After raising and loving alpacas for almost 10 years and learning all about the warmth and beauty of items made from alpaca fleece, Kate Blackburn said it seemed natural to bring the Antelope Alpacas Fiber Arts Center to Main Street in …
After raising and loving alpacas for almost 10 years and learning all about the warmth and beauty of items made from alpaca fleece, Kate Blackburn said it seemed natural to bring the Antelope Alpacas Fiber Arts Center to Main Street in Elizabeth.
“We moved to 40 acres in the Elizabeth area in 2005 and looked into raising animals,” she said. “We spent about 18 months learning about alpacas.
“Through the study of them we realized the beauty of the animal, the beauty of the fiber and the fact no animal had to die to harvest the fibers. So a few years ago we began raising alpacas.
“We started four alpacas and we now have 22 alpacas, three lamas and a horse that believes she is the mother of the whole herd.”
She said as they sheared the alpacas and learned about the beauty and versatility of yarn made from the fleece, it seemed a natural next step to open the shop on Main Street in Elizabeth about two years ago.
She said she unexpectedly found when she opened the shop that it also provided an outlet for items local artisans have used yarn made from alpaca fiber to weave, crochet and knit — items ranging from hats and gloves to toys and blankets.
The fiber sheared from alpacas is a single color.
In the shop, Blackburn dyes the fibers so they can be spun into yarn in a wide variety of colors.
“Alpaca fiber is hollow so it can be used to make items that are very warm,” Blackburn said. “Another benefit of alpaca fiber is it contains no lanolin, which means people who are allergic to wool can wear items made of alpaca fiber.”
She said the interest in using alpaca fibers resulted in the decision to offer classes in working with alpaca fibers. Earlier this year the shop held a class in making wet felt fiber hats and, on Oct. 21, the shop held a basic weaving class.
“This is the first year we have offered classes and we are fortunate that Karen Kinyon, a fiber artist, alpaca farmer and a judge at alpaca shows, has agreed to teach our classes,” Blackburn said. “Our space isn’t very big so we keep the classes to no more than five or six students. The class runs all day on Saturday and, if the class is large enough, a half day on Sunday.”
She said the October class is the final one for 2017 and plans are to develop a class schedule for several classes next year.
Students in the class learn to work with alpaca fiber yarn to weave or use other methods to complete a project during the class.
Mary Benedict took the Oct. 21 basic weaving class.
“I took the class because I have always wanted to learn weaving and there are few classes in weaving available,” the Franktown resident said. “The class was more than I expected it would be. The class was small with just four students so each student got a lot of attention and help from the instructor. All the projects were designed so you finished them during the class and took home finished items.”
She made a table runner and said it was a lot of fun.
“I really enjoyed working with alpaca fiber because it has such a nice feel and is warmer,” she said. “I also liked it because alpaca fiber has no lanolin so it is hypoallergenic which is important to me because I am allergic to wool fibers.”