Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas

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Down to work


Today I decided to make a start on Bert’s fleece.  As I still have the remnants of his wool on the spools from last year I may as well keep going.  It was raining this morning so I decided to work in the shed rather than the garden.  Once I had the fleece on the table  I quickly pulled out the best bits and placed them in a basket to card.  The remainder I checked through and if it contained insects, was soiled or it was simply cut too short for spinning I put it into an old pillow case.  The rest is in the ‘to do’ pile.


I then took out my trusty drum carder.  This one has super fine needles for working with alpaca fleece.  Bert’s fleece goes really well through the carder and comes off with comparative ease.


I managed three loads altogether and will make a start on a mega spinning session soon.


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Our two alpacas have very different temperaments.  Both of them love to eat but Albie, who is usually the laid back take it easy kind of a fella, is a serious muncher.  Bootsy, by comparison, can be quite anxious at times giving us a display of how far he can spit, usually at poor Albs.  This makes meal times rather interesting.  We’re feeding the animals Lamb Crunch at the moment and the alpacas love it.  Albie adores it and would win the Grand National with the speed at which he runs for his food.  Bootsy arrives somewhat late for dinner often to find that his bowl is empty or near to it due to the fact that his companion has been there already.  In the summertime, when there is plenty of nutritious grass around, Bootsy doesn’t care so much about missing out but winter time is another story and that’s when the rows start.   Then we have to be vigilant and stand over him almost to make sure that Albie doesn’t take over.  We also feed the animals haylage which we purchase in the local farm stores.  This is like hay but it has a higher moisture content as it is baled and bagged soon after it has been cut in the fields.  We don’t need to give the animals any haylage at the moment though as the grass is so plentiful for them.

Most of the time our two chaps get on very well together.  They were born within days of each other and have never been separated but now and then mealtimes can be fraught occasions.

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Cable Call Phone Pouch


I’m not sure about you but I spend an awful lot of time hunting for my mobile phone – particularly when I am at work so today I decided to remedy this situation by making a Cable Call Phone Pouch.  It is very simple to make and doesn’t take up too much time or wool.  I”ve made the neck band nice and long as I like to wear it across my shoulder so that the pouch can sit on my hip.


Cable Call Phone Pouch

copyright Wool Maker Lane


1 pair of 5mm needles (U.S. Size 8)
1 cable needle
50g of Aran weight wool (I used Tivoli New Celtic Aran)
1 darning needle for sewing

C4f- Cable four front.  Slip the next two stitches onto the cable needle and leave to the front of your work.  Knit the next two stitches.  Knit the two stitches off your cable needle.

Border trim:
Cast on 22 stitches and work as follows for moss stitch:
Row 1: K1 P1 across the row
Row 2: P1 K1 across the row
Row 3: K1 P1 across the row
Row 4: P1 K1 across the row
Row 5: K1 P1 across the row
Row 6: P1 K1 across the row

Main Body of Pouch:

Row 1: P3 K4 P2 K4 P2 K4 P3
Row 2: K3 P4 K2 P4 K2 P4 K3
Row 3: P3 C4f P2 C4f P2 C4f P3
Row 4: K3 P4 K2 P4 K2 P4 K3

Repeat this pattern until your work measures the same length as the back and the front of your phone.

Border Trim:
Moss stitch again for 6 rows:

Row 1: K1 P1 across the row
Row 2: P1 K1 across the row
Row 3: K1 P1 across the row
Row 4: P1 K1 across the row
Row 5: K1 P1 across the row
Row 6: P1 K1 across the row

Cast off knitways.

Making up:
Fold over your work lengthways with the right sides facing each other and sew up the two long sides.

Cast on 4 stitches.
Row 1: Knit across row
Row 2: Purl across row

Repeat these rows until the strap meets your desired length.  Cast off and sew each end of the strap into the top inside seams on either side of the pouch.

Congratulations.  You can now wear your Cable Call Phone Pouch with pride!

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Inspecting the fleece


I now have five bags of fleece from three alpacas.  As you know we only have two alpacas Bootsy, who is light brown and Albie, who is dark brown.  Bert, who belongs to a neighbour, is white.  Actually I should say that his fleece only appears to be white as my hands are anything but when I work with his fibre.  Bert guards a flock of sheep and as a consequence his fleece gets matted with the various dirt that the sheep leave behind them in the field.

Having said all of that the quality of the fleece depends on which part of the alpaca the fleece comes from.  For spinning the best fleece is known as the blanket.  This describes the area from the ridge of the alpaca’s back down both sides of its body until you reach the top of the belly and the upper leg…imagine a large saddle that would stretch back as far as the tail. The fleece here is the most dense and in many alpacas, highly prized.


Another way of distinguishing the best part of an alpaca’s fleece is by identifying the fibre which has what is known as crimp.  These are the fuzzy soft strands which are a delight to both card and spin as the fibres pull together so well. Above is Bootsy’s fleece.  Even though he is eight year’s old it has plenty of crimp, lots of volume and is a pleasure to work with.


Bert’s fleece is a dream to spin.  It is extremely dense and comes off the                                                                                 wool carder really easily without much assistance.


By comparison Albie’s looks like it’s just had a soft perm!  It is quite fine when it is compared to the others but has a beautiful deep chestnut colour that your eyes can get lost in.

It’s quite interesting that three different alpacas can yield such different fleeces.  I can’t wait to start spinning them.

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Bad Hair Day


It’s that time of year when hairy animals need to be sheared and alpacas are no exception.  Bootsy and Albie have been waiting a while (reluctantly) for this to happen.  The guy who ended up doing the job for our two lads was only experienced in shearing sheep which is a whole different ball game.  Despite this he managed to do a good job where it mattered and left the lovely locks on their upper necks, heads and legs alone.  Although they look quite comical it actually works quite well for me as I don’t have to spend so much time sorting through the fleece for the best bits to spin.


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A Handsome Pair


This morning I woke up with the sole purpose of completing the mittens before taking off on tonight’s plane.  All was going smoothly until I discovered that the coffee machine had broken down.  I decided to bring my knitting around the corner to a local coffee shop only to find that it had re-located so I had no choice but to quickly purchase a cafetiere (from the cookery shop sporting my photograph in the window) in order to satisfy my caffeine cravings.  The coffee was delicious and within forty minutes my beautiful mittens were finished and are now ready to fly home with me.



The wool that I used was a soft aran that was a delight to work with.  I just love the simple cable pattern.  It feels so homely and warm.

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Bristol’s Ewe-nique Sheep

Where we live in Ireland it’s not uncommon to find sheep that have escaped from their field  roaming around in search of greener grass.  The last thing that I expected to see while here in Bristol was sheep turning up everywhere that I roamed.

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The lady outside the local cookery shop explained to me that these are models of ‘Shaun the Sheep’ which have each been decorated by different artists.  There are 70 Shauns in Bristol and today marked their launch. They will be auctioned in October and all monies raised will go to Bristol Children’s Hospital.  I must say they have created quite a stir of excitement as each one that I have seen has had people eagerly taking snaps.

Indeed the cookery shop was really getting into the spirit of the event and took a photo of me which they were going to put up in the shop window with about a dozen others.  The best picture wins a prize…..I shaun’t hold my breath!!