DIY at the Alpaca Farm
Today we welcome Del Ray resident Jen Wills to the blog. Jen’s trip to an alpaca farm is full of DIY inspiration — raising alpacas, spinning yarn, and making beautiful textiles. There are lots of Alpaca farms in Virginia. In fact, one of them, the Heartline Alpaca Farm, is only an hour from Del Ray, an easy and fun field trip for the whole family.
Recently, my family visited an alpaca farm in Brandon, Vermont called Maple View Farm. The farm is not just a place to raise animals, it’s also a mill where owners Ed and Debbie Bratton make wool from start to finish and sell beautiful knitted scarves, hats and blankets.
We met Ed and Debbie in the barn where the alpacas are housed. Some alpacas came up to us, others watched from a distance. Some didn’t bother to even come inside for a look.
During the tour, I learned a bit about alpacas. They are like cats in that they are curious, but only approach on their own terms, which explains why only a few approached us in the barn. A common question is what is the difference between llamas and alpacas. Alpacas are raised for wool; llamas as pack animals. Llamas are twice the size of alpacas and are sometimes used to guard alpacas. This farm did not have any llamas.
Alpacas come in a variety of colors — brown, black, cream. Some called “greys” have two colors. You don’t know what color the babies, or crias, will be until they are born.
In the farm store, a small shed-like building next to the barn, they sell the finished products made of alpaca wool, such as knitted gloves, hats, scarves, felted animals and vests. The kids really liked the finger puppets.
The nearby fiber mill has numerous machines for making felt and yarn, also available for purchase. (They also make insoles for shoes, which we were told is very popular.)
The process to get yarn from wool takes numerous machines — one for washing; one for picking the fiber to remove tangles; one for separating fibers to remove vegetation and tougher guard hairs; one for carding which aligns the strands of fiber to make batts, roving and rug yarn; one for spinning and one for plying the roving to make yarn. The Vermont Fibre Mill & Studio website describes the process more thoroughly.
As part of the tour, Ed and Debbie helped the kids make a piece of artwork with different colored felt using the FeltLOOM machine. The FeltLOOM has 800 needles, which makes for quicker, more even needle-felted products. The kids loved watching the machine work its magic.
The finished feltLOOM piece, which they let us take home with us, made an amazing gift for the grandparents.
If you’re ever in the Brandon, Vermont area, make sure to check out Maple View Farm. Do you have any favorite alpaca farms in the Virginia area?