Don’t hate me, but we seemed to have skipped over Winter entirely this year. Oh, there were a couple of weeks when the mercury dropped below freezing, but we had no snow or even freezing rain and I am not complaining, believe me!
How can I be sure? The birds are back and the Spring flowers are up and blooming. Flowers can be fooled, but the birds can’t – they’ve been waking me up in the morning for the better part of a week now, so I can be pretty sure Spring is here to stay. Please don’t shoot me if we get a foot of snow tonight – sometimes my life just goes like that.
What better way to celebrate Spring than a Wool Sale! What? It’s a Real Thing. It IS.
Posting over at Starting Over Designs today if you’re here for an update. Something more in line with the usual theme here tomorrow…
I almost never post pictures of myself here. I’m usually behind the camera and there aren’t many photo taking opportunities, but Saturday found Awana and I at an outdoor Fiber Event. I thought the natural light would be great for taking pictures and Awana was willing to take some shots.
I wore my favorite yellow linen tunic – the one that makes me look thinner than I really am. I was very careful with breakfast so as not to slobber all over myself.
We arrived at the venue unsoiled. And then IT happened. We were putting up the pop-up for the first time and I managed to whack myself square in the mouth with the top of the upright while trying to make it “snap easily into place.”
Awana says I cried a little, but I have no memory of that part. I do remember feeling carefully with my tongue and being grateful I hadn’t broken a tooth. Fuck! My lips started swelling on the spot and I hoped that I wouldn’t end up looking like a loser in a boxing match.
Favorite shirt? Check. New prescription shades? Check. Big ol’ fat lip? Also check.
Sigh. The shades are cool, though, right?
Where did all those gray hairs come from? What about the “anti-glare coating” these glasses are supposed to have?
I did get hit on by a lesbian, so it must not have looked that bad…
Quite a difference, yes? I am continually amazed at how different the same animal looks once you cut all their hair off – one brown boy from yesterday is totally black under all that hair! Don’t think I got a picture of him, but if Awana did I’ll post it another day.
Here’s my view of the shearing operation when the alpaca is almost finished –
From left to right, Dave is trimming toenails, Awana is holding the head while Mo trims the topknot to make him look snazzy. This is a moment when I can stop and take a breath before the dismount operation. I really should find an extra body to take some video.
This shot will give you an idea of how much hair the alpaca grows in just one year:
This is Lucky, who has one dark spot in an otherwise white coat. The fleece is ~4″ long, not the longest of those we’ve sheared so far, and not the shortest – some of the older females only have 1.5″ of hair, all of their extra calories going to nursing babies instead of growing a long, lush fleece.
So. The shearing continues. 65 done 30+/- left to go, including “Glowie,” who will be last as she is a total nightmare but they won’t say exactly why…
Can’t come to the blog right now, I’m shearing alpacas.
Didn’t expect to read that here, did you? I think I’ve mentioned before that I have some rather…odd…hobbies and now I can add “alpaca shearing” to my resume.
Why in the world would I be shearing alpacas? So happy you asked. The shearer charges $25 per head to come out and shear alpacas. If you have a large herd this quickly becomes a big chunk of change and alpaca ranchers start looking for ways to do it themselves on a more reasonable schedule. The animals must be confined in a catch pen and you need to have enough people to catch, restrain and release the shorn animals as well as people to collect and sort the fleece as it comes off the animal. Crazy as it probably sounds to you, hand spinners will pay $4.00 per ounce for clean, crimpy alpaca fleece. I won’t go into the details here, but if you have clean animals with long, crimpy fleece, you can make a few bucks if you can get it to your target audience. More on that on Starting Over Designs when this madness is concluded.
So. Shearing alpacas. How, you might be wondering, does one shear an alpaca? First of all, it requires at least three people – one to wield the shears, one to hold the head and one to manage the rest of the straps. The alpaca is walked quietly into the barn and positioned next to a special shearing table. A belly strap is then secured to both alpaca and table, the table is gently rotated to the horizontal position and the alpaca’s legs are secured using special straps, holding the legs out fore and aft to ensure the skin is stretched taut for ease of shearing and preventing cutting the animal. Shearing commences, starting with the belly and over to the spine, then hip, back leg, shoulder, front leg and neck. Scissors are used on the head and then the animal is turned over to do the other side. Easy-peasy.
Unless…you have a young, feisty boy who has never been sheared before. Maybe he hasn’t even spent time inside the barn. You then have a Dali-esque rodeo, the alpaca’s neck going every which way while his feet kick out in four directions at once. You can’t even imagine how freaky they look if you haven’t seen it. Strapping down this type of alpaca is an exercise in patience and perseverance. Generally speaking, once tied down they will lie quietly. Mostly.
Then there’s the big alpaca who knows he’s strong enough to resist the efforts of one person. He’s stronger than two people. He’s just as strong as three people and there is no fucking way he’s getting onto that table and where are the females, anyway? He was promised a female if he went into the barn and ain’t no fucking way anything else is gonna happen until he gets his female! He is not, however, stronger than four determined people and ends up strapped down like the rest.
The pregnant females have to be handled carefully because it turns out alpacas are quite delicate when preggers and can spontaneously abort if they get too stressed. Great. They spend a maximum of 20 minutes on the table and the shearing isn’t pretty – on, sheared, off.
