Welcome to this “All About Alpacas” edition of our newsletter for September. It has been an exciting year of growth for our herd of alpacas at Ash Farm (with even more on the way next month!) and we are pleased to be able to share all of our news about these wonderful animals with you this month. Do follow the links as you come to them to get the full story.
But first, a very big “Thank you!” to all of you who came to our inaugural Summer Open Studio last month and made it such an enormous success. We knew it would be good – we wouldn’t invite you otherwise 😉 – but this event surpassed even our high expectations thanks to the hard work of all of the contributors, and to all of you who showed up in tremendous numbers with such enthusiasm and appreciation.
Of course, we have immediately started to ramp up the planning for this year’s Winter Open Studio which will take place on the weekend of 16th-17th November. Much more news on that will be coming your way next month so save the date and watch this space!
But before November comes October when, on Saturday 12th, we will be joining with lots of lovely alpaca owners and enthusiasts from across Wales for the first Welsh Alpaca Show at the United Counties Showground in Carmarthen.
There will be plenty to see, from award-winning animals to stunning examples of what can be produced from their versatile fibre. The event is also being supported by a range of local producers – from beautiful beeswax to willow weaving. This is sure to be a great day out and we can’t wait to take our own alpaca products and be part of the show. Do come along to enjoy this new event in the Welsh craft and agricultural calendar and be sure to stop by our stand and say, “Hello!”
We are especially pleased to be able to take along some of Sian’s latest sweater designs to the Welsh Alpaca Show (most of which are not yet available online), as well as the brand-new range of yarns from which some of the new garments are made.
Following the wonderful appreciation of our silver-grey Rhedyr Yarn (90% alpaca & 10% Bluefaced Leicester) we have extended our range of woollen spun “4-ply” (or fingering) weight yarn with some lovely new colourways. We have also added a very special laceweight worsted-spun yarn. This is a uniquely beautiful yarn with a lustrous sheen and a flowing hand that will knit up to make the most luxurious shawls and scarves of heirloom quality. We also have a limited-edition woollen-spun yarn that is 100% alpaca for the purists among you. This yarn is super-soft and airy with tremendous insulating qualities, making it a great choice for projects to keep you extra warm, such as mitts and hats. These yarns are not currently available on the website – the Welsh Alpaca Show will be their “premier”. Remember, all of our yarns showcase the natural blended colours from our herd; no two batches will ever be exactly the same, so don’t miss the opportunity to add to your yarn stash with these lovely yarns while they are available.
Continuing to grow in all directions!
As those of you who have been with us for a while will know, this has been a really exciting year of growth at Ash Farm – not least of which has taken place in the girth of some of our ladies! We have enjoyed the arrival of several enchanting crias in the herd this summer. Our mums have done a marvellous job of looking after their babies and we have been having a hard time tearing ourselves away from “cria-gazing” – one of the hazards of having them right outside our windows. We do have work to do you know!
Who are these crazy creatures?
Alpacas are part of the camelid family from South America, unknown in the wild, having been domesticated for several thousand years. These highly social herd animals are smaller than their relatives, llamas, and unlike them have been bred entirely for their beautiful fibre, rather than as working animals.
A fine fleece
Their fibre is lanolin free – and therefore hypoallergenic – and varies according to the variety. Huacaya fibre is crimpy and springy, making an elastic yarn perfect for knitting; Suri is crimp-free and has a silky, flowing quality.
The natural fleece comes in many shades; in the UK there are 22 recognised colour variants – twice that of the famous Shetland wool – but in Peru they recognise 52 distinct shades!
Prosecco and Kara
The gestation period for alpacas is 11-12 months; they certainly kept us on our toes guessing when they would arrive this year! Twins are rare – and not to be wished for as twin pregnancies are very dangerous for both mum and babies. Luckily all our crias were solo, healthy and happy deliveries. The average lifespan for an alpaca is 15-20 years so they will be with us for a long time!
We have also welcomed several new adults to the herd this year as we continue to grow and develop the herd in order to continue to select for the high quality fibre that these animals are so well known for. Follow Sian and Ash Farm on Instagram to catch all of the latest on the development of the herd and the design range inspired by these lovely animals.
Whatever your plans are for keeping busy over the coming weeks, we wish you a peaceful and creative start to the autumn and look forward to seeing you again soon at one of our upcoming events.