Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This was my big purchase while on vacation this week. For some reason the beginning of each year I think I am going to cook more and go out to restaurants less. The year never ends that way, but it's a nice thought and a good start. So I bought this beautiful crockpot and a book from Williams and Sonoma, which happens to be my new favorite store. Ever try their candles? I'm looking forward coming home to a house full of nice smells.

So today I went to the grocery store. Didn't even think how busy it was going to be. There were only 4 grocery carts left! So I take one and off I go. UGH! There were just too many people in the aisles. I couldn't wait until I got out. Of course when I got home I thought of a few things I forgot to write on my list. Now I get to go back....... Lucky me. Not sure why I hate grocery shopping so much. I love going to Target!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Museum Adventure

I just visited our local museum with a friend yesterday. I haven't been there for a really long time and forgot how spectacular it is. I haven't seen the dinosaur exhibit since it re-opened. It is spectacular! They also have a whale exhibit there from New Zealand. The architecture in the museum is wonderful. The old marble on the floors is worn with time and all the people that have passed through those hallways.

No this isn't the tree in my livingroom. But it is a tree in the Hall of Architecture. They had about 6 trees all decorated differently with different themes.

This could be my new pet. Now sure if it would eat me in the end, but it sure is cute. What do you think it's name should be? I did get to hold a real dinosaur bone.
This was in the American Indian exhibit. It really does look like I am on a river bank. Well except for the sign that says to come and sit inside the canoe. Just forget that is there and pretend I am on an Alaska riverbank.

You can't imagine how big the T Rex is. They have two facing each other as in battle. After seeing all these exhibits it is fun to think of the movie Night at the Museum and try to think if they all came alive what it would be like.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This is Amelia. Three Rivers Knit and Crochet's youngest member. I made this sweater for Amelia. Her Mom, Rebecca, made her hat. Isn't she the cutest! She comes every week with her Mom and we love seeing the parade of clothes she has. I have to say she is a fashionista already.
I have been working on some really cool projects for Highland Alpaca's yarn store. The first picture is a sample of bed slippers. I haven't made them in Alpaca yet. This is the sample I made from Drops Eskimo wool. Then I felted them. I added an acrylic yarn at the top to give it a little embellishment. The slippers are knitted and fast and easy. Great for beginners.

The other project below is made from Highland's signature Alpaca yarn. The signature yarn is 3 strand. One strand is maroon, one black and one off white. I added some of my own Alpaca yarn for the black band. It is crocheted and another fast and easy project.

The hat pattern is offered free with the purchase of their yarn. I'm looking forward to next year and the projects I can cook up.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Yarn Ball

Look at all these penguins in a row. Does it remind you of the march of the penguins? Well kinda only the stuffed version. These were just a sample of what was made for the Yarn Ball. One of our members, Theresa, made 10. All sold in the blink of an eye. Well Pittsburgh is the home of the Penguins! We raised over $2400, last count, for Rwanda Knits or our local VA Hospital.

Rwanda Knits trains women with a home business in making knitted items. This donation helps with training and supplies. Did you know our government does not supply our veterans with basic toiletries or even underwear? The money raised will help to provide those basic items or some Christmas presents to the veterans who don't have families that visit.

It feels so good to be part of something that puts a smile a face. We are already talking about next years yarn ball.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Silly Labs

Two of my three dogs are silly Labs. They make my heart laugh with their personalities. One I call my velcro dog. I am sitting on the sofa with Jim and they both have to be on the sofa with us. Elly May is laying down with her butt up in the air on a pillow. Phoebe doesn't have any room so is sitting against me whining because she doesn't know where to go. Every day these three make me laugh and make life joyful.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Aren't these critters cute! Joyce came to the crochet group today and needled felted these little guys. Boy did they get alot of attention. My favorite is the little green guy. He reminds me of a inch worm. The lips are cute and the eyes are really expressive.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Class at Highland Alpaca

NEW CLASS at Highland Alpaca

Needle Felting Fun Making a Black and Gold Penguin

Saturday October 10th

9 am to Noon

$40 Per Person

Class limited to 15 people

Register by emailing Karen Cuffaro at

Join us for a fun class to create a delightful penguin using alpaca fiber.

