Friday, July 31, 2009

Alpaca-Bunny Smackdown: Part 2

So I’ve entered a fiber competition.

@sheepmama and @vtknitboy have the same samples that I do. ¼ ounce each of huacaya alpaca and angora rabbit. I raise the alpacas and @sheepmama raises the bunny rabbits. We have convinced @vtknitboy to be our impartial judge.

The goal? Determine which is better; alpaca or angora. @vtknitboy will publish his decision on next week’s Fiber Arts Friday blog carnival, courtesy of @AlpacaFarmGirl.

You can learn more about how the smackdown began here.

My intention was to process both samples concurrently so I could compare for myself at each step. I have never spun angora before. I have spun alpaca but not my own.

The bunny was hand-plucked by @sheepmama soon after we agreed to the terms of the smackdown. It is very clean so I chose not to wash it. Also both @sheepmama and @vtknitboy recommended to spin the bunny as is. That means no carding. So the bunny is in exactly the same state it was when it arrived nearly 2 weeks ago.

The alpaca was shorn by me and some friends in May. It was stored in a plastic bag and cardboard box in a storage unit. It was not going to be processed until after we reached our residential destination.

I have purchased a second set of hand carders since my first set is in storage, in a box that I can’t reach. We are (still) in the process of moving to our farm, but more on that another day.

I must admit that when the bunny arrived and I put my hand in the bag to pull out the sample, I was nervous. The bunny is so soft. It’s like holding a cloud.

The alpaca was raw. That means dirty. Dirty with dirt, hay and weeds, which of course makes the alpaca feel less soft.

I washed the alpaca by soaking it in the sink with dish soap. My Eucelan is also in storage, so I was crossing my fingers that the Seventh Generation dish soap would be gentle enough. After 2 changes of soapy water and 1 change of clean water, I hung the alpaca to dry in the shower.

My husband prefers that I process fiber anywhere but the kitchen and shower, but what’s a girl to do? This is a competition and we’re dealing with less than ideal circumstances. Fortunately, he thinks the smackdown is cute.

After the alpaca had dried I pulled it out of the mesh bag to see how it was. Fortunately, it was soft and lovely. The fiber was clean and much of the vegetable matter had come out in the wash. I finally start to gain a little confidence. We might do ok in this smackdown.

I hadn’t carded anything since I first learned to spin about 18 months ago. So the carding took a little getting used to. I think I started out with too much fiber, but everything turned out ok and I now have 6 alpaca rolags.

For me, rolags are very special. It was with rolags that spinning finally made sense for me.

So this is where I am today. 6 home made rolags of alpaca and handful of luscious angora.
Tomorrow, I start spinning.

Please visit all of the Alpaca-Bunny Smackdown players. These are talented, generous and fun people.

@vtknitboy: Twitter, blog.
@sheepmama: Twitter, blog and Etsy Store.
@AlpacaFarmGirl: Twitter, blog and Etsy store.
You can also search Twitter by using #alpacabunnysmackdown

Thank you for sharing in our smackdown and please check out this week's Fiber Arts Friday carnival over at the Alpaca Farm Girl blog.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Alpaca-Bunny Smackdown: Part 1

It started with a simple picture and a small taunt. "Get a load of this luster handspinners."

So I bit. "Is that luster from a rabbit?"

"Yes, it's the softest thing out there."

I'm an alpaca breeder and since alpaca is the Fiber of Kings, "Those are fighting words."

This is how the Alpaca-Bunny Smackdown was born. A few simple tweets between me (@alpacamundo) and Lynn (@sheepmama). Of course, I'm paraphrasing since I am not skilled enough to find and copy the original tweets, but this is a story and that's how stories go.

After tossing around some ideas on how to determine which was better, we roped in Chris (@vtknitboy) to be our impartial judge. Chris is an avid spinner and knitter who shares tons of pictures of his work on Twitter and his blog.

So now that the players and judge had been secured we decided to trade raw samples of each. 1/4 ounce to both contestants and the judge.

Panic sets in.

My husband and I have recently moved and are staying in a temporary location until we close on our final destination. Therefore, EVERYTHING is in storage.

What was I thinking? I have encouraged and agreed to take part in a fiber challenge with a rabbit! I must be crazy. At least we agreed the fiber would be raw. Now only if I can find it.

I went to the storage unit repeating to myself, "Please God, help me find Yoda's fiber." Yoda is possibly my best quality alpaca and at least his blanket has been skirted.

When I opened the door and let the light in... ta da, Yoda's box of fiber right there on top. "Thank you." But all the way in the back. I climb on a few things, but can not reach it.

I revise my prayer to, "Please God, help me find anyone's blanket fiber." Quickly I found 2 boxes that were within reach.

The 1st box had only neck and belly/leg fiber. Not the best entrant for a smackdown.

I emptied the 2nd box. Trying to stay calm while pulling out more leg/belly fiber. Then finally, Kocoa's blanket in the bottom. "Thank you, again."

Kocoa is certainly our best quality female. She will be a worthy opponent.

I brought the fleece home and weighed out 1/2 ounce samples for me, @sheepmama and @vtknitboy. I only remembered we agreed to provide 1/4 ounce samples after I left the post office, so I hope they enjoy the little extra.

The bunny came on Wednesday. It's angora rabbit that @sheepmama hand plucked. It's amazingly fine and soft. I really hope I don't mess it up.

Both @sheepmama and @vtknitboy have advised not to card it, but just to spin from a loosely held clump.

I will wash and card the alpaca over the next couple of days and hopefully spin it before the weekend is over.

Too bad my hand carders are in another box I can't reach.

Check out more Fiber Arts Friday Posts on the Alpaca Farm Girl Blog.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

If I'm looking for dog breeders, I'm not looking for miracle weight loss solutions

Today I am looking for dog breeders.

I performed an ordinary search in my favorite engine and found a site that looked promising. I clicked on it. The first thing I saw was a huge color picture of a woman's torso and thighs. She's a bit out of shape. She's wearing a g-string. What!? I'm looking for dogs.

As I scroll down in disbelief, I see there is a little content regarding the breed but the ads are huge. The ads are all over the place; large, full color, big red font. The content is in small grey text. The content is basically invisible.

In my opinion, the ads shouldn't even be there. However as a website owner, if you insist on having advertisements, please ensure they are relevant to your content. Please ensure they are not more important than your content.

So what's the point here? I'm definitely not going to explore this site further and I'm not going to share the URL. I don't see any reason to drive traffic to this site and these folks just lost a customer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My First Fiber Arts Friday Post

The stars have aligned...

1. I have remembered to prepare a Fiber Arts Friday post
2. I have a project to talk about
3. I have pictures

Last December, my sister-in-law came for a visit.

We discovered that we had each been learning to knit. I was so excited that I took her to my favorite yarn shop where we spent way too much time looking at the selection and talking about different projects that we might be able to complete with our novice skills.

My sister (her sister-in-law) had just gotten engaged, so I asked what she thought about making a scarf out of wedding colors for a shower gift. I could knit a rectangle and the wedding was planned for June.
She encouraged me and said six months should be enough time to finish it. So I selected a wool/silk blend and gathered up what I hoped would be enough yarn to make one scarf, plus a little extra just in case.

I started on the scarf several times. I tried different widths and patterns, finally settling on a narrow knit 1, purl 1 pattern with an odd number of stitches so I didn't have to remember how to start the next row.
This scarf used a little over two skeins and wraps around the neck two-to-three times leaving plenty of length. I'm very pleased with how it turned out and the resulting fabric is soft and cuddly.

After the scarf was complete, I had plenty of yarn left over. I thought since my sister-in-law had taken to making hats, I should try one. If I was able to finish the hat prior to the shower it would be part of the gift. So I searched online for easy hat patterns and found a cute one that only had knit and purl stitches. This was actually the 2nd hat I ever made. I think it turned out pretty well and it goes nicely with the scarf, which was the intention. whew.

So I was complete with my shower projects and feeling quite good about my knitting skills when learned the shower was for couples.

I still had yarn left over, so I quickly made a London Beanie for my sister's fiance. I was very excited, it was the best hat I had made to date. Then I tried it on.
It was too small.

I had yarn left over and one week until the shower.

I knitted furiously every night after work on a modified pattern. And it didn't happen. I finished the larger beanie today. They have been married for nearly 1 month now.
I suppose this is my first collection. Four items made form the same yarn for the same event. These will now be Christmas gifts. At least I am finally out of this yarn.
See other Fiber Arts Friday Posts here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lead by Example

I've been seeing a lot of posts lately about how to become a leader, or to be seen as an expert at something, or a step-by-step formula for how to make 6 figures by the end of the year. Blech.

