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. 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! This farm is owned by Anne Linne and her husband, located in the Sigdal area, and is one of four farms connected with Norsk Alpakka. 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. The Norsk Alpakka Facebook page 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, alpaca usually don’t spit at humans! They do spit at each other in order to establish dominance. 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.
The celebrity alpaca Ake is so laid back that he has been featured on Norwegian television shows. One of the segments, Secret Camera, has an episode where 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 he has his own Facebook page where some other pranks are posted. Here he is demonstrating his calmness when Anne Linne brought him onto a tour bus!
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. 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. Here is 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.
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."
If you are wanting to purchase a Norwegian sweater, but aren’t excited about the high price of something new, there is a shop in Oslo called "UFF" that is a gently-used clothing store. The store’s profit is donated to Humana People to People’s development programs in Africa and India. You may be lucky to find a perfect authentic Norwegian sweater at a fraction of the cost.
We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!
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