Yesterday was a very exciting day--the day our baby alpacas arrived at our farm, their new home. There were several mechanical and transportation problems, but they arrived about noon. Both the boys are about 6 months old. One is weaned the other is still nursing. He brought along his mom for a week or two. She is gorgeous and a lot more friendly than the babies. She has had a lot more time to learn about people and the good things they can do for her--like feed her and give her treats. All three of them were dirty and wet but gorgeous and I loved them all as soon as I saw them.
Unfortunately, yesterday, and today for that matter, were and are very rainy days so the fields are sinks of mud. Mack built a lovely loafing shed for them, but they seemed to like being out in the rain better than being inside. The boys are soaked and taking on a red clay mud hue even though they are a lovely cream or off-white color (excellent for fiber because it can be dyed). Like little kids, alpacas lie down and refuse to move when they are scared. Needless to say we had a little of that going on yesterday, which did impact the color. The mother is brown and doesn't show the dirt at all. She is very well behaved in addition to being a very elegant creature in her looks, bearing and personality.
I have always wanted to have some animals just for their fiber. Since I love everything about the process of making clothes (and taking care of animals) it didn't seem right not to start from scratch. Sheep were what I expected to get eventually--alpacas seemed out of range--and then suddenly the opportunity to have alpacas dropped into our laps and we jumped on it. We have been busy studying up on everything we can find about alpacas. Mack and I are looking forward to learning from our boys as we move forward together on training and everything that comes with raising two beautiful and intelligent additions to our family menagerie. Pictures are below--aren't they cute and ooooh, so wet!
This is Momma Shanna with her baby, Picchu, peaking from behind and pretending he doesn't have ears--a sign he is not happy!
Baby Picchu with a Who Me! look. At least the ears show that he is happy. What about those eyes? It looks like he has been decorating his face with kohl!
Baby Machu with a pole behind his head--no he is not a unicorn and don't you love his serious face.
How do you like the Maggi Knits shawl I have been working on? I absolutely love it! I can't imagine wearing it (ever), but it has been so much fun to work on. The colors and textures are fabulous and the knitting is quick on size 10 needles. The other day when we were driving around during the daylight, Mack commented that the shawl kind of reminded him of the fields we were driving by. The rows and patches looked like fields and the little green tube structures are reminiscent of the big round hay bales when they are stored in long rows.
It is a joy every day to look out on the fields around us, which are absolutely lovely, even during the rain. The fall colors are gorgeous shades of golden brown interspersed with the bright colors of fall leaves (although the leaves are mostly gone now). Farmers have been harvesting corn and soy for the past couple of weeks (out where we live, soy was the big crop this year), trying to get their crops in before bad weather. While driving around we noticed that soy fields are different colors, perhaps dependent on the type of soy that is grown or maybe the color is related to the soil. Some were the same color as golden topaz, others more the color of citrine. After harvest the soy fields all had a hue more common of the citrine.
Looking at the empty fields made me think about the uses of soy. Soy is a wonderful product and looking at the dry pods on the plants doesn't give you any idea of the many uses to which this bean is put. We are all familiar with soy milk and tofu. Those of you who shop at the store probably also have noticed that there are many yarns made with soy.
Soy yarn is made using a chemical process which is supposed to be somewhat green since the chemicals are reused. The yarn or fiber is made from okara, the waste product from tofu, soy milk, and soy oil. ( Using the waste instead of landfilling it is definitely green.) Liquid proteins are removed from the okara using bioengineered polymers. The liquid protein is wet spun through a spineret and then dried. When dry, the fiber threads are cut to length and spun with mechanical spinners. The soy threads can be spun into yarns that are 100% soy or mixed with other fibers to give it different characteristics.
Soy is a beautiful fiber. It has a lovely drape and sheen that compares with silk.
Making fibers from soy is not a new idea. In 1937 Henry Ford, who wore a suit made from soy fabric during this time, made car seat covers from soy. He believed very strongly in soy and promoted soy fuel as well as soy fabric. There was also a soy stuffing material. Fascination with and use of soy materials declined during World War ll.
Unfortunately, none of the fibers in my shawl are soy. Perhaps if I had realized that it would remind me of this summer's soy fields and crop I would have searched to find a soy yarn to include in it.
