It’s in motion! Participants have signed up, fibre is being spun or yarn has been bought. The Melbourne Fibreshed knitalong has begun. We’ve had our first meet up. We introduced each other to the fibres we’re using and got to talk to Jean Daddo at Pitchingga Ridge alpacas.
Introducing the fibres we’re using
Natasha is drawing fibres from across the state. She has alpaca and corriedale from the Goldfields, Western district and Mornington Peninsula. She’s spinning each fibre in an individual yarn and then plying them together. Fibre tones highlight in unexpected ways when you do this. We compared it to the way genes are inherited.
Other knitters are drawing from Yarra Valley angora rabbit, Spa country Finn wool, Murray wool and Sunraysia Merino. That’s a pretty comprehensive coverage of the state!
I’m using suri alpaca yarn. It comes from an alpaca called ‘Cascade’, who lives at Pitchingga Ridge. She’s a beautiful, calm alpaca with very fine fibre. She’s just birthed her first cria, Octavia. Her yarn was spun at Fibre Naturally. I love the rosy cream colour of the yarn, but Jean tells me it will lighten as I wash it.
Pitchingga Ridge is at Red Hill, which is known for its fine, red soils. Yarn has been processed, but some of the fine red dust remains. The iron pigment is subtly colouring my yarn. I love this idea and am a bit sad it will diminish!
Red Hill is on the Mornington Peninsula, 1.5 hours drive from Melbourne. It is the traditional land of the Burrinyung-bulluk clan, members of the Boonurong clan. On the West the land slopes to relaxed swimming beaches on Port Phillip Bay and views of Melbourne city. Travel to the east and you get to rockier windswept beaches edging Western Port Bay.
Red Hill itself is full of rolling, green hills, farmland and bush. It’s known for its vineyards, orchards and berry farms. There’s a cheese maker and a brewery. Mushroom foragers, mountain bikers and horse riders travel the red dirt pathways. A nearby attraction is Arthur’s Seat.
There’s a mix of permanent residents and holiday homes. I used to come every major holiday in my teenage years, because my grandparents had a property here. My aunt and uncle now run a vineyard nearby.
Our first conversation
I invited Jean Daddo at Pitchingga Ridge to call in to our knitalong meetup. She gave us a farmer’s perspective. Her expertise was a great addition to our conversation and lead us down different paths.
We talked about the different effects hand spinning and milling has on yarn appearance. Jean has handspun and had her alpaca fibre milled. She reflected on how the same fibre can look so different depending on how it was spun.
We learnt something of alpaca genetics and colour predictability. Pitchingga Ridge specialise in black fibres. Jean explained that Australian alpaca genetics only goes back a few decades. Peruvian imports come with no genetic history. This means alpaca breeding for colour is like working in the dark. Colours are difficult to breed for with accuracy, particularly grey.
Then there was the story of a 13 year old boy on the Mornington peninsula who keeps his own alpacas. He’s learning to spin their fibre and has someone lined up to knit him a beanie with it. He has plans to make a business of it. He is learning so much: the economics of animal husbandry, the physics of spinning and the business of selling. What a great education!