One of the Norway stops I really looked forward to was the Alpaca farm. I had some misconceptions about alpaca and thought they were really more like llamas. One of my worst experiences as a young child was at the Topeka Zoo. There was a baby llama standing next to its mother and it was so cute. I went running up to the fence……bad mistake…..as the momma spit on me to protect her baby! That moment has been burned in my memory banks, so I did a little research before I left.
A llama is a domesticated camelid used for its fiber and meat, or as a pack animal. They are taller than an average human, usually 5.5 to 6.0 feet tall at the top of their head. They can weigh up to 450 pounds. Llamas live in a herd and can live 20-30 years in a good environment! Llamas produce very soft wool that is lanolin free. It appears that llamas originally lived on the North American central plains, but they moved to South America over 10,000 years ago. Now, there are over 7 million llamas and alpacas in South America. However, they have returned to North American and Canada on farms, with over 158,000 llamas now in residence.
So, now what is an alpaca? Well, it turns out an alpaca is also a domesticated camelid. Alpaca are smaller, 5 feet or less at the head. An adult alpaca usually weighs under 200 pounds and has a life span of 15-25 years. Alpacas also live in herds and were specifically bred for their fiber, which is not wool. It sounds impossible but there are over 20 natural colors of fiber! We visited one of the four farms connected with Norsk Alpakka. This farm is owned by Anne Linne and her husband, located in the Sigdal area. Here are several of their new babies and you can see all the different colors in just a few animals.
Anne Linne called the fiber hair, not wool. Alpaca fiber is very much sought over and has a high value. It is warmer than wool and does not have lanolin. Wool absorbs water, up to a third of its weight. Alpaca is water resistant and will wick away moisture from the body. It is also flame-resistant. One of the critical differences is the scales on the alpaca hair are much smaller than sheep’s wool so the spun fiber is not itchy like wool. When I checked the Norsk Alpakka Facebook page this morning, Anne Linne had shared this photo showing the microscopic differences of several fibers and you can see where the scales on the alpaca are much smaller.
Alpaca are shorn once a year. The hair has to be at least 2" long so that it can be carded and spun, ready for weaving or other techniques.
Thankfully, I found out that alpaca usually don’t spit at humans! They do spit at each other in order to establish dominance, so as long as I stayed out of the middle of a squabble, I was fine! In fact, alpaca are usually very calm and make great pets. As cat owners know, one of the worst things about owning a feline is taking care of the litter box. Alpacas are exceptionally clean, and they do not soil where they sleep or where they eat. In fact, they all use the same spot! Ladies, are you teased about women going to the bathroom in pairs? Well, female alpacas feel the same way and they will all stand in a line and go at once.
We met an alpaca celebrity named Ake. This alpaca is so laid back that he has been featured on Norwegian television shows. One of the segments, Secret Camera, was going to air the week we were there. In this episode, people had responded to an ad for a poodle puppy. Ake was taken up to a third floor apartment where people were stopping by to get their puppy. The TV person would greet them and talk for a bit and then come back to the back and bring out their "puppy" and try to convince them to take their "puppy" home. Another segment had a traveler loading a lot of luggage into a taxi and then trying to get Ake into the backseat as well. Ake is such a celebrity that has his own Facebook page where some other pranks are posted. We learned just how calm he is when Anne Linne brought him onto our bus!
Earlier in the day, I also got to see some sheep when we had lunch at the home of our tour guide, Sigrid.
These guys were pretty excited when we pulled up and they came running up to the fence. The third one from the left had a bell around his neck.
Sigrid’s home was amazing so I have to share just a couple of pictures. This is the front entrance and one of the painted cabinets inside.
Sheep were one of the first animals to be domesticated for meat, milk, and wool. Sheep’s wool is the dominate fiber around the world. Wool from Merino sheep is considered the best for textiles because of their fiber density and crimp. That is certainly true in Norway. While I saw very little needlework, knitting is still a very popular activity in Norway. Even yarn bombing goes on in Norway. Here is a lady putting up a knitted covering on a pole along Bryggen, the wharf in Bergen!
The Folk Museum in Oslo had a wonderful shop demonstrating various needleart techniques. I purchased a wooden knitting kit and a couple skeins of hand-dyed yarn.
This knitting technique is called strikkelise and creates a round braid that can be used in a variety of ways. Nordic Needle carries a modern version of this tool called the French Knitter (6346).
Most people associate Norway with the beautiful knitted wool sweaters especially those from Dale of Norway. From their website "Dale of Norway…represents the traditions and quality Norwegian knitwear is famous for. Ever since 1879, Dale of Norway has been producing the first-class quality products. Today, Dale of Norway is the largest manufacturer of traditional Norwegian knitwear in the world. Furthermore, Dale of Norway is one of the Scandinavia’s largest manufacturers of fine hand-knitting yarns. Dale of Norway stays close to nature-pure natural fibers are the natural ingredient in all Dale of Norway products and technologies used to manufacture these sweaters are very ecological."
I really had no intention of purchasing a sweater because I rarely get cold enough to wear one and I find wool to be very scratchy. (Now, I know why!) However, the very first shop we saw in Oslo was "UFF", a gently-used clothing store. The store’s profit is donated to Humana People to People’s development programs in Africa and India. They had a lot of sweaters, and I got talked into buying one!
It took up a lot of space in my suitcase so I ended up donating a pair of pants and shirt to another thrift store in Sigdal to make room!
If I was going to buy a sweater it had to have some purple in it and I really didn’t want a traditional design. So I found this one with a lot more color than most.
People had told me US Customs would ask about my farm visit. So, I had a pair of tennis shoes to wear at the farm and then leave in Norway, and that gave me a little more room also! I cleared the US Customs with just a few questions about my farm visit. However, in Iceland, I was selected for the random security check in the little room. It must have been my "Got Hardanger?" shirt!!! As you can tell, I made it through that check as well, and was let back into the United States.
We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!
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