One fine day in 2014, during a driving errand, I had to look twice: was that an alpaca I saw walking along the footpath??
I wasn't able to stop and check because of the traffic conditions but I could have sworn that there was an alpaca! The thought of this was very exciting of course because alpaca fleece is just divine!
Sure enough, the following week, I saw the alpaca again, being led along on a leash by its owner. I wasn't hallucinating after all! Most people walk dogs, horses and occasionally ferrets and pigs, but this was the first time I had come across an urban alpaca!
Unfortunately I couldn't take a photo, again because I was busy driving, but I wondered where it lived and whether it was a permanent or temporary resident of the neighbourhood.
In 2015, I came across the same alpaca grazing on someone's front lawn, just around the block from where I first spied him. (Yes, he's a 'him'!) Then on the next house's front lawn, and then a chance sighting on a front lawn around the next block! It looked like the alpaca had a great little lawn-cutting business going on! Eco-friendly and fertilising included! Ha ha!
It was so tempting to pull over and take a photo but I don't want to be that person who harasses strangers for one's own curiosity so I just minded my own business and enjoyed the sight of the alpaca each time I spotted him.
In 2016, the alpaca made it to the front page of the district newspaper! His name is Chewy and he is quite the local celebrity. He even has his own Instagram account!
According to the newspaper, Chewy attracts crowds wherever he goes now so the owners walk him after dark. The owners say that Chewy is much easier to look after than a dog.
A lot of people have pet alpacas as guards for their sheep or chooks and they are allowed to be kept in the metropolitan area provided they don't cause a nuisance, danger or health risk to neighbours.
|Cosy alpaca hood-in-progress|
waiting for buttons
Such a shame I have no photographs of Chewy of my own to share, but I do have a photograph of a crochet project made of alpaca fibre!
The undyed handspun alpaca yarn came from Kurralea Alpaca Stud in New South Wales in 2011* and the colour is called "Cinnabar" after the alpaca who grew it. Isn't it a glorious colour? That's Cinnabar's natural fleece colour.
Alpacas come in so many natural colours and shades, I can't understand why anyone would want to dye over its natural beauty.
|Design: Pinebark Hood|
by Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby
This alpaca yarn is lofty, yet thick and soft. I just wanted to rub it against my face to experience its touch and savour the natural fibre. Thus it was decided that the alpaca yarn should be used for an item that I can wear close to my face.
I had been considering the Pinebark Hood (designed by Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby) to try out crocheted cables.
I thought Cinnabar's yarn would work well to show the cable details because it was a single colour. I was mistaken.
|Struggling with cables and tension.|
This project taught me some lessons.
At first, my cables were distorting the fabric. Perhaps that was a result of not using the pattern's recommended yarn. I am not sure. My solution was to lengthen the cable and back loops' stitches while keeping the in-between stitches unchanged.
|This 3 grams of Kurralea Handspun |
Alpaca is all I have left!
Some sections are as thin as
4 ply and others closer to 8 ply
to give a lovely soft textural effect.
My heart skipped a beat when it looked like there wouldn't be enough yarn to finish the project but it turned out okay because I have a small-sized head and didn't need to crochet as many rows as the original pattern, leaving me with enough yarn to finish the trim.
The trim didn't escape modification either–I adapted the front edging at the top of the hood to make a more rounded shape so it sits more snugly next to the head and face for extra warmth and protection from the elements. Looking at the loose fit of the original pattern's photograph, I could imagine the hood acting like a sail or a wind-sock, catching the wind and blowing backwards to expose one's head.
|You can see the fluffy halo.|
The finished product is a toasty warm hood that feels delectable to wear! The thickness and texture of the cables add cosy warmth but I was disappointed with the cables because they are not as well-defined as the example in the pattern.
It was hard to even recognise the cables and I discovered two reasons for that:
- Alpaca has a fluffy halo that reduces stitch definition.
- This particular handspun alpaca was not of uniform thickness, ranging from 5 to 8 ply. The variations added extra texture and interest but detracted from the cables which would have been more pronounced had the strands been the same width throughout.
|Close-up of hood showing irregularities in texture and natural colours.|
My disappointment with the cables taught me that textured yarns are best used for plain stitches which allow the unique properties of the yarn to shine.
|The size was too long!|
I was also disappointed with the look of it on my head–it doesn't do much for me. Perhaps it is the wrong shape for my face or maybe I'm not wearing it right. It seems to make my face look long and narrow. It also covers my hairline right at the top of my forehead which looks severe.