As if those weren’t enough reasons to call me crazy for getting involved with this little project, there are the screamers. Oh, my! You know that sound your cat makes when you step on its tail? Take that sound, push it up an octave, turn the volume up to 117 and make each cry last 15 seconds. Punctuate screams with foul green slime projectiles and you have Mae West and Satin Doll. OMG. Those two screamed the entire time they were on the table and spit in all directions. We put a sock on their noses to contain the nasty mess, and they spent every ounce of energy they could trying to get the socks off. I think they would have made less noise if we’d actually eviscerated them. Their fleece is nice, but if they were mine they would be on the next trailer to the auction based solely on their attitudes! Here’s a little sample so you get the idea –
The girls were considerably more shrill than this, but that’s the basic sound.
All this to say I’ve been busy. Working full time. Trying to exercise Sabu enough that she doesn’t lose her mind. Shearing alpacas every spare moment. Not doing dishes or vacuuming, obviously.
27 down, 70 to go. Not even kidding. Posting will likely be sporadic until the end of the month.
The weekend went well. Ran full out for three days, but it was worth it in the end. The Spin-In went well and I finally got my entry into the longest thread contest – it’s this Crazy Thing that spinners do where we’re all given a set weight of a certain fiber and whoever can spin the longest two-ply thread wins. There is a cash prize and bragging rights for a year 🙂
How do y’all feel about writing contests? A woman I do Internet Stuff for is having a short story contest – 1,000 words or less and it must have a dog in it. I’m thinking about posting the details here because so many of you are writers. What say you?
Propane ran out at 0300 this morning. I was putting off getting the tanks re-filled until after work today. Poor decision on my part. Luckily the frigid temps the weathertards are predicting don’t arrive until tonight. Unluckily, after the furnace woke me trying to cycle on, Sabu and Revy were UP for the day. I had a hard time convincing them that the propane place doesn’t open until 0500 and we could sleep until then. Really. Couple more hours, ‘k? They were having none of it, the trailer smelled of propane anyway and we were up. Sigh.
Sabu and I are headed for the beach and the Newport Spin-In, car loaded to the gunnels with fiber and stuff for sale. Hopefully there will be room in the car on the return trip.
I am woefully behind in my blog reading and comment responding and I hope you’ll forgive me – the week has been crazy busy. But, hey, I launched the new website – Starting Over Designs. It’s still rough, but I printed out business cards to hand out so there should be a website to look at, right? More details and stuff next week.
Everyone’s doing it, so here’s my submission to Coke’s sweater contest –
Obviously I went for the Tacky Christmas Sweater genre with a smattering of Cat Fancier. Add some traditional snowflakes and some very nontraditional music notes, et viola! If only there was an option for sequins or flashing lights. I suppose those can be added later because I’m just crafty enough to Make It Work.
Vote for me and I’ll post pics. Hell, if I win, I’ll make everyone I know put it on and pose for pics for the sole entertainment of my readers 🙂
The call finally came on Saturday just before noon – my new studio space upstairs from the yarn shop was finally move-in ready! I was over the moon. Being the sort of person to get cart before horse, the car was already loaded to the gunnels (mixing metaphors just for fun 🙂 ) and Sabu and I set off.
Bridget is set up in her corner:
Two trips from Towanda, up 20 stairs (one by one because they’re heavy,) around two corners and the bins are installed the walk-in closet, lids open and Febreeze liberally applied to (OMG I hope!) get rid of the smell of the narc’s house:Whew! There’s more, but there was only time for a few pics as Awana and I were off on the next adventure (Jo-Ann’s, St. Vinnie’s and lunch) before the rain started to fall. This is a very good beginning to being set up to sew whenever inspiration strikes and being able to leave projects laying about without worry. Sigh. This makes me so very happy!
I have a fondness for vintage sewing machines – this is the first to move into the new space, a classic Elna Transforma:
This machine is small in size, but weighs a ton! It has a case that folds out into a “table” that looks to be impossible to use. No foot pedal with this one – the wire looking thingy in front there folds down over the edge of the table to be operated by your knee. It needs a little rubber wheel replaced (wheel and instructions are inside the case – just haven’t found the time yet) and a good cleaning & oiling and she’ll be up and running.
This particular model (if y’all are interested, and I understand if you’re not – it’s an odd love, I know) has a module that the sewist could order and have installed at their local sewing machine repair shop that enables you to make fancy stitches. This machine, alas, it the very basic straight stitch version, although if I could find the module it could be installed (I hear it’s a real PITA) if there are any OSMGs (Old Sewing Machine Guys) in town. A project for another day!
For now, I’m so happy I can breathe in Studio T at home and projects can finally move forward inside the Starting Over Designs studio 🙂
Here’s your first look at my new studio space (provided LeAnn really doesn’t mind that I took the Western exposure) –
The room is 10′ x 15′ and the former tenants left two small file cabinets behind.
The walls need a bit of touch-up paint before I put furniture in, but that’s no big deal.
The walk-in closet is just over 6′ square with shelf and rod along each side, and even a small window!
It’s perfect and I can’t wait to get moved in. I got the okay to store stuff there if I want to, so I can finally think about ripping out Towanda’s carpet and replacing it with something that’s easier to clean. I’m thinking about a paper floor.
The yarn shop is pretty much moved, shelves re-assembled and yarn ready to be put back on them, but things don’t fit as neatly as Maurine thought they might, so there will likely be a lot of re-arranging going on. The former tenants also left some desks and chairs, one of which I may procure for myself as Maurine has no interest in them.
I’ll keep you all informed, since I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seats to see how this project comes together. I know I am!