Class instruction will include discussion on a variety of needle felting techniques for both flat and dimensional felting. Needle felting utilizes small, sharp, barbed needles that cause the fibers to tangle into each other when poked. Endless possibilities exist for the use of this simple tool in creating pictures, embellishments, and three dimensional objects. A variety of samples will be on display showing the great diversity of this felting technique.

No experience is necessary, all materials are included to complete the penguin. 2 felting needles are provided and additional ones will be available for purchase should you break one in class.

Bring your camera! After class enjoy spending time with the Alpaca in the pastures and shopping in the Farm Store. Plus see the babies! There are over 85 Alpaca on the farm and come in over 20 different natural colors. Alpacas are gentle creatures that hum to communicate with each other and are very social. Alpaca fiber is one of the finest animal fibers in the world. Because of its fiber structure it is considered warmer than wool and isn’t itchy like wool. Many people who can’t wear wool can wear Alpaca.

Instructor Wini Labrecque

Fiber professional & textile artist



Wini Labrecque has made fiber her profession, studying, training and evaluating its properties from both a scientific and hands on approach. As a textile artist, she has developed a solid background and interest in a wide variety of techniques for utilization of fiber from raw state to finished product. Since the late 1980's, utilizing natural fibers, Wini has been spinning, weaving, knitting and felting. Her handspun skeins and woven/knit goods are sold at area art festivals and in area specialty shops. Wini lectures on all aspects of fiber as well as gives classes in beginning spinning, felting, dying and/or weaving to individuals or small groups. She is a Fiber Arts judge as well as a judge for spin offs, hand spun and mill spun skein competitions, an apprentice camelid fleece judge, and currently completing certification as a camelid fiber grader/sorter.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our New Crochet Member

This is our newest Three Rivers Crochet Member

This is Amelia Rose. This is Rebecca's baby, only two weeks old. She is so tiny and was so good at the group yesterday. The sweater was made by another group member Lisa Valentino.

Yesterday I took a trip with some of my crochet friends to Stramba Mini Mill in Wampun PA. Terri Stramba just opened her mini mill and was kind enough to take us on a tour of how animal fiber goes from the animal to yarn.

There pictures are not in correct order, but this will give you an idea of the process.

The picture below is the machine that is spinning the roving into a strand of yarn. It runs really fast and sometimes you can't see the strand of yarn as it's running through the machine.

This machine is the carder. It separates the good fiber from the bad. The bad fiber would be coarse hair and any object that is attached to the fiber.

This is the yarn drying after being made into yarn.

This is the fiber being skirted. All the debris is picked out before being washed.

This is the fiber drying after being washed. It takes about 24 hours to dry. It all depends on the humidity. The fiber takes longer in high humidity.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Newest Baby Lady Guenevere

This is my newest baby Lady Guenevere. Hopefully I spelled that correctly. My husband Jim wanted to name her that. It is my first girl to be born. She is the princess of my little herd. She has a ton of fiber that is thick and soft. Her Mom is Boudica. Boudica's tail is wrapped so it doesn't get all gooky when the baby comes out. Lady G. is less than an hour old in this picture. Ain't she a cutie pie!

Suffering for a Sweater

Dang sweater! I keep muttering that beneath my breath. These are the sleeves to the sweater that had to be ripped out because patterns never seem to work for me. I made the back and I had to rip that out once also. Why do I have this funny feeling that once I put this together I am going to look like the Michelan tire man? The pattern on the sleeve is a mistake rib. Should have known from the beginning. It might end up in some fiber shows at Alpaca shows. It may be destined to look better on a hanger.

The yarn is my favorite so far. I sent the Alpaca fiber to a mini mill for processing last year. It is a blend of Alpaca, merino, hemp and nylon. It is beautiful to look and work with.

Oh boy.......

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Isn't this the cutest picture! Rebecca, from my crochet group, thought of the pattern for this hat. Our group makes preemie hats for Save the Children. They send them to Africa to give out to new Moms. So this one will be added to our collection of hats to send in December.

