Welcome! The alpacas and farm life have become my constant teachers, and I have begun shifting my blog focus to reflect the lessons I am learning. I plan to share more thoughts and stories related to farm life in Grays Harbor County and carve out a space in the ethernet where one can stop, breathe, and think.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Egg Dye is Not Just for Eggs

I know many people who have used Easter Egg Dye and KoolAid for dyeing yarn, but I haven't tried it myself - until now. Today, I invited the preschool class at the local YMCA to come out for a farm tour, and I set up a table with canning jars filled with different egg and KoolAid dyes so the kids could experiment with some small pieces of yarn.

Most of the dye pots were still quite full after the kids left, so I decided it was time to have fun and dye some handspun corriedale yarn that's been sitting around for awhile. I only used the egg dyes for my yarn because I liked the colors. (One tablet of egg dye was combined with several tablespoons of white vinegar in an 8 oz canning jar. I then added enough hot water to fill the jar about half way.)

Yarn simmering on the stove.
The yarn was gently simmered in enough water to cover the yarn, plus some healthy splashes of vinegar. Meanwhile, since the dye pots were cold by this point from sitting around, I picked the colors I wanted to use and put them in the microwave until they were hot. Vinegar is volatile, so I added another splash into each pot for good measure.

When the yarn and the dyes seemed to be about the same temperature, I donned heavy duty gloves, gently squeezed the excess liquid out of the yarn and submerged 3 sections of yarn, one section into each of 3 colors - blue, green, and purple. The dye pots are sitting in a foil pan - more on why later.
Three different sections of the yarn skein submerged in 3 differently colored dye pots.  

As the submerged yarn soaked, I used a paint brush to paint orange onto the exposed white yarn. After all of the white sections were painted orange, I overdyed one section with red and another with yellow to give each section a different orange hue.

Once painting was complete, I poured boiling water into the foil pan (maybe about 1/2 inch?), then placed another foil pan on top to enclose the yarn in a foil pan tent. I figured this would help steam the painted yarn and help set the dye. An hour or so later, I gently squeezed out the excess dye liquids and gave the yarn a rinse in warm water with some vinegar added. The purple dye pot was exhausted, while some color remained in the blue and green pots.
Dye pots after dyeing. Much of the color was removed from the purple and blue pots, with some remaining in the green.

Since we had a sunny, spring-like day, I hung the yarn outside to dry a bit. I'm still contemplating what project I'll use it for. I'm leaning toward a necklace-like item that will show off these fun colors. 
My dyed yarn hanging out to dry.
Ciao for now,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Paca Pedicures

We finished trimming the alpacas' toenails this week. Not a glamorous job, mind you, but a necessary one. Their nails do not get worn down on our soft pasture, and, just like humans, the nails will continue to grow and even start to curl if not regularly maintained.
Alpacas have 2 toes on each foot, which doesn't seem like much until you're the one holding on to the 150 pound animal while they express their displeasure with their legs being touched. I do the holding, while my husband does the clipping. If you're into isometric workouts, I highly recommend this.

Sarcasm aside, it is, of course, an imperative that we maintain the health and well being of our animals. That is why we invite people who are interested in someday owning alpacas to spend a day on our farm. We share everything we know and encourage our guests to actually do some of the tasks that would be required of them as ranchers. Here is a photo of (you guessed it) a recent toenail trimming lesson.

Tooth trimming is next on the agenda. Can't wait! More on that later...

Ciao for now,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Kitchen to Dye For

I am lucky to count Val, dyer extraordinaire, as one of my friends and, now, business associate. Val has many years of silk dyeing under her belt, so I've asked her to start experimenting with dyeing alpaca fiber. No surprise, she jumped right in and is having a lot of fun playing with her dye pots.
I recently had the pleasure of spending the afternoon in her kitchen to watch the process and ogle over the beautiful colors. The test of the day was natural dyes, including madder root (red/orange), osage (yellow), and blueberries (violet/gray).
Madder Root

Val also tried a few different mordants, which can affect both the final color in the yarn and the fastness of the dye (i.e. the color resists fading and washing out). It was a terrifically fun day - I can't wait to experiment some more!

Ciao for now,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


As I mentioned before, I brought along my newest hat design, Kaleidosnow, and some handspun yarn to Alpacapalooza this last weekend to enter into the Fiber Arts contest.

Unfortunately, there weren't many entries, but a win is a win, right? Regardless, I'm still enjoying my first show ribbons with alpacas on them. I gave the hat away as a gift - here's the lucky recipient sporting that hat and the blue ribbon that it earned at the show!

And my variegated alpaca marl yarn won a red ribbon. A win and a place...I'll take that!

Ciao for now,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fleece Show at Alpacapalooza

I'm back! Being a volunteer for the fleece show at Alpacapalooza was more fun and educational than I could have imagined. There's no substitute for putting your hands on 50+ fleeces while noting the comments of an experienced fleece judge. Thanks to all of the staff and volunteers - I had a great time!