Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gradient Dyeing

So my latest obsession is gradient dyeing fiber!  I think it is so cool what you can produce!  I try to do tonal colors (meaning one main color) and vary the amount of time it is in the dye bath.  I think it produces dramatic effects that are so much fun to spin. 

The following pics are all dyed on 100% Falkland Wool Top 56s which is a next to skin soft 26 microns.  They can be dyed on any top or roving (wool, alpaca, silk etc), but Falkland is such an easy and soft fiber to work with and I have a ton of it :)

Right now they are for sale in my Etsy Shop only, but will be on the main website soon . . . . so far I have played with blues, pinks and purples. . . my next venture is into greens and oranges for the upcoming "harvest fest" . 

What do you think?

Singin' the blues™

Bubblegum Blush™

Bubblegum Blush™

Caribbean Waters™

Caribbean Waters™

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dante's Scarf - Part 2

Finally have time to get back and finish my series in how an alpaca (or any fiber) goes from growing it to a garment.

If you did not read Part 1 of the series -- here it is.

I have already discussed:
- Shearing
- Skirting/Sorting/Grading the fiber
- Washing
- Prepping the fiber (we combed the fiber in this case)

Step 5  - Spinning the prepared fiber (in this case - hand-pulled top).  For this step, you will need a spinning wheel or a spindle to spin the yarn.  While I will not get into all the intracies of spinning in this particular post - I spun this yarn in a 2 ply Heavy Worsted or Aran weight yarn.  It came out to 9 WPI (wraps per inch).

First I had to make single (1 ply) . . .
This was done several times
to get enough yardage for the scarf


Then I plyed these two singles together to make
a well balanced yarn

Then I wrapped it on my niddy noddy and tied it to get ready to set the twist
Step 6 -  Setting the twist or setting the yarn is simply getting the yarn wet in warm water, you could also use some dawn if you think it is still dirty, but remember NO agitation.  I take the yarn off of the niddy noddy and hold it in the air, if it does not twist on itself, then I know I do not need to weight it. I soak the yarn in warm water for about 10-15 minutes.  I squeeze out the excess water (NOT wring) and then wrap it in a towel to get out as much water as possible and then hang it on a hook in my studio.  You can also use the neck of a clothes hanger. 

Here is the yarn after the twist is set
As you can see from the finished yarn (and there were several skeins), that there is a variation in the yarn - it does not look like commercial yarn or yarn from a mill.  That is how I like to spin, I like it to look like hand spun yarn.

Step 7 - Knitting the Scarf - you ideally should have picked out your pattern (or created one) prior to spinning the yarn.  Sometimes I spin without a project in mind, but the best method is to spin WITH a project in mind.  I wrote the patter FIRST, and determined what my WPI and yardage would need to be and then I sat down to spin.  Here is the scarf before blocking.  It is a Broken Basketweave™ pattern.  You can see how the edged are not completely level.  Some of this has to do with the hand spun yarn, but most can be taken care of with blocking.
Here is the scarf BEFORE blocking - the pictures shows both ends placed on top of one another
Step 8 - Blocking the scarf - blocking is a method that allows the pattern to "come alive", lay flat and get as even as possible.  I soak the scarf in warm water for about 10-15 minutes (again you can use dawn or laundry detergent if you would like to wash it).  I squeeze out the excess water (NOT wring) and then wrap it in a towel to get out as much water as possible.  Since this is a scarf and finished was 60 inches long, I used my ironing board as a blocking board.  I laid the scarf on the board and fussed with it until it looked all aligned and "blocked" (square/rectangular in this case).  You can use pins to set the shape, but I don't for heavy garments such as this . . . but they are essential for drapey shawls etc.

Once the scarf was dry - I did an additional "Steam Set" with my iron to weight it down further and to try to get it all nice and square.   Be careful NOT to singe the garment, especially a light color like this one.

Now you can see by the pictures that the scarf is not 100% square and that is due to the nature of the hand spun yarn, and again, I like it like this.  If you do not then when you spin, make your yarn more consistent and even with no thick or thin spots. 

Finished scarf after blocking - I LOVE the way it turned out and so did my client !

Close up of the pattern - Dante APPROVES!!!
Step 9 - Wearing and washing - from time to time - you will want to wash your scarf.  Since this particular item is 100% alpaca - you will want to hand wash and dry flat.  Blocking may be needed again to "correct" the shape. 

Next post - the pattern . . .

stay tuned

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Open Farm Day - Sept 29-30, 2012

Come join us for open farm weekend at our NEW farm, Sept 29-30, 2012 10am-4pm both days.  Lots of things to see and do!  Lots of yarn and products available. Come see what is happening with the new store, what we have planned etc.  Bring your knitting or spinning and stay awhile.