My New Baby Coal

This is my new baby Coal. He was born July 4th. This picture was taken less than 24 hours after he was born. How sweet is this little baby boy. This is Ebony's first baby. So far she is a great Mom and is taking good care of her little boy.

Ebony and her little boy Coal.
Coal in the pasture.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Some Beautiful Things

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. To me it is an awakening of Mother Nature. The buds are so beautiful and everything is so green. Plus the green is so fresh and new. Above is a picture of my Redbud tree. The blossoms are so pretty in the Spring and the leaves are heart shaped and purple. I always smile when I look at it.

Below are my lilacs. They are by the garage and when I drive in I catch their scent. Some years they are plentiful and some not. This year the weren't so plentiful. I have to work on more blums this year. So much to do outside this year. With all the rain we have received everything has grown very fast.
I have been working really hard on my Alpaca sweater so I am finished by the Yarn Ball. The Yarn Ball is a party my crochet group puts on in the Fall to raise money for two charities. I have until November to finish it. I hop I can make it. I am almost finished with the back and am currently working on the sleeves. I like working on the sleeves two at a time. Below is a picture of the back. This sweater and yarn were meant to be with each other. This yarn just looks perfect with the pattern.

Photo Contest

In May the Pennsylvania Alpaca Association had their Breeders Showcase. Breeders Showcase is an Alpaca show for those farms in Pennsylvania. I submitted a photo of Angus when he was about 2 months old in the baby division. I won 1st place and Peoples Choice! Peoples Choice voted by those who attend the show. Mine was their favorite photo. This is so exciting for me. I have loved taking photos for many years and this is the first time I have won a contest. I believe they will use the photo in either their advertising or magazine.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Summer is here a little eary

I can't believe the temps this weekend. High 80's, way too hot for this time of year. But like everyone else I was out enjoying the hot days. I bought some grass seed to fill in all the bald spots from last summer. It was a little too hot to plant the seed this weekend. I even got my pepper and tomato plants. Home Depot had a great selection. I got some plants that are for container growing. Hopefully they product a ton of peppers and tomatoes this year. Last year I didn't get much. It was too dry. Next purchase is mulch.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shearing Day

Shearing day is a blur of activity. All the Alpaca at Highland get sheared in May. Their fiber is thick, heavy and dirty. If there are any warm days in April and May they are definitely ready to get rid of their coat.

I drove up to the farm and got there about an hour after they started. The two guys who came to shear are originally from New Zealand, but now live in the states and travel around to farms shearing animals all over the country. It is really hard, back breaking, work bending over animals all day on your knees. When I walked in the barn they had two mats set up on the floor so there is always an animal to shear. The guys work together and they move from one animal to the next. They only take about 4 mins per animal. That day they had 85 Alpaca to shear. They separate them by color and sex to shear. Fiber is flying around along with the dust from the barn floor. All you hear is the buzz from the shears. The animals are all restless and crying, especially the ones being sheared. The only breaks are to oil the shears and briefly for lunch.

The blanket, which is the middle section of the Alpaca is the best fiber. The blanket is placed in a plastic bag marked with the Alpaca's name. The neck and butt fiber is segregated by color, which is still good quality, and placed into large bags. This fiber can be made into socks. I had some of this fiber made into yarn last year and it is spectacular. I am making a sweater from the yarn. The fiber from the legs is courser and very dirty. It is usually thrown away, but can be used as nesting for other animals. One of the ladies last year brought some home for her chickens. I brought some home for the birds to use in their nests.

When you see Alpaca being sheared for the first time you think the contraption they put them in is a torture device. They have to keep them still so they aren't hurt during the shearing process. Ropes are put around all four legs and the front and back legs are gently pulled apart until they are lying on the ground. The ropes are around pulleys, so they go down nice and smooth. They shear one side at a time. This is also a great time to trim their nails, as Jenny is doing below.

Once they are done the ropes are taken off and they are able to get up. At first they are disoriented from the shearing process and need to be guided out into the pasture. It takes a couple minutes, but then they begin to eat and act normally.