I have been remiss--I forgot to post the color of the month! It is golden topaz. (or the alternate citrine). Our 40% sale basket is filled with golden yellows and tans that are just right for fall. Topaz is a silicate mineral and comes in most colors. Golden or yellow topaz was believed by the Egyptians to reflect the color of the sun. It also symbolizes friendship and supposedly strengthens a person's ability to give and receive love. How can anyone go wrong with that? We may not have gemstones, but surely the color and thought should have the same effect. According to Wikipedia, the topaz was included in the Gregorian Birthstone Poems from an unknown author and published by Tiffany and Co. in 1870. We quote November's portion of the poem below:
"Who first comes to this world below
In drear November's fog and snow
Should prize the topaz's amber hue
Emblem of friends and lovers true"
Citrine, frequently listed as an alternate birthstone for November, is also a yellow hued stone. It is a form of quartz and ranges from the palest of yellow to a dark amber in color. A beautiful citrine (or I suppose any cirtine, beautiful or not) is a symbol of hope and strength. In the past people believed it had medical powers.
There are many beautiful yarns with the beautiful golden hues of the golden topaz and citrine in the basket including Willow Tweed, Divine and Cashsilk. The colors do remind one of the golden sunny days of fall with the suns rays splashing across beautifully golden colored trees.
On another note, the color also reminds me of my eyes today. Customer's today may notice that I have incredibly yellow eyes, almost the same golden hue as the yarns--unfortunately the color is not attractve in the eyes. No I didn't drink to excess and I am not sick. I had an eye exam and part of the process required an eye dye. Hopefully, it is wearing away. It was pretty shocking when I saw how horrid my eyes
A few years ago a lovely Queensland pattern book by Jenny Watson arrived in the store. We loved all the patterns, but one particularly caught our attention--a cardigan type of garment that looked like a tuxedo because of its short waste and long tails. Some of us wanted to knit it, others thought it was silly. It was different!!
Many of you know that I knit in the evening while my husband watches TV. Sometimes I pick shows! I tend to like period pieces with beautiful, correct costumes. I have watched virtually every adaptation of each Jane Austen novel and love to study the costumes. For some odd reason, I never did any research on fashion from the Regency era (1795-1837) , the time frame in which Jane Austen's novels were set. This week we got a new magazine from Interweave--"Jane Austen Knits 2011." It has some lovely knit patterns, all named for places or characters from Jane Austen's novels--"Mr. Knightley's Vest", "Lydia Bennet Secret Stockings", etc. Included in all the loveliness are several spencers.
Up until this time, I always took spencer to be a name but seeing the "Woodhouse Spencer" , the "Lydia Military Spencer", and the "Evening Spencer" patterns tucked into the Manor, Garden and Town sections of the magazine made me start wondering.
So I did a little research on the web and in some books. The spencer is a type of jacket. It is short, often with military styling, and when worn by women designed to converge with the waistline of empire style dresses. It first came into vogue as a garment for gentlemen. The fascinatingly amusing story is that a Lord Spencer was wearing a tuxedo jacket when he unwittingly stood too close to a fire. The tux tails of the unfortunate lord were engulfed in flames, but he was too thrifty to throw the coat into the ash bin. Instead, the tailless jacket became the style of the day. Sitting down is so much easier when wearing a spencer. There is none of that awkward flipping of the tails. It wasn't long until the spencer style of jacket became fashionable for women as well.
This takes us back to the knit tuxedo pattern with which we started this post--yes, it looked like and was a knit version of a tuxedo jacket. We don't know, at least I couldn't find any evidence, that women ever wore a style of this sort, however, if the tails were removed, it was a perfect spencer jacket which was very popular during the Regency era.
There are no details of Lord Spencer's ordeal but it raises many questions--was stop, drop and roll in place (maybe the servants pushed him over and rolled him across the floor to put out the fire, an inspiration for stop, drop and roll), did he set the carpets or furniture on fire? Maybe some day, there will be additional information on this affair. In the meantime, the "Jane Austen Knits" magazine has some very infomative articles on regency fashion, some delightful projects and some information on the pattern company Sense and Sensibility which features historical fashions.