Sunday, November 11, 2007

AlpacaFest West

Beautiful Huacaya alpacas.....
These are Suri Alpacas......They are longer haired and have a luster in their fiber like mohair or silk......

I went to AlpacaFest West in Industry Hill, CA yesterday. I had a little trouble finding it, but that was my error. I thought the Industry Hills Expo Center was adjacent to the Pacific Palms hotel, the big building at the top of the city, but I was wrong. The first clue I had when I arrived at the hotel was that I was grossly underdressed, in a T-shirt and tennis shoes ready to trample among the Alpaca animals. The ladies arriving had very stylish dressy suits and heels. A friendly front desk person, directed me to the correct location which wasn’t very far from the hotel.

When I hit the parking lot loaded with an assortment of animal hauling trailers, I knew I must be close. The Expo was a very large open barn-like structure. Temperatures were overcast and about in the 60-70’s so it was perfect for these animals with their furry coats. There must have been about 100 or more alpacas of an assortment of natural colors, both Suri and Huacaya breeds. I have never seen so many in one place.

There was a show ring with what they called “halter competitions” going on. This is equal to a sheep show where they evaluate the physical features of an animals and judge it to place 1st through 7th place.

The fashion show was very professional with dancers and amatuers models. To my dismay there were only machine knitted alpaca fashions and professionally felted items, not a handknit among them. I think it's obvious what market they are promoting and which one they are missing (the handspinners and knitters). I can't imagine haute couteur (sic?) fashionistas coming to this Fiberfest in a barn. Let's get real! What a missed opportunity! Someone should clue this association in to Rhinebeck and similar Fiberfests. After all, isn't this what the Alpaca business is all about, ....selling fiber?

They had a few booths set up for the Alpaca farms to display clothing and yarns and other decorative items for sale. A very few had fleeces to sell. I bought a beautiful white fleece 3.2 lbs. The white fleeces are prime desired fleeces. This one was lovely from an Alpaca named “Donna Lola”.

The best thing about this show for me was the spinning demonstrations. They had a few members from local spinning and weaving guilds demonstrate spinning, carding and needle felting. The fine yarn they produced was amazing. I wish I had remembered to take a picture.

There were a few workshops but most of them focused on the Alpaca business. I did attend one workshop named “Twist and Shout! Spinning with Alpaca, Tips and Techniques.” I wasn’t impressed. It didn’t seem that the speaker, who wasn’t a knitter knew the difference between woolen and worsted and couldn’t tell how thin a worsted weight yarn was compared to the other weights.

The Sunday Workshop I attended was better, although at first I was the only one in attendance. The topic was “Blending, Shading and Felting, Meeting the Market in the Middle”. I had a chance to ask specific questions and I even got an invitation to visit Mette Goehring’s Ranch, “Ranch of the Oaks” in Lompoc. They have a processing mill and store, and I may take her up on her offer. I have always wanted to visit an Alpaca Farm.
This festival has truly inspired me. My Adult Surprise Jacket is coming out very nicely in the variety of natural colors. Most of it is handspun Alpaca. The change of colors helps me stay interested despite all the garter stitch. I am trying to rotate a 6 row strip with a 4 row strip, alternating a dark color and then a light color. So far I really like the results.

The only bad thing is that I came home achey, with a sore throat and a fever of 102, which came on suddenly within hours. I came home early and I’m now in bed trying to minimize my symptoms. Thank goodness for hot liquids to drink and a holiday tomorrow, which is Veteren’s Day. I’m stocked up on drugs if my symptoms get worse. It feels like the, I didn't get my flu shot this year. I am really regretting this.

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