I think the length and the small thin tabs at the bottom create an extra narrow oval shape. Maybe next time, the whole hood could be shorter and the tabs at the bottom could be taller/wider so they join higher up and closer to my chin. What do you reckon?
The hood feels nice to wear though–warm and snugly–and I can't bear to undo it for fear the yarn will get ruined. The soft fuzzy halo of pure alpaca made it difficult to undo mistakes.
Instead, I still wear it and enjoy it. I hope you have enjoyed my alpaca story.
Do you have any alpacas in your neighbourhood?
My Project Name: Cinnabar Alpaca Cosy Hood
Date Created: June–July 2012
Pattern: Pinebark Hood by Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby
Yarn: Kurralea Handspun Alpaca "Cinnabar", 1 skein (130 g)*
Hook: 4 mm bamboo hook
* FootnoteI was fortunate to meet Lesley Maxwell of Kurralea Alpaca Stud during a visit to New South Wales and I purchased her handspun "Cinnabar" alpaca yarn from Absolutely Alpaca in Mogo (NSW) which was run by her friends Estelle and Rose. It was a delight to find a shop entirely dedicated to anything and everything alpaca!
If you want to get your hands on some unique, Australian produced, alpaca products, you now have two more places to add to your list (details in References below)!
Rose and Lesley were in the shop when I visited and they were very welcoming and cheerful. Who wouldn't be, doing something that one loves. Through conversation we discovered the coincidence that we all have family connections to Mogo dating back many generations.
Mogo was established as a mining settlement way back in the gold rush days. Through the 1980s it had declined–literally "blink and you miss it"– and my family feared the town would disappear so it was a thrill to see Mogo thriving again 5 years ago. It has become a hub for local artisans where you can find hand thrown pottery, have leather shoes custom made for you and more.
It is so great that out of all the possible saviours for the town, it is the resurgence of traditional crafts that has led the way.
|My grandfather was born in this house in Mogo.|
The house has been lovingly restored since this photo was taken in 1985.
Absolutely Alpaca, Mogo House, 21 Sydney Street, Mogo NSW 2536; ph: 02 4474 4026; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: at the time of writing the web site listed on business cards and internet directories is inactive (www.absolutelyalpaca.com.au) however there is still a listing and description at the Mogo Village web site: http://www.mogovillage.com.au/Absolutely-Alpaca.html
Boisvert, Eugene, "Chewy the alpaca’s popularity soars in Somerton Park community and online", Guardian Messenger, online article, Messenger Newspapers, 16 February 2016: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/messenger/west-beaches/chewy-the-alpacas-popularity-soars-in-somerton-park-community-and-online/news-story/a70a60dc3493e70b4aac36ef83b2dda0
Boisvert, Euguene,"A pack of family fun", Guardian Messenger [newspaper], 17 February 2016, p. 11, Messenger Newspapers, Adelaide, South Australia.
Instagram, 'Chewpaca' @chew_paca: https://www.instagram.com/chew_paca/
Kurralea Alpaca Stud, 584 Larrys Mountain Road, Mogendoura via Moruya, NSW 2537; ph: 02 4474 3170; email: email@example.com; web site: http://www.kurralea.com.au/kurralea.com.au/Welcome.html
Mogo Village, New South Wales: http://www.mogovillage.com.au
Mullett-Bowlsby, Shannon, "Pinebark Hood", crochet pattern, Interweave Crochet, Volume IV, No. 4, Winter 2010, p. 82, Interweave Publishing:
- Crochet Me Patterns: http://www.crochetme.com/crochet-patterns/pinebark-hood
- Crochet Me Shop: http://www.interweavestore.com/patterns-pinebark-hood?utm_source=ls&utm_medium=affiliate&cid=affiliate&siteID=05t1rdpCdm4-GQnNEhmVlYE0YJLpFdGPyw
- Ravelry pattern page: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/pinebark-hood