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Alpacas, spinning wheels, and a sheep named Ferdie!

April 26, 2012

This week’s guest blogger is kind of in my neck of the woods! Meet Kris of Green Mountain Spinning Wheels! Before you get started, would you be a doll and visit her facebook page and show her some “like” love;) www.facebook.com/pages/Green-Mountain-Spinning-Wheels/134939456557904

 

You’re the best! And don’t forget, tell us what you think.. I love love love reading your comments!

xoxo

Nicole

An Otter Creek wheel being tested before shipping.

Hi, I’m Kris Francoeur of Green Mountain Spinning Wheels.   My family has a small herd of fiber alpacas, a ram named Ferdie, a small flock of chickens, our dog and cat, and lives in beautiful Addison County, Vermont.  The alpacas came to live with us more than 8 years ago in the middle of a very cold and snowy January.  That spring, we sheared them for the first time, and I thought I’d be able to spin all of their fiber with my trusty drop spindle. If I was still just using a drop spindle, I would still be spinning the fiber from that first shearing!  Afraid we would be overrun with fiber, Paul bought me an inexpensive spinning wheel.  Within a couple months, Paul (a cabinet maker and fine woodworker) decided he was going to make me a wooden spinning wheel.  Over the next months, Paul researched and built several wheels.  Once we had a design we liked, we had other spinners test it and then worked hard at finding local materials for the entire wheel.  We then began to sell our wheels, spinning accessories, and fiber on our website www.greenmountainspinningwheels.com, as well as selling our handspun yarn and knitted goods through farmers’ markets.  To this day, it is still a completely family business – Paul makes the wooden products, we all care for the animals, the kids help with the website and marketing, and I handle most of the fiber business.  We love being able to run our business from home, and have the luxury and fun of watching our farm animals in their lives — Ferdie can make anyone laugh with his antics, and he is a huge Jimi Hendrix fan!

Silver silk sari ribbon spun with mixed fiber batt

After I got really good at spinning our alpaca fiber, I wanted to try spinning silk with it, and came across the Darn Good Yarn site.  One of my favorite things to do is to spin one bobbin full of my alpaca or alpaca/wool fiber and ply it with DGY sari ribbons or yarn.  To spin a sari ribbon/alpaca yarn, you need to:

  1. Decide on which sari ribbons you want to use – for this project I chose silver and gold ribbons.  I used two skeins of ribbons for the scarf shown.  You could also use the silk yarn.
  2. Decide which alpaca or alpaca/wool rovings compliment the silk. For the silver, I used a mixed fiber batt (alpaca, wool, kid mohair), and for the gold I used a dark brown suri/huacaya alpaca blend.
  3. Spin the rovings into a single ply – for this project I spun the rovings clockwise.  Once the bobbin is full, let it sit overnight to set the twist.
  4. Ply the sari ribbon with the ply of alpaca – spinning them counterclockwise.

Silk sari ribbon ready for spinning with the mixed fiber batts.

  1. Once all has been spun into two-ply ribbon/alpaca yarn, let it sit overnight again.
  2. Knit with it! For the scarf shown:
  • Using size 13 needles, cast on 8 stitches.
  • Knit 2, Purl 2 ribbing for 4 rows.
  • Knit all additional rows until the scarf is the desired length.
  • Bind off, and tuck in all ends.  (Note, sometimes I add K2P2 ribbing at the end as well – it depends on my mood!)
  • Wear it, and proudly let everyone know that you both helped reduce waste silk from being thrown away, and used local fibers!

 

 

Our silver and gold silk sari ribbon/alpaca scarf!

So, after you’ve completed that project, here are 10 facts about us:

 

  1. After you become comfortable with spinning, it is so relaxing, it can be meditative.  At first I stunk at spinning, but after a tutorial with a friend, it has become a daily and treasured part of my life.
  2. I love to knit – I have knitting in my purse or with me at all times. I knit through baseball games, meetings, and just riding in the car.  I try to crochet, but I have to think really hard about it while crocheting, so it isn’t as much fun for me.
  3. Our kids are amazing – one is a chef at an outstanding local restaurant, one is the manager of an organic flower farm in Burlington, one is studying conservation in college and wants to be a homesteader, and one still lives full-time at home and is a fabulous athlete and artist and makes most of our color choices for us.
  4. Addison County is a great place to live – farms are everywhere, no one minds being behind a tractor on the highway, and instead of thinking that you’re crazy for wanting to start a spinning wheel business, people ask how they can help.
  5. Paul can build anything, or fix anything, and when he does, the “thing” looks good and works well.
  6. Wet alpacas and sheep smell bad.
  7. Chickens, sheep and alpacas are happy living together.
  8. Alpacas naturally form a guard-duty at night, rotating through the herd, with one keeping watch over the others.
  9. We were thrilled to recently learn that Queen Victoria loved to spin.

10.  Shearing day makes us all dirty, smelly, and itchy, but we love being together as a family for the process – some of our kids’ friends now join us for the laughter and the sense of accomplishment.

 

We love visitors to our website at www.greenmountainspinningwheels.com or on our facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Green-Mountain-Spinning-Wheels/134939456557904 — we’d love to hear about your adventures in spinning or crafting in general.  Thanks for letting us share your day!

3 Comments

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  1. Rachel Biel says:

    How cool that the two of you know each other like this! It’s really wonderful to see the sharing of knowledge, etc.

    I enjoyed reading more about how you got started, Kris!

  2. Lissie says:

    SO cool! I am longing to learn how to spin!!

  3. Valerie says:

    I LOVE IT! We have a small alpaca herd, & I just sent our fiber off to three different mills in the past two days for processing.(they all do different parts of the fiber-1st, 2nds, & 3rds). I did send DGY’s silk thrumbs to add to some of the fiber, but after reading this, I wish I would have gotten some sari silk ribbon to add-next year. Learning to spin is on my bucket list. Thanks for writing such a great article. Alpaca fiber is so much fun to work with and it feels so soft! It’s all good, back to nature raising your animals, green harvesting of their fiber, processing it, helping other small businesses to survive, and selling your special final product. GREAT!

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