December 14, 2017

Oh, there are so many things we should be doing…but sometimes things happen that are not procrastinations to be overcome or distractions to be ignored but digressions to be followed. I am practicing identifying and following the digressions, the little trickles of enthusiasm that lead ultimately to the sea of creativity, inspiration and life flow.

Here are a couple of my wanderings amidst the lists and directed activities.

About a month ago, our family visited the Ballarat Show and had the great fortunate to be just in time for a marvellous shearing display. The sheep were Corriedales, but Corriedales like none I had encountered before…the fleece was finer than fine. The farmer passed handfuls of fleece to the children watching. My children automatically passed theirs to me without disturbing the lock structure in the slightest (yes, well trained minions). The fleece looked like Merino but I knew I was definitely looking at Corriedale sheep. The farmer told me, he was breeding for fineness as those fleeces get a better price and at 26 micron, the fleeces were matching the lower end of Merino!

The kids sat for another round of fleece handfuls which went straight into my handbag and when we got home, I washed them and spun them and knitted up a wee swatch.

The yarn is elastic like Merino but easier to spin, more like Polwarth. It blocked beautifully. If I wanted to make a fine, heirloom shawl, I wouldn’t worry about Merino, I would track down that farmer and get some of that Corriedale. It was superb.

My next little foray didn’t look so auspicious. I had ordered a bag of ‘fine white alpaca’ from a secondary school in Melbourne where a friend teaches. They raise alpacas and were selling their annual shearing at $10 a bag. I thought a bag of white alpaca would be handy for blending and if it was full of chaff or really coarse, well $10 is not a big risk. The fleece I got was from an alpaca called Skywalker and looked like this.

If you are an alpaca newbie like me, you might be a little underwhelmed at this stage especially if you saw it in the bottom of a feed sack. I was expecting short crimpy staples, not matted, lanky hair. Well…it turns out this is Suri alpaca, not the more common Huacaya. Suri fibre is long, lustrous like silk and fine like cashmere but alpacas like to roll and Suri fibre gets matted with dirt. It is the ultimate diamond in the rough. After washing, and washing, I spun up a soft, woollen two ply laceweight.

It feels just wonderful and the colour is a beautiful, dusty beige. At eight times warmer than wool, this would make an incredible light, warm layer in winter. Unlike the Corriedale, the Suri has no elasticity so blocks and drapes amazingly well as lace. I also want to try combing and spinning from top, for a true worsted that highlights the lustre. It is so lovely, I can think of several projects already I’d like to spin this Suri for.