What I would really like to see is more of these people/companies who profess to know the solution actually demonstrate it in something other than a loosely veiled money making scheme. It just feels like the next great weight loss shake and doesn't make any sense to me.

It's truly is a very simple 3 step formula, available here for free:

1. Be honest
2. Understand your customers' needs and wants
3. Be good at what you do.

It takes time to build a great reputation. I think even longer these days since we're conditioned to think someone is trying to rip us off.

If I'm not already aware of you, or if you haven't been recommended by someone I already trust, it will take time before you gain my trust and subsequently my available dollars.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

How stairs can cost (or save) you $300

While working on the Barriers post I was reminded of the first time I went to New York City.

It was a few years ago and we lived in a small-ish southwestern city. We didn't have much access to music outside the selections of a big-box retailer.

Snobbishly or not, we feel we have a wider range of music preferences than the peak of the bell curve. So whenever we are in a large city we like to visit the big music stores. Each of these visits usually costs us about $300. We feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store. So much music, so many choices... and when we're done, a year's supply of great, fresh music.

So, on our first trip to New York City, we stayed just off Times Square. We went exploring to see what we could see.

Then we spied our store, a big label music store in the heart of Times Square. Surely we will find excellent music here. We crossed Broadway and went through the front door only to find that to reach the music we must either go up a flight of stairs or down a flight of stairs.

Someone tells us the world music is downstairs and there might be an elevator around the corner in a different building.

Are you kidding me? I can't just go in an buy music? Isn't this New York City; the town where you can get anything you want, whenever you want?

We decided that we didn't need the music and credit the inaccessibility of a major record store with saving us $300.


Since my husband and I have recently relocated we are looking for places to spend our money on the goods and services we need and want.

At the very top of this list is a grocery store. We are looking for a local market to be our source for fresh local, organic meat and produce as well as bulk items such as pasta, beans and coffee.

Today, we went to a food coop in a nearby town. I had read many good things about this market and they have been in business a long time. Their apparent mission and values are consistent with ours, so we decided to give it a shot.

We drove the half hour to the store, parked across the street and walked in. The store is clean and inviting, the merchandising is consistent with their online presence. The store is smaller than expected but still, we are happy.

As we proceed toward the back we see the bulk section is split into two separate rooms and there are two steps up into each room. Since my husband uses a wheelchair and most of the items we want to purchase are "up stairs" this store instantly became undesirable.

Whether your shop is online, in person or both, please spend some time thinking about the accessibility of it. Is there something you can do to make it more available for someone who uses a wheelchair, a white cane or sign language?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Technology

I went to the Boulder-Denver New Technology (BDNT) Meetup last night. This was my first meetup so I wasn't really sure what to expect.

I was blown away. This is a very cool thing.

About 400 people came together to hear a few companies spend 5 minutes each talking about their new technology products. The audience then had 5 minutes to ask questions and provide feedback on each product or company. This was very fast, very intense and very fun.

These are local companies doing really cool things.

Sports Data Hub - data analysis for NFL Football, professional and armchair
iggli - organize your friends to go to ticketed events
TimZon - Integrated Video and Screen capture for sharing comments for product developers on multiple continents
Rezora - online marketing tool for real estate agents
Zeo - personal sleep analysis and feedback
TechoShark - iPhone app that integrates social media with conference goers

Some products were definitely more interesting to the audience and thus the audience was more engaged. The questions were intelligent and more business then technology focused.

I am absolutely looking forward to the next session.

Monday, July 6, 2009


There are some businesses/people I will miss now that we've returned to Colorado.

These businesses and the people who operate them have been a big part of our life for the past 12 years.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day

As we embark upon the US Independence Day weekend I am reminded, of course, that my country is engaged in multiple wars and that our Independence was gained via a war.

I am also reminded that my country was founded on ideas.
  • The idea that people should be allowed to think what they want.
  • The idea that people should be allowed to pray to whoever, however they want.
  • The idea that a people can be whatever they want. All they need is vision and fortitude.

My friends and acquaintances who grew up in this country always laugh at me when I call it Independence Day. They think it's funny that I don't call it the "4th of July" like everyone else.

My friends and acquaintances who grew up in other countries and are now in the US understand the meaning of Independence Day. Many of them came to the US so they could pursue some of the same ideas that this country was founded on.

As an educated women who is a business owner, able to vote, sign contracts, drive a car, go to school, be whoever I choose and pray however I choose I am proud to be an American.

The 4th of July is a day to remember all we intended to be and to celebrate that we can.