Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I'm Off To Play With Alpacas

Tomorrow I start my journey to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to speak, teach, and autograph my books at the MAPACA Jubilee. This is the shows 15th year and it will be a ton of fun.

The Mid-Atlantic Alpaca Association includes farms up and down the east coast. The very early ancestor of the Camelids, which includes llamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos as well as the camel and dromedary developed in the Great Plains of America but then some traveled across the land bridge to Asia and Africa and some wandered south through Central America to settle in the mountainous regions of South America.
However, they began returning to North America beginning with the efforts of famous newspaper mogul William Randolf Hurst who brought some in to his California estate. In recent years, the popularity of these wonderful animals grew from the level of novelty to wonderful provider of fleece that could be knit into luxury clothing. There is a movement on among the thousands of alpaca farms across North America to get serious about marketing the more than 20,000 pounds of fleece as a group to encourage Americans knitters as well as the garment industry in the US to Buy American. 
The yarn is a "green" product in that it doesn't require a great deal of energy to get it. The animals are shorn every spring to protect them from the heat of summer and will grow a new full coat by the next spring. Since they come in over 20 natural colors, dying is not necessary to knit a wonderfully colorful garment. There is very little oil in the fleece so it doesn't have to be treated by harsh chemicals. But the biggest benefit for knitters (where my interest lies) is that the hairs in the fleece are so fine that the resulting yarn is incredibly soft. 

And so, I shall wend my way south tomorrow to spend a long weekend reveling in fleece, yarn and the excitement of this wonderful show.  I hope to see you all there.

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