Yesterday we bastardized some beautiful black alpaca fibre by blending it with white alpaca laced with merino. At one stage during the process it looked almost skunk like and although nothing was said, I’m sure everyone was skeptical at the results of the combination. It has now been spun and plied, producing a gorgeous rich steel grey yarn. Can’t wait to see it knit into something special!
So, having alpacas and the mill has now taken me into completely new territory. While I always thought I was a purist, I guess I’d never really given myself the chance to step outside the box into the unknown. When we first got alpacas, I took the stance that as the fibre comes in 22 recognized colours, why would anyone need to change the colour to something else, let alone blend it with another fibre. But now, my creative side is rising up and challenging my conventional side and creativity appears to be slowly taking over and becoming the norm.
Two nights ago I stayed up well past the traditional bedtime (yes I’ve always been a night person) experimenting with some new dyes that I’d recently purchased. I had a blast and by the end of my dyeing adventure, my fingertips were blue tinged and the plain white alpaca sock yarn was now a rainbow of colour. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’ve never been one to follow a traditional path when I make something and dyeing was no different. That night, I added colour to one skein at a time, truly playing with the effects of the colour and the dyes. Only the basic theory of the colour wheel was followed, nothing was measured and no recipe was used leaving the final outcome a sensational predicted surprise.
February 2013 and the next chapter of our adventure has begun. The anxiously anticipated mill equipment was delivered and installed. The formal training has been completed and now the practice to perfection continues.
Again, we are extremely grateful and fortunate for the network of support and expertise we have around us. Our plan is to process all the alpaca fleece we currently have stockpiled over the past 2 years, as well as some samples of sheep and goat fleeces, as we learn the nuances of the equipment, the fibre, the environment and the process before officially opening the doors to the public. Admittedly there is a lot to learn, but we’re confident that we have a solid foundation to build on and the drive and commitment to get it done.
Much thought and consideration was put into the planning of the mill structure and layout and we’re confident that not much was overlooked (except for the mirror). Our combined backgrounds and years of experience in manufacturing and processing guided us to the placement of the machines and will result in efficiencies and clear lines of sight in the process which will be beneficial as the business grows.
We are pleased with our decision to choose McDermott equipment and Aldo is already calculating and tracking the throughput of the different machines. Nothing like production targets (and stop watches) to get the motors humming! Be proud Chuck!
I must admit that I’m surprised at our collective ability to admit defeat and walk away when frustrated, knowing that coming back the next day will bring more positive results.
After less than a week, we’ve already produced some beautiful yarns including 100% shetland sheep 3ply, 100% alpaca 3ply in different weights, alpaca/nylon sock yarn and a blend of alpaca, mohair & merino. There is a healthy supply of roving waiting patiently (can roving be patient?) to be spun into more beautiful yarns and plain white yarn waiting to have vibrant colour splashed over it.
Soon the doors of Grand Valley Fibre Company will open and the fibre producers will have the choice of another custom mill in Ontario and we’ll look fondly back to these early days and smile at our connection to Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory!