For Tracy, what began as a sheep farm in order to maintain farm status of their property, turned into a love affair with Alpacas. Tracy was drawn to the animals during a visit to the Equestrian Centre in Parksville, where she noticed the quiet, gentle nature of the Alpaca and immediately fell in love.
The move to raising Alpaca involved a big learning curve, not only about the care of the animals, but also attaining knowledge of the fibre. Tracy has taken courses on grading fibre as well as preparation and use of the fleece. Now, not only does she have12 Alpaca to care for, but also an assortment of carding, spinning, weaving and knitting paraphernalia. Her beautiful animals have names such as: Shades; Cowgirl Blues; Velvet; Kokopelli and Earl Grey. The animals are well loved and treated with care and respect during their annual shearing.
Alpaca fleece is eight times warmer than wool; although it is not water proof because of the lack of lanolin which is present in sheep fleece; nor does it have the 'memory' of wool fibres. It can be spun with other fibres to enhance the end product.
Tracy presented the Guild members with a handout of what to look for when purchasing Alpaca fleece. Fineness, uniformity and length of micron, brightness of colour, density, cleanliness, tensile strength and keeping in mind the finished product before purchasing your fibre. At the end of the presentation, we were invited to dip our hands into these lovely mounds of Alpaca Fleece: