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Where is the farm located and when is it open?
Between Toronto and Montreal in prince Edward County, Ontario Canada. A bucolic rural area of the province boasting wineries, artisans studios and agriculture/gastronomic experiences. The farm and shop are open May to December.
What do you make from alpaca fleece?
Chetwyn farms prides itself on designing, creating and producing a range of products from the fleece of our animals. In addition we buy fleece from other local farms and combine it with our fleece to create our annual collections. We also work with designers who manufacture their own alpaca products both in Canada and internationally.
When do you sheer the animals?
Our alpaca are sheered annually in early spring (May) when the coats are the heaviest. Sheering produces approximately 12-15 skeins of premium yarn per animal a year.
What makes our yarn so special?
Most of our yarn is made from the fleece from our animals. We identify skeins of yarn according to the name of the animal that produced the fibre which you will see on our yarn bands in addition to the weight, length and lot number. Blends are from our animals and other locally raised alpaca. We hand-wash all of our yarn after it comes back from the mills so you can start your project immediately upon purchase.
Blends or 100% alpaca yarn?
Many yarn enthusiasts insist the drape and feeling of 100% alpaca yarn cannot be beat! It is simply the most luxurious fibre to work with. While many appreciate this quality, 100% alpaca is sometimes not strong enough for some projects – so it is blended with other natural fibres to give it strength and lasting qualities. All of our yarns are carefully skirted and sent to local mills. Alpaca comes in over 22 natural shades and we rarely dye our yarn – it remains natural in colour and form. You may notice slight variations in tone, density and shape as you start working with it – these are the hallmarks of small-run processing and hand-crafted yarn!
Do you work with designers?
YES! We LOVE working with local, Canadian and international designers and choose a designer to celebrate and collaborate with each year. Our blog postings often feature designers and artisans.
Where else is the product sold?
As a “farm-to-yarn” business we celebrate the hand-made process and produce limited quantities of any of our product so it is only sold in our shop. Where we work with artisans and designers, those collaborations are exclusive to us and not available elsewhere.
Canadian Made, Fair Trade and Partner Farms –
Much of our product is produced from locally spun fibre, knit or crochet products are hand-made locally in Canada. We do work with fair trade farms in South America, partner farms in the United States and many European designers who produce work in their local districts.
Social Responsibility and Giving –
We take immense pride in working with local designers, artisans, producers and fibre mills. As such we value each component that goes into producing our collections. We are a “transitioning” organic farm, are active in our local community and members of both the Canadian Alpaca Association and board members of Alpaca Ontario. During the growing season the farm contributes to “Food-Share” in aid of local food banks, and proceeds from our popular “yoga with Alpaca” held each summer are directed to local charities in the province.
Care and maintaining an alpaca product –
Always use cold-water to wash items with a small amount of mild detergent (we recommend Eucalan a no-rinse delicate wash concentrate). Using hot water or even two different temperatures will “shock” the fibres making them matt together and start turning into felt. Soak and gently squeeze suds through the garment. Avoid twisting, wringing, scrubbing or otherwise agitating! Rinse as necessary and lay flat to air dry. Alpaca products can also be dry-cleaned, but not necessary.
Origin - From South America where they graze at an altitude of 3 - 4000 metres on the Andes Mountains Altiplano, which runs through Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
Types - There are two types or breeds of alpaca: the huacaya, whose fibre has a crimp or wavy quality that enhances its use in spinning and the rarer suri, which has a lustrous fine fibre with no crimp. The world population of alpacas is approximately 90% huacaya and 10% suri.
Size - Alpacas are small gentle animals. They stand about 0.9 metres at the withers and about 1.5 metres at the head and weigh from 45 to 80 kilograms.
Life span - Alpacas live from 15 to 20 years.
Maturity - Females can be bred at about 13 months or 40 to 45kg, whichever occurs last. Males usually achieve full maturity at around three years of age, at which time they can be used for breeding.
Gestation and Birth Gestation - for alpacas is from 11 to 11½ months. A single (twins are extremely rare) cria is born usually in the morning and often with no human assistance. Crias usually weigh from 6 to 10 kilograms at birth and can stand and nurse within two hours. They are usually weaned at five to six months.
