Alpaca memories

A week before the spinning and Walking Wheel demo at the Alpaca Ranch, I finished spinning the three ounces of alpaca fiber into three cops of singles. Having spun them on Walking Wheel #1 (WW1) I initially tried plying directly from the cops which I had slid onto a lazy kate, but they kept getting hung up. Finally I wound each one at a time into a plying ball, caged each under an overturned flower pot then plyed them quickly using WW3.


After skeining, soaking and drying it measures 156 yards of smooshy skin-soft yarn. This was spun for the experience of spinning 100% alpaca with a Walking Wheel and to have as a sample at the demonstration. not for a project in mind.DSC04175
The day of the demo is as much a blur in memory as it was that day. For almost two weeks I’d been suffering colossal cluster headaches. By the weekend of the demo and OFFF if was almost impossible for me to focus or think clearly. I’m so thankful that they finally tapered off this week with only an occasional one of lower intensity and much shorter duration.

A few intrepid fiber lovers braved the horrid winds and rains to make the journey from OFFF to the demo. Ed had a blast talking with customers and spinning enthusiasts. The small numbers made it  a very relaxing afternoon chatting with friends old and new.

I can’t recall the names of the couple standing on this side of the loom though they informed us they live only a few miles from us and that she’s an avid spinner.  We hadn’t met before. I hope we run into each other again.
Ilisha, the Jazzknitter, was up to her masterful and whimsical spinning. If you’re unfamiliar with her work check out her Chroma Hat pattern which uses dozens of different yarns. She often uses yarns she spun on her Larks and Aegeans.011
Ivy came all the way from Moscow, Idaho! She’s holding Yeti made with alpaca hair.
018Ivy drove to OFFF with Shelley, co-owner and fiber dyer of The Yarn Underground, bringing yarns, fiber, classes and joy to the people of Moscow and surrounding areas.

Shelley is a pro with long-draw spinning. This was her first time with a Walking Wheel but she sure put it through its paces.

Kathy and her husband John also braved the weather to come play with the Walking Wheel. Kathy’s favorite go-to fiber is cotton. She’s a whiz at spinning short fibers into fine yarn with just about any tool that spins. Delights around 23 grams and Larks about 18 grams are her favorites for spinning cotton.
030A few other people stopped by to say hi, buy a spindle or watch the wheel in action. One was an older woman whose dad had been the weaving designer and technician for the Thomas Kay Woolen Mills of Salem (Now a part of the Mission Mill) during the early decades of the 1900’s. She reminisced of riding the street cars to the Mill to watch her dad designing new patterns, setting the looms with the patterns. Another woman told me of an elderly Benedictine nun whose passion had been flax and linen. She encouraged me to try to make an appointment to glean some of her vast knowledge of the Willamette Valley flax industry also in the early to mid-1900s. She thought there were still a great wheel or two stored in the Benedictine Sisters Monastery that Sr Alberta had used in her younger days.

The rain storms dumping on the Pacific Northwest made for high humidity which wrecked havoc with the handspun linen drive-band. Even though it had been stretched taut when drying it, the autumn dampness didn’t do the trick in setting it as had the summer sun. It kept stretching as the wheel was being worked causing all kinds of problems and needs to tweak. We bought proper made-for-drive-band 12 ply cotton cordage at OFFF on Sunday. The wheel is once again in good working order and now wants to find its new home.  Pictures of it and details will be on our Yarn Tools website within a few days.

I almost left the alpaca ranch without remembering to take a picture of any alpacas! This mama and two babies were in the middle of the barn to greet the visitors. It was the end of the afternoon, they were tired of being sociable and only wanted to be turned loose in their field.



Author: Wanda J

I never dreamed my life would be entangled with fiber and the tools used to produce fibery items. When I bought a boat shuttle used in weaving Ed looked at it, decided to make a better one and the rest is history. For a decade he made shuttles, crochet hooks, knitting needles, until his spindles became so popular that he had to devote his time to making them, as well as Walking Wheels. Free time is spent reading, trying to coax food from the ground, and playing in the creek near our place. I love long walks and camping far from crowds. Playing a fiddle beside a stream or with good friends brings sweetness to my soul. Sundays are set aside for worshiping God with our small Quaker meeting.

3 thoughts on “Alpaca memories”

  1. Your alpaca yarn is beautiful, Wanda, as is the new wheel! Ed is such an incredible craftsperson to make a great wheel and tiny spindles, all spinning perfectly. By the way, my little kuchulu comes everywhere with me in its little bag in a former tea tin, which is great protection for it in my bag. Thank you, thank you for wonderful tools!

  2. It sounds like a wonderful festival, in spite of the weather! I love the pictures of the walking wheel in action – I have always wanted to try one. If only we were neighbors, right?

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