I am a dressmaker by training with an obsession for fabric…soft natural fabric. I first read about alpacas when studying textiles, dressmaking and clothing construction 30 years ago at the Fashion Academy of Pittsburgh. There was a small paragraph in a textbook (Textiles: Fiber to Fabric Fifth Edition by Dr. Bernard Corbman) that described the beauty, strength and luster of the alpaca fiber and for whatever reason stayed in the back of my mind. I went to work for a tailoring supply company known for carrying the most exquisite silks from the Orient, the finest wool suiting from Italy, and small yardages of fabrics used by designers of haute couture houses in all of the most fashionable cities in the world! I loved being in that shop, surrounded by such lovely things! Every once in a while, we would get a piece of alpaca fabric, usually blended with wool, but alpaca just the same. I remember it being the very softest fabric -“like butter”, we would say when describing it to our clients. The feeling of that fabric stayed with me all these years. I went on to have a business of my own, tailoring and constructing clothing especially for my customers and then moved to a new city where my husband and I started our family. I put my dressmaking business on hold and plunged in to volunteering at church and school and only using my sewing talents for those things. Every fall we would do the annual hayride and pumpkin search and again every once in a while an alpaca would pop up reminding me of that fabric.
We went to the first annual Alpaca Farm Days at our local alpaca farm and were able to really get up close and examine these peaceful creatures. I felt my blood pressure fall right on the spot because of their gentle humming sound and slow movements. Being with them reignited my passion for all things fabric! I started to study everything about them. We had just moved to a nice 17 acre parcel of land rocky and wooded and full of lots of things that had to be removed. But after much discussion and after visiting many farms, my patient husband was convinced that this was something that we could do to use our land. He has helped me to make our alpaca farm become a reality.
As with many things, learning by doing teach the best lessons. I’m a lifelong knitter and fiber person but I had to learn to process the fiber myself, from assisting with shearing to sorting, washing, carding, combing, spinning and knitting, crocheting, or felting the fiber to truly appreciate the fiber.
Far from an expert, I’m always learning.