Physical Characteristics - Alpacas have no upper teeth. They have lower teeth and an upper dental pad, and do not bite. They have soft padded feet with two toenails on each foot. Alpacas are ruminants, they chew a cud, have three compartments to their stomachs and eat grasses. Manure clean up is easy since they deposit in only a few places. Alpacas come in twenty two recognized colours and many more in between. Colours can range from brilliant white to the deepest black with all shades of greys including rare rose grey, to browns, fawns, and reds. Fibre Commonly known as "The Fibre of the Gods", alpaca fibre is very fine, soft, dense, very warm and insulating. Alpaca fibre is almost free of guard hair, which makes it a "non-itchy" material. This fibre spun into yarn is especially resilient and strong. Garments made from it are comparable to cashmere, but much more durable and easy to care for. Fibre from alpacas contains only minute amounts of lanolin so it is not greasy and is considered a hypoallergenic fibre. Great for those who have reactions to wool or other itchy fibres.
Disposition - Alpacas are among the most gentle of animals and are curious and friendly. They are not aggressive animals, kicking is a very rare and biting rarer. Alpacas do occasionally spit at each other in order to maintain their space or when competing for food. They rarely spit at people unless they have been startled. Alpacas communicate through humming and by ear, tail positions, and body postures. They make a shrill alarm call when threatened by predators. Alpacas make a variety of sounds, including clicks and snorts, but they are best known for their humming which is soothing to both animals and humans alike. Their calm and happy dispositions make them a favourite of children who can handle them with ease. They are herd animals and their social structure requires that they live in the company of other alpacas. An alpaca will be lonely, and may even sicken and die if taken away to live by itself. Alpacas can be halter trained and will walk on a lead.
Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Inca civilization and played a central role in the Inca culture that was located on the high Andean plateau in the mountains of South America. Alpacas have been domesticated for over 5,000 years and their popularity is only now becoming internationally recognized.
With the Spanish conquest of the Incas came the almost total annihilation of the alpaca. This wonderful animal survived only because of its importance to the Indian people and its incredible ability to live at altitudes and under conditions which cannot sustain the life of other domestic animals.
Following Sir Titus Salt of London’s discovery of the fabulous qualities of alpaca fibre in the mid 1800s, the Alpaca regained its prominence. Today, there is worldwide commerce in alpacas and their products.
Their ears: Alpaca ears have short spear-shaped ears while llamas have much longer, banana-shaped ears.
Their size: Alpacas generally weigh in at around 150 pounds while llamas can get as heavy as 400 pounds. At the shoulder, an average alpaca stands between 34 and 36 inches, while a llama generally ranges between 42 and 46 inches.
Their faces: Llamas have a longer face; an alpaca’s face is a bit more blunt, giving them a “smooshed in” look.
Their purpose: For more than 5,000 years alpacas have been bred for fiber (and in Peru for meat as well), while llamas have been bred for the same amount of time as pack animals and meat.
Their hair: 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. Llamas also generally do not have as much hair on their head and face as alpacas do.
Their dispositions: Alpacas are very much herd animals, while llamas are more independent minded. Alpacas also tend to be a bit more skittish than llamas, which are often used as guard animals for alpacas, sheep, and other small livestock.
Alpacas may not have as recognizable a vocalization as a pig’s “oink” or a cow’s “moo,” but they’re capable of making a wide variety of noises to communicate all kinds of different things. Alpacas are herd animals, and make near-constant noise to communicate their presence to other members of their herd, as well as everything from comfort to discomfort to panic.
The most common and perhaps most unusual when compared with other livestock species is the hum, a sort of closed-mouth drone that alpacas make often. The hum, like a cat’s purr, is a bit of a mystery; it’s common, but can range in tone and urgency, and seems to convey all kinds of different emotions. Unlike a cat’s purr, though, the hum seems to, more often than not, indicate discomfort: anxiety, nervousness, stress, boredom, non-ideal temperature. There’s really no way to figure out exactly what an alpaca’s hum is trying to communicate, but a close relationship between a single alpaca and a single human can often allow the human to discern some subtleties to the hum, changes in pitch, or timbre that can indicate specific emotions.