HTS Newsletter, April, 2012
Volunteer editor: Gary Lee Phillips, tivo.overo at gmail.com
Our next meeting will take place on Saturday, April 14, at 10:00 am at J4 Alpacas, 7711 West Valley Hill Rd., Bull Valley, IL 60098 (directions available here). Jean and Jim Morgan will show us the details of alpaca production and care. NOTE CHANGE OF LOCATION FOR THIS MEETING ONLY.
May 12 meeting reminder: Alpaca Spinning Workshop.
NEW: You can now subscribe to the HTS newsletter using an RSS reader. Many e-mail programs, such as Thunderbird or Outlook Express, have this capability. The newsletter updates will arrive automatically in your mailbox, ready to read.
<---RSS/XML link for subscription is here.
The deadline for the next newsletter will be April 28, 2012. If you are submitting material for inclusion in the newsletter, I really would appreciate having it by the deadline.
Hi everyone. I talked with Jean Morgan and she and Jim will be expecting the Guild at their place on Saturday, April 14th, at around 10 am. People can gather here and we can go over together, but we may also arrive individually in our own cars, either will be alright with them. Jean says they have ample parking for all of us.
If there is interest in a group lunch somewhere after the tour, that can be arranged at the time. Keep the possibility in mind, at least.
The address we’re going to is 7711 West Valley Hill Rd., Bull Valley, Illinois 60098. I don’t know if they have a sign on the road, but the name of their business is J4 Alpacas, and their website is www.j4alpacas.com.
Our April guild meeting will be a field trip. Toni has made arrangements for us to have a tour of a local Alpaca farm. We will meet there at 10 am on April 14. (See details above.)
Alpacas are members of the Camelid family. Millions of years ago the Camelids first appeared in North America. Fossils found in Florida and the Le Brea tar pits of Los Angeles have yielded almost complete skeletons that very closely resemble Alpacas of today. Originally there were about 20 different types of Camelids. Today, only six varieties remain. They are the Alpaca, Llama, Vicuna, Guanaco, and both the Bactrian and Dromedary camels. Prior to becoming extinct in North America, Camelids may have migrated to the European/Asian continent via the Bering Land Bridge, while they also migrated to South America via the Panamanian Isthmus.
It is estimated that Alpacas were domesticated in the Central Andes over 6,000 years ago. They were used for nourishment as well as for their fiber. The Inca civilization developed a systematic breeding program. They tended the Alpaca, separating them by color and characteristics. (Even Charles Darwin made note of their aiding natural selection during his voyage of the Beagle.) Andean Mythology associates the Alpaca with the Godess “Pachlmana,” — the Earth Mother. Mythology says that the Alpaca were loaned to the Earth for as long as they were properly cared for and respected. Alpaca fiber, highly prized, was known as the “Fiber of the Gods .” Worn by royalty, used as pay for Loyalty of Nobles and for those in the Armies, Alpaca fiber was the most prized fiber and was often used as currency. The textiles were so precious to the Inca that when their Armies were retreating, they would burn the warehouses of Alpaca textiles rather than let their enemies have them.
During the 1500’s the Spanish were interested in the Silver and Gold that South America had. To the local people the Alpaca fiber was more valued. The Spanish felt that the Merino sheep they had were superior to the Alpaca, and they wanted was the silver and gold. To aid in conquering the people of the Andes they slaughtered about 90% of all the Alpacas in South America. There were a few animals that were secretly saved by the locals who took them to a barren, remote area called Alti Plano — High Mountain Desert. There they survived in the wild for years to come.
Alpacas remained largely forgotten until the 19th Century. It was at that time that the Europeans rediscovered them. The Industrial Revolution had made textile manufacturing a very profitable business. Sir Titus of England developed a monopoly on the Alpaca fibers from South America. Royalty had discovered the wonderful textiles and along with the Monopoly, the two ended up making Sir Titus a very wealthy man.
During the years of 1984-1998 Alpacas were exported from Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. Economic and political reasons played important roles in the decision to export animal to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, England and Israel. Today South America still is home to 99% of the world’s Alpaca population.
