo Wizard, Mallaca and little Gatsby proved to be real crowd pullers. Andrew and Frances where busy all day answering the many questions that all the visitors had.
Many of the visitors said how beautiful they were and that they almost did not look real. Off course everyone was surprised at how soft the fleece felt even though they boys had been sheared about a month before.
The wool and felt that Frances brought along which was spun from some of the many coloured alpacas that can be found at Abravo Alpaca's also proved very popular. Again people where amazed at how soft it was; apart from the people that is that are already lucky enough to own a jumper made from alpaca wool.