It is a beautiful day at the Aragon Alpaca Farm. The sun is shining, the breeze is refreshing, and the view is stunning. As soon as I arrive at the farm, I am greeted by Ann’s welcoming smile, and by a group of curious alpacas. The males are in their day pen and they all come to greet and sniff me. “They want to see if you have any carrots,” Ann tells me, and I suddenly wish I had brought some. With names like Gryffin and Troubadour, the animals are smart and observant. And so cute, you want to hug them.
Ann introduces me to her granddaughters and a friend who are visiting from Seattle. She takes us through the “Spinners Barn Farm Store,” beautifully stocked with fleece, yarn, woven items, felted soaps, and other treasures from a variety of local artists. Ann explains that there is a community of alpaca farmers, spinners, artists, and neighbors that share resources, knowledge, and friendship. Behind the store is the deck where the class is held. From here we can see miles of beautiful hills and farms. We also have a perfect view of the alpacas and a classic red barn.
Debbie Hebert is a fiber artist who teaches classes at the farm. She is a spinner, weaver, and felter who creates beauty out of wool and fleece. Debbie allows us to choose from a colorful array of her hand-dyed wool for our first project , a ‘”snake.” She shows us how to apply soapy water in small increments as we roll and allow the wool fibers to stick and form a shape. The process is fun for all ages. It feels good, smells good, and the beauty of our surroundings adds to the fun. The younger felters have combined different colors to make interesting swirls and stripes. I add a string of Debbie’s textured yarn to add color and interest to my piece.
Next we make a cat toy. Starting with a jingle bell and slowly wrapping layers of wool, moistening as we go, we roll perfect, jingling, soft play balls. The final step in the felting process is to “shock” the wool with a quick dip and squeeze in hot, then cold water.
Debbie shows us some of her wall hanging pieces, which use a combination of water and needle felting to achieve a “painting with wool” effect. These pieces are representative of what the adult felting classes will get to try as part of August’s Create! Eugene series. I cannot wait to sign up. The land and seascapes are dimensional and textured. I can’t resist touching them. In fact, I touch everything in the store. Alpaca fleece is soft like nothing else.
When it is time to leave, I linger. I am a knitter, so I must purchase some of the yarn that came from these lovely animals. One of Ann’s sayings is, “our dye lots have names and faces,” and each skein of yarn is marked with the name of the animal the fleece came from. I choose a charcoal gray, a combination of fleece from Murphy Brown and Raisa. I look forward to more felting classes, spinning demonstrations, and learning more about fleece, wool, and fiber arts, and feel myself already planning my next trip to the farm.
Editor’s note: Felting classes at Aragon Alpacas are part of a series of 195 different workshops offered during the month of August as part of Create! Eugene, a month-long celebration of the arts featuring festivals, workshops, performances, culinary events, and a plein air art competition.