Alpacas are larger than Vicuna and smaller then Llamas. They have a dense fiber with an average micron count of 25. It is warmer then sheep’s wool, is not scratchy, has no lanolin in it, and is flame resistant. A fleece can weigh between 3.75 to 11 pounds. In South America the Alpacas are usually shorn only every other year. Traditionally shearing would be done with a knife or scissors. Baby Alpaca is the finest and most highly prized fiber. Alpacas come in many different colors. The average life expectancy is 20 years. They stand 32 to 39” at the shoulder and weigh 100 to 190 lbs. At birth the cria weigh 10 to 17 pounds. Gestation is 11.5 months with twins being very rare, and seldom viable. Females do not come into heat, but can breed any time of the year. They are induced ovulators, which means that breeding triggers hormonal changes that stimulate ovulation. Alpacas are social animals and will not do well as a lone animal, though they can do well with sheep and goats. Alpacas have strong heard bonding. If one member is removed or dies, the others will mourn the loss. If the removed animal is reunited with the herd, there will be greetings and a warm welcome back. Having a communal dung pile helps to prevent the spread of parasites, as well as making it easier for the owners to collect and use the manure. Alpacas graze on grass, browse weeds, leaves and shrubs. They do not pull the grass out by the roots. They are able to do well on less food then other animals their size. Having three stomachs helps the Alpaca get the maximum amount of nutrition out of what they eat. Like cows, they do chew their cud. Padded feet make the Alpaca gentle on the land. Alpacas are capable of making several different noises. The most enduring is that of a mother humming to her cria. Sharp eye sight and keen hearing have served the Alpaca well throughout the years. They are very curious, gentle, easy to handle animals. While they may appear very huggable, they do not really enjoy the human touch. Spitting is reserved for when stressed, usually by another animal.
There are two distinct types of Alpaca.
Suri (SOO-ree) make up 10% of the Alpaca population. They may have been more prevalent prior to the Spanish destruction of the Alpaca herds. They would have been tended to and cared for by the local people at that time. Surviving in the wide temperature ranges in the Alti Plano would have been more difficult for the Suri then the Huacaya. Suri fiber is lanky, silky, and long. It hangs as curly locks from the sides of the animals. The fibers can be 6 inches long. As with the Huacaya, it produces fleece in a wide range of colors.
Huacaya (wuh-KAI-uh) account for 90% of the Alpaca population. They have a dense fiber that stands perpendicular to the body like that of sheep. They are better able to tolerate climates with a wide swing of temperature ranges. Breeders are striving for fibers with a micron count of less than 20.
Come on out for our Farm Day. See for yourself what the Inca’s called the Fiber of the Gods.
Alaska's non-profit Musk Ox Farm at Palmer has announced some new support programs for those who wish to encourage the production of musk ox fiber (qiviut) and yarns. You can now sign up as a sponsor for as little as $35 per year, and receive their quarterly newsletter. Sponsors at the $100 level receive additional gifts, including an ounce of qiviut ready to spin.
The farm's programs have helped many native Alaskans to find additional income, as well as preserving the musk ox (known to the natives as oomingmak) and studying its adaptability to domestic production. For more information about sponsorship, see the farm's web pages or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon gave us an interesting and detailed presentation on different varieties of wool at the March meeting. Copies of her handouts and worksheets are still available if you missed it, so contact Toni or Sharon to get them.
Our challenge for 2012 is to make a vest from handspun yarn. The choice of fiber, style, technique, and even size is entirely up to you. The one requirement is that you spin the yarn yourself and then weave, knit, crochet, or use any other method to make a vest from it.
The dates for our exhibit in Harvard are confirmed for the last two weeks in September, Monday the 17th through Saturday the 29th. There will be no judging and no entry fees, and you are welcome to show whatever handspun projects you wish. The vests will be featured in this display, so start planning and get your sheep in a row now. We will also schedule a hands-on spinning demonstration during the exhibit. Last year's session was well-attended and got some folks started on spinning. Perhaps we'll see them again. The library will also welcome any of you who would like to sit by the fireplace and spin or knit during the show.
Programs for the new year are listed below. Some events may still be tentative.
There are now Just 5 months left until all show and challenge projects for 2012 must be complete. Start your planning now.
If you know of an upcoming event, or have a press release or web link, send it to Gary (tivo.overo at gmail.com) in time for the previous month's deadline in order to make sure it gets into the newsletter in time.
Space permitting, members and their friends may submit notices and classified advertisements to appear here.
Did you miss a prior newsletter? It's still available online, right here. Past newsletters are retained online for one year before we retire them to reuse the space.
Are you receiving a monthly e-mail telling you that the newsletter is ready? If not, you need to sign up for the Hollow Tree Spinners e-mail discussion group.
We are running a Web-based newsletter instead of e-mailing the actual document. This should mean that anyone with access to the internet will be able to see the newsletter, regardless of the kind of computer or software they are using. Most public libraries now have internet browser access as well. An e-mail will be sent to members once a month when the newsletter is ready, reminding them to look at it and print it if they wish. Please let us know what you think. E-mail the editor, Gary Phillips, or guild manager Toni Neil with your comments or suggestions.
Meetings are on the second Saturday of each month unless otherwise announced. The newsletter should be ready by the Monday before the meeting. Please submit items, announcements, etc. to the newsletter editor, Gary, at least a full week in advance of the newsletter date (TWO weeks before the next meeting.)