Our Alpaca Journey

Laurel Highlands Alpacas was borne out of the love of fabric and how it's made. Our goal is to care for our small herd of alpacas in order to produce the best fiber for you, in all stages, from raw fiber to finished product and to share our process along the way.

White 2 Ply Alpaca Sport Weight Yarn (Hamilton) - Laurel Highlands Alpacas | AlpacaMom.com

Who's Behind the Scenes

I’m Julie Follansbee and I invite you to come along with me on this ever evolving fiber journey. Having grown up in the suburbs, this really is a journey-from house pets to livestock-from being a dressmaker to processing my own fibers-I never saw it coming, but it has enriched our family and I hope to share what I've learned and am still learning with you.

Why Alpaca?

How did a dressmaker and tailor end up scooping alpaca poop and spinning fibers after having a thriving custom clothing business and making custom garments for clients from business executives to opera divas? Well, let me tell you.

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, it stayed in the back of my mind.

After graduation, I went to work for a tailoring supply company known for carrying the most exquisite silks from all over the world, the finest wool suiting from Italy, and small yardages of fabrics used by designers in well known fashion houses. Every once in a while, we would get a piece of alpaca fabric-10 yards if we were lucky- and it was scooped up as quickly as word got out that we had it.

“Like butter” we would say when describing it to our clients, and it WAS! The alpaca suiting's drape was soft and smooth with the the very slightest sheen. It was also strong. In our research, we found that it was a truly durable fabric.

I went on to have a custom dressmaking business where I designed, tailored and constructed custom garments for clients. When my husband took a new job in a different city I put my dressmaking business on hold and we started our family. I plunged into volunteering at church and school and only used my sewing talents for those things (and our family, of course).

It was the early 1990s and alpacas were just becoming a curious addition to farms in the US and we stumbled on a few locally when we took our son to a hayride and pumpkin patch. Who knew you could own alpacas? It wasn't even in my thoughts, but the sight of those sweet and charming alpacas reminded me instantly of the feel of that alpaca fabric.

Eventually we moved to a larger piece of property and began to research alpacas and decided that they were the perfect animal for our land and here we are, still learning after all these years-from animal husbandry to fiber processing.

As with many things, learning by doing teaches 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, and felting the fiber to truly appreciate the fiber, it's qualities and what it can do or how it is best used.

Maybe my experiments and mistakes can save you time with your journey.

White 2 Ply Alpaca Sport Weight Yarn (Hamilton) - Laurel Highlands Alpacas | AlpacaMom.com

From raw fibers to finished products, you'll find a wide range of items on our site so that you can either make your own vision come to life, or choose something already created by us that is exactly what you wanted.

I invite you to come along!