Califonia Bountiful

Fiber, friendliness make alpacas popular

For spinning and knitting, rugs and sweaters, alpacas produce a luxurious natural fiber.

Because her animals are mild mannered with inquisitive eyes and cute fluffy faces, people often ask Pat Meade what exactly they should call her alpacas. Part of the same family as llamas and camels, alpacas are popular for their fiber and friendliness. Pat and her husband, Jon Robbins, began West Valley Alpaca ranch in 1993 and today sell their alpaca fiber and products at their ranch store in Esparto in Northern California. From spinning to knitting, rugs to sweaters, alpacas produce a luxurious natural fiber that is soft and warm while still lightweight. Five to eight pounds of fiber is produced annually from each alpaca. The wool comes in 22 recognized natural colors, and Pat often uses a process called "hand painting" to dye the fiber and offer more color variety.

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