- What brought you to this special part of the Otways?
Like so many others, I moved to the Otways as part of the ‘sea change’ after too many years living in the city. On just under three acres out of Apollo Bay, we acquired our first alpacas in 2000, for no better reason than the fact that they are very attractive animals. They also proved to be somewhat addictive, and the original two alpacas increased over the next few years to nearly 20. So the hunt began for a larger property. We found the property at Ferguson and moved in around nine years ago, and now we are able to run 80 to 100 animals year round.
- What do you love about caring for alpacas?
Alpacas, one of four related species from South America, are very attractive animals. They are relatively small (and easier to handle), come in a range of natural colours from white right through to true black, and are exceptionally cute (think fluffy Bambi for young alpacas). More importantly, they are light on the land, having soft soled feet rather than hooves, and, of course, they produce gorgeously soft, warm fleece.
Alpacas are very curious and generally not at all aggressive: in short they are pretty good animals to hang about with.
- What is the process for creating yarns?
Our alpacas are shorn once a year, in early December. We combine with other local breeders and work for a full week with a specialist alpaca shearer and any neighbours, friends and relatives we can conscript for the period. Whilst it is hard work, shearing gives us the opportunity for lots of good food, great company and a process of educating interested people about the work we do.
Selected fleeces are then sent to a small, specialist mill in Mornington to be washed, carded and spun into knitting yarns. Over the years we have worked co-operatively with the mill owners to develop a range of lovely yarns in a range of the natural colours of alpaca as well as some with subtle added colour. As well as yarns consisting of 100% alpaca, we are now creating other natural fibre blends including alpaca and merino, alpaca and kid mohair.
We are one of a very small number of producers who can claim that our product is grown and entirely produced in Australia.
- What are your hopes and plans for knitalpaca in the future?
We produce yarns in small batches, so we are not looking to have vast quantities of yarn in shops across the country. But I hope that as we go along, knitalpaca will continue to develop new, luxurious yarns for hand knitters, to become known in Australia as ‘the’ place for high quality alpaca and luxury natural fibre yarns. If that happens, I can remain happy to hang out with a bunch of very appealing animals.