What a treat it was to discover the joys of raising alpacas from Dave Zandberg, half of ZZ Alpacas. Laughs were shared, and skeins were squished.
But first, member Michele Bernstein of PDXKnitterati shared her tips on how to improve your favorite cast on method.
Michele’s Long Tail Cast On Secrets
We love long tail because it’s fast, easy, and flexible. Here are the secrets Michele shared to take your long tail to new levels.
How to Get Rid of the Slip Knot Bump
Want a smoother cast on edge? Eliminate the slip knot. Hold the yarn in your left hand (or non-working-needle hand) as you typically would in long tail, with the tail draped over your thumb. Place your needle under the yarn and twist clockwise so you create your first stitch—which just so happens to be a smooth one!
Why Your First Knit Row Is Bumpy
If you’re knitting flat, then your first row after the cast on is the purl side (or “wrong side” depending on the pattern). If your pattern tells you to knit this row, purl it anyway and account for an extra row. Or, try a different cast on method, like cable cast on.
How to Loosen Up Your Cast On
Do you knit tightly? Leave some breathing room between stitches by holding the former stitch with your index finger as you continue to CO stitches.
How Much Yarn To Use for Long Tail Cast On
The tip you’ve all been waiting for: how to make sure you won’t run out of yarn!
Michele shared 3 techniques:
May Program: Alpacas: A Lifestyle Choice
Margaret first discovered ZZ Alpacas at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival when she found the perfect brown alpaca yarn. It came from an animal named Godiva in the tiny town of Fall City, OR. It only gets more charming from there.
Dave visited us to share his experience, passion, and hilarious stories around these incredibly cute animals.
Dave Zanberg and Sue Zofchak (“ZZ”) started their adventure together in 1978 at Rutgers School of Pharmacy, both having grown up in the industrial suburbs of New Jersey. After time in the Bay Area, Dave discovered the book The Complete Alpaca by Eric Hoffman. Breeding and raising alpacas seemed more pleasurable than living in the fast-paced city.
Land was bought in Utah, but later sold. Luckily for us, the couple eventually settled just outside Dallas, OR not far from McMinnville. Twenty acres, 2 Corriedale sheep, 3 mini donkeys, 3 dogs, 7 angora goats, 9 llamas, a bunch of equipment, and 54 alpacas later, Dave and Sue are truly living the alpaca lifestyle. Oh, and they share their home with a 22-year-old cockatoo named Birdie.
This is not just a job or a hobby for them. While the couple both work as pharmacists (at competing pharmacies in the same shopping center), they spend just about every other waking hour tending to the herd. Besides feeding them daily, there are stretches of the year that call for their full attention, such as clipping, breeding, and birthing times.
Dave affectionately speaks of his alpacas, referring to them by their given names (Red Baron, Tommy Lee, Lani, Monte Crisco) and appreciating each animal’s distinct personality. Generally, Dave said, they are aloof camelids, wanting attention and then playing it cool. The apparent joy and commitment Dave has is what made this program so enjoyable.
Dave and Sue breed alpacas for color (anything but uniform white), and there are 16 official colors with names like Rose Gray and Bay Black. However, they have a keen eye for the “30 shades of brown” and the other tonal subtleties that make for unique yarn. Each animal only produces about 4 pounds of yarn.
Partnering with veterinarian Pat Long, who has a connection with Oregon State University, Dave and Sue reach out for help on the riskiest part of owning alpacas—labor and care thereafter. There are occasionally heartbreaks in the process, yet many joys.
One cria (an alpaca baby) was struggling after birth. They took him to OSU where it was treated with what’s called the “bear hugger” in order to help him along. Dave and Sue’s pharmaceutical knowledge eventually saved the little one. Pat Long then examined the animal and made an announcement—this wasn’t an alpaca. They had a huarizo, or an alpaca/llama hybrid. The alpaca lifestyle is full of surprises.
A refrain throughout the stories told was that Dave and Sue often go to fairs or auctions and come back with not one or two animals, but dozens. “There’s about 80 of us now,” Dave said, and that’s not counting the looms, farm equipment, and future animals that will surely make way into their hearts.
Lastly, we were so lucky to have the chance to buy yarn at this meeting! While the ultra-soft and warm yarn they produced with the skills of Janelle Casey is irresistible, Dave is currently focusing on weaving rugs with the wool. The samples he brought are some of the softest you’d ever feel beneath your bare feet.
Thank you so much, ZZ Alpacas!
Raffle, Reminders, and Events
Yet another Knit Crate subscription was won, this time by lucky member Donna!
And, join us for social knitting at the first PKG sponsored World Wide Knit in Public Day! We’ll be at Oui Presse on SE Hawthorne. Bring your friends, knitters and those who want to learn. Stop by before or after visiting Brooklyn Tweed’s event at Laurelhurst Park.
Come back next time to Fremont United Methodist for Emily Carrig’s program on her experience earning a Master’s Degree in Knitwear Design, Production, and Heritage.