Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Fibre of the Month for April - ALPACA

This month I am looking at Alpaca fibre.

Lovely alpacas :)
There are a couple of different types of alpaca; suri and huacaya, suri have long silky hair while huacaya is shorter and crimpier so more similar to wool than suri.  I have used huacaya from my sister-in-laws pet herd.

Alpacas are gentle, friendly animals and I know my sister-in-law says her 15 are very easy to care for.  I have heard stories of alpacas 'guarding' chickens from foxes too.. they have a strong herd instinct and other animals that live with them become part of the herd and therefore get looked after :)

Alpaca are camelids, closely related to camels and llamas.  They originate in The Andes, South America.  Their fleece was widely used by the ancient Incas.. archaeologists often find grave goods made from alpaca fibre.  There are 22 recognised fleece colours.  The fleeces don't have lanolin in so they don't feel greasy when raw.. they do tend to be very dusty though.

According to the British Alpaca Society an average alpaca will produce 2.4 kg of fibre per year, sometimes more.  The fibre can be very fine, as low as 15-16 microns.  The finest fibre an animal will produce is in it's first year, as they get older the coat gets coarser.  There are less scales on each individual fibre than wool has, this is what gives its' lustrous appearance.  The fibre is also filled with microscopic air pockets, which not only make it lighter weight but also increase its' thermal properties..  alpaca fibre is warmer, and apparently stronger, than wool!

For this sample I have used raw white alpaca fibre.. I didn't realise it at the time but it was the coarser fibre from the legs and neck.

Laid out to the same size as previous samples (20cm x 20cm) with 3 layers of fibre, and thoroughly felted to achieve maximum shrinkage.

Amazingly, considering that there are less scales on the fibres, it felted really quickly!  The three densley packed layers produced a thick, strong felt.. which feels hard, but soft at the same time..  The density of the felt is hard, but the surface is soft to touch.

Finished sample size: 15cm x 16cm
Weight: 16.2g
Shrinkage: 25% x 20%

Next time: ALPACA project

Friday, 11 April 2014

More Spring Inspired..

I've been felting quite a few tea cosies again recently :)  Here's a few pics
My latest (and current favourite :)
There are so many beautiful blackbirds strutting their stuff at the moment.. I just had to make one
The wings were embroidered then sewn on..
the tail is also embroidered to keep it nice and flat

A chicken with a rather showy, longer tail :)
I made some embroidered wildflower meadow trivets to compliment my
critter cosies.. you can't beat having felt beneath the pot too, really helps keep the heat in.
A March Hare - good for taller, slimmer pots :)
His ears were felted separately and sewn on after..
More lambs and chickens :)
Both of these chooks are in Australia now
And an owl :)
This morning I'm finishing off yet another lamb cosy :)  This one will have wildflowers embroidered around the base and is destined to be an Easter gift..  
I didn't really realise how many cosies I was making until I looked back over the last couple months for this post..  

Have a wonderful weekend.. and for those of you with little ones breaking up for the Easter holidays today - hope you have fun :)  My not so little one (15) breaks up today for 2 weeks.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Granny Squares Update

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was making myself a granny square tunic.. and promised to let you know how it went.

Well, I have to report a dismal failure.. after sewing it up I tried it on .. only to look like a little girl playing dress-up!  I think my mistake was using too big a hook.. the squares stretched way too much when I put it on.  I would probably of been ok if I’d used a 6mm hook, but I had used a 9mm L

So I took it apart and turned it into a throw / blanket instead.. I decided to have a rectangle of squares in the middle with a 3” crochet border all around, surrounded by more granny squares and another crochet border on the outside.  I needed to make extra squares to make it big enough to be useful.. and because of the inner border I had to crochet some rectangular pieces to fill in gaps.. but I actually love the contrast in between the pretty squares. 

Because it is quite big, about 5’ x 6’, it was quite hard to photograph..
I like the borders.. 
And the plain crochet rectangles that fill the gaps
Though it wasn't what I'd planned to make, I rather like my new blanket and with the weather warming up don't mind not having a big snuggly jumper - this will be nice wrapped round shoulders, sitting outside on summer evenings :)