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Alpacas in Tennessee

May 28, 2015

 

For the last few weeks I had the absolute privilege to stay and work at Legacy Acres Alpacas. This farm and mill is run by Linda and Tom, a wonderfully knowledgeable and friendly couple who loves alpacas and yarn. They live in a rural area, about an hour from Nashville in Tennessee.

I contacted Linda and Tom through WWOOF-USA (work as a volunteer/apprentice in organic farms!) and I arranged for a two week stay with them. Their business is a start-to-finish one: they grow the fiber and take good care of their alpacas, process it in their mini-mill and then make beautiful garments. These are probably the most local hats you’ll ever see! Their yarn and felt is absolutely exquisite, made with great care, but also with a creative eye. Blending fibers, making heathered yarns, felting rugs…. they truly take advantage of their diverse herd and of the full potential of alpaca fiber. From hardy rug yarns, to crimpy soft yarn and silky suri alpaca full of drape: everything has a use and is made to shine in their mill. I absolutely identified with their “fiber philosophy” and their balance between simplicity and innovation.

   

We started the days with barn chores, cleaning and changing water buckets against the backdrop of beautiful pastures. Then we spent most of the day in the mill. Helping to operate all the machines was really eye opening. It helped me understand the advantages and limitations of hand spinning and of small scale manufacture. Picking the many bags of wool that the mill receives from its customers (MANY bags!) I really got an idea of what makes for good alpaca fiber and gained transferable skills that I can use with my own fiber. By working and asking questions, I learned more than I could imagine in such a short time.

During breaks and free time I had plenty of yarn and roving to play with and ended up making these two scarfs for the mill’s ready-made collection of products. I wanted to test how this sport weight would behave in both a lacy and a colourwork piece. The result was great and it was a real pleasure to work with fiber that had never even left this farm. The brown yarn comes from an alpaca named Jasmine and the white yarn for the sheep is courtesy of Skipper (I am calling that scarf  “An Alpaca in Sheep’s Clothing”).

I really recommend spending some time working at Legacy Acres. If you enjoy fiber and already work with wool manually, this is just an incredible eye-opener experience. Get on a plane or a bus and come learn! And if you are not familiar with alpacas – you are in for a treat! They are the loveliest animals to work with and really photogenic too. Because they run a rare small scale mill and because they are so knowledgeable and well-respected in the community, Linda and Tom have a really high amount of orders to fulfill. Being able to help them move some of this fiber along and make it usable for knitters and spinners was really rewarding. It reminded me of why I fell in love with fiber processing. Making yarn is a truly magical thing.

 

  

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