Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dusk + My Experience with Natural Fibers

50% alpaca, 30% merino, 20% silk.

A couple years back, I got the opportunity to meet the owner of an alpaca farm while waiting for my youngest brother's MEAP* testing to be over. At MVCA's site for that year, parents and family passed the time by chatting about different methods of teaching or just getting to know each other. She was knitting and explained how she raised and sheared alpacas to make hand-spun/dyed yarn. Ever since then, it has been a dream of mine to own some of this yarn. However, because of the work and money that goes into making it, the yarn is pretty pricey, and at the time, I was unemployed, so the self-dubbed "alpaca yarn" was relegated to my bucket list.
 *The MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) is a series of state-required tests that all students take each year; similar tests go by different names in other states.

Recently, however, my dream came true when I finally purchased some alpaca yarn from Camelot Dyeworks in this beautiful eggplant color. It was my first time working with natural fibers other than cotton, and I was absolutely ecstatic to use it. (I'll admit, though, that I initially spent about an hour just staring at it and petting it, but I digress.) I discovered some things, which I'll note here, when comparing it to synthetic:

  • The texture. I was surprised to find that when touching the acrylic yarn in one hand and the alpaca in the other, I could physically feel that one was natural and the other was synthetic. Even though I was using Caron's Simply Soft yarn in comparison, it gave off a "manufactured" feel whereas the natural fibers felt just that--natural.
  • The scent. It might sound strange to smell your yarn, but I couldn't resist putting it up to my nose. Interestingly, I found that with my eyes closed, I was able to tell the difference between the alpaca and the acrylic; synthetic, in comparison, gives off a more "plastic" scent.
  • The color. My favorite aspect of the alpaca yarn is the "flaws" of color, which can be seen in the bottom right picture, indicating that it has been hand-dyed. The whole yarn just has a beautiful look made even more lovely by these tiny variances in it. While store-bought yarn has a consistent color--which is awesome--this gives off a feeling of truly handmade.
I knew when I bought this yarn that the finished product would have to be sold at a higher price (I like to keep lower prices), but in the end I was so in love with this super soft and beautiful yarn and the hat that it made, that I wasn't willing to give it up after I perched it atop my head. (Update: A friend conned me into selling it to her since then.)

However, this doesn't deter me from going back for more. The aforementioned Camelot Dyeworks is a great site and has a wide variety of weights, gorgeous colors, and other yarn-related tools. They even offer classes! Since then, I've found yet another alpaca farm that sells yarn nearby where I live called the Amazin' Grazin' Alpaca Ranch (located somewhat closer than Camelot Dyeworks, which is in the U.P.), which I plan to visit in a future trip. I definitely recommend those who do crochet or knit to take a look at both websites, as well as to look for similar businesses in your area!

Supporting local businesses like these not only helps small suppliers of awesome homemade and handmade crafting and other products but also helps our economy! Know of a place in your area that you'd like to recommend? Comment below!

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