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A unique Christmas gift (hint - it involves alpacas!)

Posted in Personal stories/journeys/interviews/tutors’ stories and Textiles & needlework.

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A report from Suki, Customer Services

 

Christmas me up!  

 

Ah.... I no longer have to say the ‘c’ word... we are officially on the run up to Christmas!  

For those that think it’s too early to hear about Christmas and dislike the commercialism associated with this time of year, you can take a deep breath and read on.  This blog is not about what plastic toy to buy, there is no black Friday sale mentioned and I promise I won’t tell you how many Saturday’s there are until the big day.   

Obviously, I don’t need to worry about the Festive Freddie's out there, you were hooked once you saw the title, so enjoy! 

Christmas for me is about lighting candles, throwing a log on the fire, the smell of satsumas and spices, the joy of the fresh pine needles on the tree (before they are all on the floor) and last, but not least, giving something special to someone you love.  If that happens to be handmade, it’s time to get a jingle on. Jiggle on.  Sorry.   

 

Alpaca Christmas decoration

 

 

 

 

As a maker, I have genuinely been thinking about Christmas since about August; ooh even the festive lot winced then.  It’s true though, if you are going to be making for loved ones or making to order, then you need time to plan and time to make, so you actually enjoy the process.

 

So, when I came across the Weave an alpaca scarf in a day workshop, after I did a little happy dance, I booked on.

What’s this? Make a gift for someone in a day, whilst meeting the alpacas?? Sign me up! Alright I am lying, it was ‘meet the alpacas,’ and then, ooh and I get to make a scarf...

 

After a long drive in the cold November sun, I knew I was getting close as the towns turned to villages and villages turned to hamlets and hamlets gave way to fields, narrow roads and farms. Arriving early, which is very unlike me, I parked up and looked out of my window to this: 

 

Meet the alpacas kindly providing
the wool for the workshop

 

 

 

15 minutes later, you guessed it, I was still stood there, having attracted another student and a few more alpacas. 2 minutes later, Caroline came out, herded us up and led us inside.  

 

Waiting in the room were four table looms all set up with our chosen colours and patterns.  Naturally, being a complete novice, I opted for slightly harder pattern because... well because I cannot help myself!  

 

After a quick introduction to our tools for the day and a list of names for things that I immediately forgot and quickly replaced with thingamibob, whatsit, gubbins and thatthingijustbroke.  Caroline told us which alpacas the wool had come from; my brown was from Bertie, my cream was from Richbourg and my silver grey was from Rhea and Raz and yes, I would get to meet them!  

 

Alpaca wool of dreams

 

 

 

Caroline then showed us how to tighten the whatsit’s, wrap the wool on the thingamibob’s and keep the gubbins taught, and... off we went! Thankfully I wasn’t the only complete novice who decided that the beginners' pattern wasn’t challenging enough, so when Caroline explained to us that those with the check pattern would be counting, cutting and tucking every 8 rows, I wasn’t the only person sat there with a look of ‘uh oh’ on their face.  

 

By row 24 I was obviously a complete expert as I sat there passing the whatsit through the wool and moving the thingamibob up and down, oh wait was it just up? Or was it just down? Will this do my next line? Or will it undo my last line? Yep, I'm undoing... “Don’t panic!” laughs the ever-watchful Caroline, “we’ll only worry if you break it!” we all laughed and then about 20 rows later Caroline was showing me how to mend a break...  

Caption

 

 

 

 

About an hour later we all looked up as cups of tea and coffee and biscuits arrived and no-one could believe how fast that last hour had gone, talk about being engrossed!

 

As we surfaced, we all looked around and ‘wow’ed at each other's progress, well more accurately I did, as when they looked at mine everyone gave me a sympathetic smile and ‘you’ll get there!”

Yes thank you ladies...I do appear to be one third behind everyone else... then Caroline pointed out the alpacas had gone into the field next to us and bam, with everyone’s attention diverted I rattled on determined!  

 

At break we chatted, ate some lovely food and waited... waited... waited... “Shall we go and see the alpaca’s?” Caroline asks, YES! 

Bertie the alpaca

 

 

Rhea the alpaca

 

 

Richbourg the alpaca

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the room, we chat and laugh and then sit at our looms and the concentration sets in.

We each have 3 slips of paper wrapped up in the wool to protect it as we weave; so far everyone else has revealed a slip of paper, as they get close to the second one the look of horror on my face cannot be hidden... we’re meant to finish by 5pm, I will be here until midnight at this rate!

I plough on... the alpacas come strutting around again... yes my pretties distract them, distract them!  

 

Wahay!” Caroline declares, “Your first slip of paper is off!”, a little cheer from around the room gets me laughing again, ok, maybe 10pm, I can live with that.  

 

Progress on my alpaca scarf

 

 

 

After a few more hours of chatter, laughter, tea, biscuits and a few more breaks (yes, I was the ONLY one breaking wool), we all had the makings of a scarf.

Everyone else was off the loom: trimming, deciding how to finish their tassels and taking photographs of their beautiful creations and I ploughed on.

Then finally, my last slip of paper fell off and I was at the finishing line.  A drum roll from Caroline, cheering from the girls and shameless filming by me saw my scarf rolled off the loom... ah....! 

 

Swaggering out with my scarf in my bag and instructions on how to hand wash and trim it at home, I was relieved to see the snow had stopped – yes, wasn’t expecting that one! – and said one last goodbye to the alpacas.

Tired, happy, a phone full of alpaca photos and thrilled with my make, if you can tell me a better way to spend a day, then I want to hear about it.  

 

Now all I needed to do was wrestle with my conscience over whether to give it as a gift or gift it to myself.... I'm only human after all!  

 

My new scarf. I mean gift for a loved one...

 

If you fancy a cuddle with the alpacas and to weave your own gorgeous scarf in a day, then Caroline is based in the beautiful rural Shropshire landscape, with a herd of fluffy faces waiting to meet you! 

 

And if you can't make it to Shropshire here are some other weaving workshops for you to browse.

 

If you enjoyed reading this, you may like to read about a different type of weaving too (with willow) in our blog article 'Wonderful willow: an eco-solution for a post-plastic world'>