I was beat after shearing day. I was soar all over and couldn't wait to get into a hot shower. But have such great memories and can't wait for shearing day in 2009.

Below is what they look like sheared and at the top is Boudica before she was sheared.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My First Show

Yes, there are Alpaca shows. They are very similar to dog shows. You walk the Alpaca around a ring. They are shown by color and are judged on their confirmation and fiber quality. While I was off looking for a job Jenny and Fay from Highland Alpaca were able to take the time to show me the skills I needed to step into the ring.

I was so excited to attend my first show in Michigan. There are rows and rows of Alpaca in stalls. Farms have display's with the ribbons they have won. Lots of display's of each farms best Alpaca. Vendors have their booths set up selling all kinds of things for and with Alpaca. It is very festive.

I drove up with them to Michigan. We took two vehicles. One was a commercial van with the girls in the back and the other was a truck, which they towed the boys in a trailer.

The show was magical. It was a Cinderella moment. I took Boudica and Morag to the show. Boudica won a color championship and Morag won reserve color championship. Which is second in her color class. Some people wait years or never win a championship. I never thought the first time I walked into the ring that I would win. So many people came up to congratulate me. Even some were judges.

Highland did really well at the show too. All their Alpaca won some kind of ribbon. When you win a ribbon you hang it on the stall. Well, it was a sea of blue at their stalls.

That was just the beginning for Boudica. She ended up winning many ribbons and color championships. Below is a picture of the ribbons I have won so far and Boudica along with her little baby boy Angus.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Beginning...

The company that I worked for in 2005 merged with another company and I lost my job in 2006. I got interested in learning how to knit and crochet in 2006. I attended a local yarn festival where a local Alpaca farm had a display. For most of my adult life I wanted to have a farm and own Llama. So I was immediately attracted to Alpaca. They look like small Llamas, but much smaller.

So I ended up visiting that farm to buy more yarn and fell in love with their soft fiber and large dark eyes. They make a soft humming noise to communicate. I fell in love. After this visit a local yarn store had a day trip to a local Alpaca farm, so I went. After I heard the owners of the farm talk about Alpaca I had an Oprah moment. I thought I can do this!

After a couple months of visiting local farms and asking a lot of questions we bought our three girls Morag, Ebony & Boudica in August 2006. All in different colors. It was hard to decide whether to buy maiden or proven females. The difference is you have either had a baby or not. These two choices brought many possibilities, all with different outcomes. We choose girls with excellent backgrounds and fiber that they would pass on to the next generation. Since we are boarding them at a local farm we had to consider the monthly expense too.

Ebony was bred in the Fall of 2006 then Morag and Boudica were bred in the Spring 2007. By buying maiden females this gave us some time to adjust to the business and attend a few shows before the babies came. A females show career ends when she gets pregnant.

After picking out our three girls we made a trip up to the farm to see them again. We weren’t sure which ones were Boudica, Morag and Ebony. After Jen & Fay, the owners of Highland Alpaca, picked them out for us we took a lot of pictures. Morag came right up to me and leaned on me. She loves attention. I gave her a good neck and back rub. The whole time puffs of dirt were coming out of her fiber. She loves to roll in the dirt! All I could think about was Pigpen from Peanuts. Boudica and Ebony just weren’t too sure about us two-leggers. They kept a safe distance.

Now some of the fun began. We picked our farm name, Chocolate River Alpacas. I was watching the Travel Channel and they were talking about the Chocolate Mountain range and it just clicked. What woman wouldn’t like a river of chocolate!

In the next few months after we bought the girls we made many trips to Highland Alpaca along with a trail of friends. Our friends didn’t know what an Alpaca was. Some laughed, but for the most part all were interested to hear more and see the pictures.

The most memorable trip was with my girlfriend Lori and her granddaughter Regan. Regan took to the Alpaca right away and it seemed they realized she was a small two-legger and she was able to move easily around them. They weren’t scared when she approached them. She was able to get really close and pet them.

Some More Pictures........