Knitted blankets (Charity Knitting)

Monday, 22 September 2014

Visit to Abravo Alpacas, 18th September 2014

It was a hot and sunny afternoon when members from five local craft groups descended on Abravo Alpacas. It wasn't as drastic as it sounds, with many of those attending belonging to more than one group. In the end there were 17 of us.

The early arrivals spent time with "the girls" while waiting for the others. A good chance to see the alpacas close up and an immediate opportunity to take photographs. Frances Bath, who owns Abravo Alpacas, was on hand to answer questions and explain alpaca behaviour.

Some of "the girls". 
As organiser of the visit, I waited outside to meet the late arrivals while the other visitors settled indoors. Frances must have been talking about alpacas and Abravo Alpacas in general because when I eventually took my seat someone whispered in my ear: "We have heard a lot about you". I had worked with Frances, developing knitting patterns for Abravo Alpaca yarns. Frances and I first met at an alpaca event in Houghton Village Hall and later, in 2010, she attended a series of hand knitting classes I delivered. We have since attended the same knitting group and spinning group.

As Frances talked about her yarns and her patterns, some of the made up garments were shown around. The main admiration was for the yarns and how soft alpaca fibre is. [The following seven photographs are publicity shots and were not taken during the visit.]

Frances gave a very interesting talk about alpacas ~ where they come from, how and when they first came to this country, grading the fleece, the fibre and yarns, and so on. She passed around samples of alpaca and other fibres so that the differences between them could be felt as well as seen. Although alpacas and camels are both members of the camelid family, the difference in the softness and fineness of the fibres is vast. The group was very lively, asking many questions ~ and remaining attentive in spite of the heat.

Frances giving her talk.
We went outside to see "the boys" which, for obvious reasons, are kept separate from "the girls". We all had a chance walk in the field with them and to feed them with apples and sliced raw carrots. Frances explained how her alpaca are looked after and again, such was the interest, many questions were asked before Frances had a chance to impart the information.

Some of "the boys".

Some visitors were surprised by the number of fleece colours. There are 22 officially recognised colours in this country. After a good look I think we all mentally chose the alpaca that we each liked the best.

After listening, asking, seeing, learning and enjoying, we went back into the house where Frances explained the cleaning and spinning processes for both commercial and hand spinning. She spoke about staple length and crimp, and the fact that alpaca fleece has very little lanolin. She demonstrated the process of carding and gave a hand spinning demonstration using her Ashford dual-pedal wheel and alpaca fibre. She then explained the processes of plying and passed around some of her beautiful hand spun alpaca yarns.

Hand spinning.
All this was followed by afternoon tea, served with beautiful china teacups, teapots and plates. The cakes, scones and jam were all home made. The time passed very quickly and all too soon it was time to go home.

Frances had obviously put much time and effort into the preparation for our visit. All of her hard work was very much appreciated.

An enormous "Thank You" to Frances Bath for her very warm welcome, excellent informative talk, demonstrations, allowing us to meet the alpacas, afternoon tea, and all else during our visit. The feedback has all been positive and everyone enjoyed themselves. A total of £110 was raised for Wheels for the World, a charity that refurbishes wheelchairs to send abroad.

To quote one of the visitors: "Please pass on my thanks to the hostess and congratulations on all her hard work and efforts in making it such a memorable and happy afternoon."

I would like to give a personal Thank You to Chris for providing me with a seat in her car.

Initially the visit was organised for members of KnitLit Huntingdon. However, since many KnitLit members also belong to Medway Craft Group and to Moor Knit & Natter, members from these two groups were invited. The members of the knitting group that both Frances and I belong to were also invited, as were members of the craft group for young people that meets on the same day and venue as Medway Craft Group. 

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