For all details and directions, click here

Don't disappoint this face :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

NJ Sheep and Wool Festival

We will be at the NJ Sheep and Wool Festival Sept 8-9, 2012. It is at the Hunterdon County Fairground in Lambertville NJ. Directions and maps on the festival site.

It is a great festival full of great vendors and community. Over 60 vendors are currently on the list. We will be in barn #4.

Come out and join us for some knitting, spinning and fun !!! Make sure to stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Alma Park to Attend 3rd Annual Bayside Basketry (& Fiber) Bash - Saturday August 11, 2012

Alma Park was at the inaugural event and we keep coming back!  It is such a fun day in such a great location.  Come out to the Barnegat Bay Lighthouse Center on Saturday August 11th from 10am to 4pm to shop, enjoy the scenery or just hang out.  Click here for all the info. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dante's Scarf - Part 1

A head shot of Dante after being shorn in May 2011

I make alot of custom items for visitors, customers and people all over the country who get to chose the fiber right from an animal.  Since we have just sheared (May 18-19), I thought I would share the process by which an animal (in this case Dante), goes from fluffball to scarf.  
Dante (beige male when he was 5 months old) with
his mom Sienna, Bobo (black male) and Lil Debil (brown male)

Step 1
- Shearing the animal  (although this is not Dante - you get the idea).  Click here for the blog post on shearing and to see pictures.

Step 2 - Skirting/sorting/grading the fiber - I have not finished my skirting video series - but here is a good intro to skirting by Wade Gease - an alpaca judge.  Click here for the blog post about it and the video. 

Step 3 -  Washing the fleece (this process is for alpaca, if you have sheep it is slightly different).  After the fleece has been skirted, sorted, graded and blown out to remove even more debris, I take the fleece that I will use for a certain project and wash it.  You can wash in a sink, bath tub, muck bucket or old top load washer. Whatever the vessel is that you use, the process is the same.
  • Add detergent to the vessel (I typically use regular blue Dawn dish detergent).  You can also use many of the wool washes on the market or laundry detergent, but I like Dawn the best.  Just remember, you want to use the regular, un-concentrated Dawn without any of those enzymes boost chemicals. 
  • Add hot water (so that you can put your hands in it without saying ouch) and swish it around to distribute the soap.   You are not looking for bubbles, just distribution of the soap.
  • Now add the fleece.  Sometimes I put the fleece in a mesh bag (if I am doing more than one fleece at a time in a large vessel) and sometimes I just put it directly in the water.  Push the fleece down gently so that it all gets wet and is submerged.  DO NOT agitate.  Leave for 30 minutes.
  • Take the fleece out - DO NOT wring it.  Just take it out and put it aside and repeat the wash step again.  Again leave for 30 minutes. 
  • Take the fleece out - DO NOT wring it. Just take it out and put it aside.  Now fill the vessel with hot water again (rinse the vessel out if necessary).  This is the rinse cycle.  Push the fleece down again without agitating.  Leave for 30 minutes.  The rinse I typically do 3 times. 
  • Here is Dante's fleece in the sink being washed. 
    This was on one of the rinse cycles.
  • After the 3rd rinse.  Take the fleece out, squeeze (don't wring) out the fiber and roll it up in a big bath towel to remove the excess water.  Now lay somewhere to dry.  I sometimes use my skirting table, an old sheet out on the lawn or my new favorite, a drying rack I made.  
My process is typically 2 washes and 3 rinses.

Step 4 - After the fleece is dry (and it MUST be dry), we begin prepping the fiber by either combing or carding it.  You can use hand carders, drum carders, blending hackles, whatever to prep your fiber.  For this particular batch of fiber (Dante), it was so fine (approx 19 microns)and it had some VM in it and I quite frankly I didn't want to stand at my drum carder, so I sat and relaxed with my combs and hackle :) 

Here is the fiber all dry and fluffy.  At this point you can pick it or go straight to combing or carding. 

I chose to skip picking and go straight to combing.  Here is the fiber on my hackle.  As you can see it is all jumbled up, some  vm and a general mess. 
After combing the fiber looks like this.  This was combed off the hackle and then loaded back to the hackle and combed again. 

I then dizzed off the fiber into nice little roving strips.   Doesn't it look beautiful !!!

 And here is a birds nest of roving ready to be spun.

Once I have enough fiber made into hand pulled roving (or if you were carding it, enough batts), I then move over to my spinning wheel to spin up some yarn.

My Next post:

- Creating a pattern (the pattern will be available to purchase as well) 
- Spinning the yarn
- Setting the yarn
- Knitting the scarf
- Blocking the scarf

Stay tuned . . . . 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Some updates on the new farm and store

Wow - so much to do and so much to catch up on!  For my readers both here and Facebook, I know I have been absent, but moving the entire farm is ALOT of work!  Now it is May and we are getting ready for shearing again and I have to say I am a bit overwhelmed !

Just thought I would share some pictures with you of the new farm over the last couple of months.  I haven't had any recent pictures, but on the first nice spring day, I will take some pics of the pacas in the pastures and share them with you as well.  For now enjoy pics from the last couple of months.

Soon as shearing is over (May 18-19), we will be working live busy bees on the store - woo hoo, that has me really excited! 

The Old Barn - Circa 1900 - Picturesque but not made for alpacas (Fall 2011)

The Road going to the new barn and store - some pacas watch the progress to the right (Fall 2011)
The barn from the boys side - plenty of room inside and out (Jan 2012)
The store (attached to the barn) 1200 sq ft yarn store and 400 sq ft fiber studio - can't wait until this is complete (Jan 2012)
The grass growing in the pastures and hay fields (Fall 2011)

Alpacas in the News (again) - CBS Sunday Morning

CBS loves alpacas - they have had several reports on them through the years - here are a few videos that I think are worth a look. 

December 1, 2008 --  Peggy Parks   (Johnstown, PA) click here to view - this video is a little outdated with prices etc, and does talk about the "emu bubble", but does talk about the positives.  (Originally on CBS evening news)

March 16, 2011 - Alpacas on CBS in Australia - an alpaca gets amorous behind the reporter - funny - click here to view.  Talks about the different types and is quite amusing as well.

May 11, 2011 - Not really news (and wasn't on TV), but a cute video of a sleepy cria - click here to view - just darn cute

March 25, 2012 - Amber of Colorado and  Bill and Lori from Harley Hill Alpacas in (Quakertown, PA) talks about alpacas for fun and profit - click here to view - this video is more up to date and talks about fiber, taxes, nutrition and thier "Muppet" like qualities. (Originally on CBS News Sunday Morning)

Click Here for a blog post on other great alpaca videos from TV and around the web.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Inventory Clearance Sale - going on now !!!

In anticipation of my new bricks and mortar store opening in the spring - I am
having an inventory clearance sale on in stock merchandise. I want to clear out
as much of my current inventory as I can to make way for new fun stuff! Most
Yarn 40% off and spinning fibers 25% off.

No coupon needed - the site has been updated.  

Yarn Link -

Spinning Fibers Link -

You can also email me or call (info on the website). . . any issues with
ordering - please contact me. Happy Shopping!

The Yarn Shop at Alma Park

40% off all the following yarns :
Araucania Aysen
Araucania Coliumo Multy
Araucania Rehue
Araucania Toconao
Araucania Ranco
Berroco Seduce
Berroco Seduce Colors
Berroco Comfort DK
Berroco Comfort DK prints
Berroco Vintage
Debbie Bliss Fez
Debbie Bliss Como
Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino
Debbie Bliss Pure Silk
Ella Rae Classic
Ella Rae Latte
Ella Rae Lace Merino
Filatura Di Crosa Tempo
Filatura Di Crosa Zara
Knitting Fever Indulgence Sock Yarn
Knitting Fever Marshmallow
Knitting Fever Flounce
Louisa Harding Nautical Cotton
Malabrigo Hand Spun Kettle Dyed 100% Angora
Mirasol Akapana
Mirasol K'acha
Mirasol Tupa
Mirasol Sulka
Mirasol Miski
Noro Bonbori
Noro Silk Garden
Noro Vintage
Tahki, Stacy Charles Mia
Tahki, Stacy Charles Good Earth Cotton
Tahki, Stacy Charles Montana
Tahki, Stacy Charles Superior Cashmere / Silk Blend

20% Off
The Alpaca Yarn Company Astral
The Alpaca Yarn Company Classic Alpaca
The Alpaca Yarn Company Classic Alpaca Lite
The Alpaca Yarn Company Halo
The Alpaca Yarn Company Paca Paints
The Alpaca Yarn Company Paca Peds
The Alpaca Yarn Company Paca Peds HT
Paca Peds Semi Solids
The Alpaca Yarn Company Paca Cinta
The Alpaca Yarn Company Suri Elegance
The Alpaca Yarn Company Swizzle
The Alpaca Yarn Company Glimmer
The Alpaca Yarn Company Paca de Seda
The Alpaca Yarn Company Snuggle

20% off all Alma Park Exclusive Yarns

25% off all spinning fibers
Ashland Bay Fibers
Synthestics (sparkle)
Hand Painted top and hand made batts