Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy holidays crafty friends

I've finished my holiday gift-making - yay! I made two of these beautiful crochet Poinsettias by MaryJ Handmade. Poinsettias signify a British Christmas for me. And when I moved to Texas I found that the tradition of displaying these Mexican beauties as holiday ornaments also applies in the US.

I hope you all have a fantastic holiday. I'm taking a break from the blog for two weeks to spend time with my family and will post next on January 10th in the New Year. I hope you have the best time with your family too and Santa brings you many craft-related gifts!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dreams of an alpaca farm

I've always quite fancied the idea of leading a pastoral life on an alpaca farm. I'm a city girl with no experience of actually residing in the countryside other than our short stints on family holidays. In the early phase of my research into a rural lifestyle a few initial questions spring to mind....


  • What is the difference between the lama and the alpaca?
I visited London zoo this summer on our annual jaunt to see family and friends in the UK and I was delighted to see both alpacas and llamas there. The rest of our party wanted to move on but I was quite happy to gaze at these marvelous creatures. They both originate in South America and have been bred for over 4,000 years. The key difference in my mind focused on yarn, reading the article  6 Differences Between Llamas and Alpacas in the Modern Famer, is that the alpaca produces a much finer fiber than the llama. The alpaca also produces more fleece than its larger cousin and in a much greater variety of colors.
  • What is alpaca yarn actually like?
According to the marvelous Victory Ranch in New Mexico, where we stopped on a road trip (and made a yarn purchase of course) alpaca fiber is one of the softest in the world. I can attest to the softness of my purchases. It has little to no guard hair or lanolin which increases the usable fiber per pound and simplifies scouring, carding, and combing. The fiber is strong, resilient, easy to care for and long-lived. Garments made from alpaca fiber are light weight but warm because the alpaca's coat, evolved for a high altitude / cold climate, contains microscopic air pockets.
  • Is alpaca yarn on trend?
A Fortune article published earlier this year  It’s a wrap: Alpaca wool hits the runway reports of a growing demand of Peruvian alpaca wool accessories for high-end boutiques in the US. Designers are seeking more exotic and rare yarns to create their pieces. The increased popularity in fair trade products also makes alpaca attractive. This is all fantastic news for the alpaca industry.
For further reading, if you find alpacas as intriguing as me, check out these sites.
Alpaca Frequently Asked Questions by Hill Country Alpacas  This farm is just up the road from me in Texas Hill County so I'm putting it on my list to visit.
Ireland's thriving alpaca industry on Olann and  This is a brand new just launched online fiber and craft magazine and already a firm favorite.
A definitive guide to raising alpacas in the Modern Farmer I think I'm going to stick to reading this vicariously for now!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Crafty folk popping up on Periscope

I've just started watching crafty folk on Periscope, Twitter's live video streaming app. It’s a mobile app which you can use to record and broadcast live to a global audience. And in less than five months since it's launch in March this year Periscope had more than 10 million accounts. That's a pretty impressive statistic.

I downloaded the app on a whim a while ago and then forgot about it. Then two weeks ago while I was at my desk, my phone gave a cute little whistle and I started watching Sara Duggan virtual pa from Five In Sac with her magical productivity tip of the day. Sara is a Twitter friend since in a former life she was the super crochet designer momwithahook! I loved seeing her in person and sensing the warmth of her personality in the live broadcast. I found that I could interact too with comments and tap the screen to form little love hearts when I liked something. What an adorable user interface!

Then I discovered that Ravelry has a Periscope group Crafty Periscopers and of course I joined. I went though the thread "periscope usernames - introduce yourself", followed all that I could find and ever since then my phone has been whistling away alerting me to crafty folk's scopes. It's a fantastic distraction. I have discovered a new way to weave in my ends, seen yarn being dyed, learnt about new KALs, seen beautiful project bags, a review of sock knitting pattern books.... etc etc.

The people I'm following can also invite me to live scopes that they are watching so in a snowball fashion I am getting alerts for these too. When will all this fun end? Replays are only available for 24 hours and I'd love to go back and watch some of the more memorable scopes but it's a "live in the moment" kind of app which is no bad thing.

I must admit to having not plucked up the courage to scope myself yet and so my profile page only displays a number 1 by my love heart. (Periscope measures your viewers' hearts and then ranks you.) But I am feeling encouraged by the topic suggestions on the Ravelry group "Weekly prompts". This week's is "how to get out of a creative rut". I certainly feel like this is something I could chatter on about to an audience!