Gn'R Alpaca Farm - Lisle, Ontario

Gail Franklin-Hawes

Gail is a mother to 7 male alpacas: Carter, Pirelli, Durango, Voodoo, Paxton, Ekelon and Hanley, a farm owner, and fibre artist. 

Gail was an Arts and Crafts Instructor with Aurora Parks and Recreation for several years thru the 70’s, graduated with a 3 year Material Arts – Weaving and Textiles Diploma from Georgian Collage in 1980. Gail has always been involved in crafts of some form or other. As a children’s craft instructor, Girl Guide leader, craft presenter at her children’s school she has always had a special interest in the fibre arts. 

She now has a farm where she raises alpacas so she can have her own fleece to play and design with. She mostly hand processes the fleece from sheering, picking, washing, carding, felting and or spinning. She started to spin in 2013, became a member of Alpaca Ontario, The South Simcoe Arts, Notawassaga Spinners and Weavers, and Upper Canada Fibre Shed. Gail uses her fleece to not only spin her own blends of yarns, but uses the raw fleece to produce felted one of a kind items. She felts, knits, crochets, and weaves with her fibres.  The farm is open for tours, offers demonstrations and workshops. The love of crafting, knitting, spinning, weaving and felting has filled her every available hour.

I use the fibre from my own animals to feed my fibre need, however it is not enough material to produce the required yarn and finished products I need. I have made connections with other local alpaca farmers to obtain additional fibre.

I have a farm store and business: Gn’R Alpaca Farm and Fibre Boutique. I participate in approximately 20 craft sales per year promoting alpaca products, we have free Open House’s at the farm 3 or 4 weekends a year, and I have hosted Red Hat Ladies, Scouts, Girl Guides, nursery school tours and mini workshops. I have various workshops on going through the year including: introduction to spinning, wet felting, 3D felted vessels and Nuno Scarves both at the farm and at local spinning guilds.

Personally I produce the fibre from my own animals first, using every bit of it from the finest blanket for hand spinning yarn, to the courser leg fibres for pet beds. I have purchased and processed an additional 10-12 animals fleece a year, blending and plying to create my own unique natural colour blends.

I of course prefer to process the finest fibre only, but that is not a reality. I process the entire fleece from the animals, trying to find a use for it all. The finest is used for my hand spun yarns and felted scarves, the remainder of the fleece is sometimes blended with merino wool and spun, or felted with. I wet felt cat toys, dryer balls, soaps, hats, 3D bowls and scarves.  I have supplied Birds Unlimited with raw fibre for their bird nesting programs. My yarns are knit into one of a kind usable products like hats, mitts, headbands, shawls, sweaters, socks, wristlets, stuffed animals, scarves, cat hats and anything I can think of.

I would like people to know that my fibre is from our own animals and local, that each finished item is hand made by either myself or helper knitters. I would want them to know that I have a store at the farm, and when and where they can find me during the year at various shows and sales. I would want them to know that I will wholesale some items, and that they can refer to my website for selections and items available. I would also want them to know the stores that carry my products like the Textile Museum of Canada’s Gift store, Natural Choice, South Simcoe Arts Council Store, and Bird Unlimited.

 
 

 

 


Alpaca Fibre: sheared once a year in the spring. Our team of family and friends each have an assigned job. The alpacas have been rounded up, haltered and had large vegetation removed. The first animal is lead to the shearing area along side a vertical table. He steps over a belly strap that when lifted will hold him close to the table, his back legs are lifted by the strongest, and head held by the lead rope, the table is then rotated to a horizontal position and the animal is secured with straps. His head is secured in a helpers arms providing comfort and keeping the animal from trying to sit up. The shearer is prepared and positioned between the outstretched legs, and a helper is opposite with hands gently on the animals side ready to hold down if needed and providing some comfort. 

The shearer starts to shear the alpaca clearing away belly fleece and lower leg fleece. The fleece from this area is usually pretty stained, course and not usable. The body fleece or "blanket" is sheared next, its the most coveted, best quality, grade, of fleece on the animal. This fleece will be sheared in as large a piece as possible and transferred to the skirting table to be skirted and picked over. This portion of fleece is measured for length, strength, crimp, softness, and kept either flat or rolled to keep it intact for future processing. Keeping it in one piece allows for faster picking and processing, keeping the bundle tuffs together. The neck is sheared next, also taken to the skirting table and checked, and kept in its own pile. The animal is flipped to his other side and the same process is done. When skirting the blanket any less desirable bits may be kept as seconds that could be used for felting projects.  We like to do any hair cuts while the animal is on the table, we check the body over for bites or issues, trim toe nails, and give shots at this time. When the animals are 21/2 to 3 years old they grow fighting teeth. If present we trim or file them, and trim the bottom teeth if they have grown to long. This is the least fun part.

So we have the fleece labelled and bagged, the waste cleared up, topical insecticide applied, and a much cooler alpaca completed. The process continues till all boys are done. The process of the fleece takes me all year. I hand process the fibre starting with either the blanket or the neck or seconds depending on what I need. I hand brush every tuft of fibre with a hand pet brush, fill a box with the fibre, then wash in small handfuls in panty hose bags using a small amount of soft detergent. I rinse 3-5 times depending on how dirty the fleece is. Laying flat the washed fibre to dry. Its flat as a pancake, so once dried I use a swing arm picker to pull the washed fibre apart preparing it for the drum carder. Dividing the fibre into about 70 gram lots, I drum card the fibre 3 times thru my electric carder. This pulls the fibre and makes beautiful batts. I pull the batts in a continuous zig-zag pattern making a fat strip of fibre. I then pull it thru a ruler hole clamped on a frame between my legs to pull it into useable roving. I weight out 55 gram lots and bag it with tags for either sale or to use to spin. I can add other accents or blend colours anywhere along the processing way. I enjoy working with each fleece while thinking about each of my animals that has provided the fleece for me.