Nancy and Susan Taylor find alpacas to be no ‘trouble’ at all
BERLIN—In an early episode of the original “Star Trek” TV series, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” the Enterprise crew had their hands full with small adorable balls of fluff. Two sisters-in-law, Nancy and Susan Taylor, of Berlin are having a much easier time of it, with balls of fluff that stand five to six feet high.
The in-laws and business partners have been raising alpacas for two years and on Saturday, Nov. 23, will host an open house to showcase their new alpaca store in the family’s circa 1912 farm, just off westbound Route 50. The event will include a fiber artist’s demonstrations.
Susan said the idea for the alpaca business happened because of their love of knitting. They got the idea for the store, because they needed an outlet for all the yarn they started producing.
The store is actually a loft in the upper part of the barn that was built for the animals. “We had this great space upstairs and friends who enjoyed coming over to knit,” Nancy said. She said they had originally planned to use it to store hay.
The alpaca business is a pastime for both women and the store will initially only be open for business on the weekends leading up to Christmas, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nancy is a part-time occupational therapist for Genesis Rehab Services, and Susan is the executive director of the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum in Berlin.
The fiber is classified in three grades for yarn making purposes, Susan explained.
The look and demeanor of the alpacas would be best described as a cross between a llama and a Kuala Bear, covered in sheep’s wool. They are curious, but not overly so—that is until the food bucket is spotted.
The Taylors raise Huacaya Alpacas, which produce dense fluffy fleece, and Suri Alpacas, which produce long silky fleece, according to an information sheet on the farm.
It said the animals are native to the Andes Mountains of Chile, Peru and Bolivia, and are prized for their light-weight, extremely warm fiber, which gets sheared once each year just before summertime.
The Taylors explained that the location from where the fiber is sheared determines its grade. For example, fibers from the animals’ back is classified as prime, and is used to make apparel that directly touches the skin, such as sweaters, scarves, shawls, glove and socks. Fibers from the neck area are classified as “seconds” and are used for “roving,” a process in which fiber is spun into yarn. Fibers from the legs and belly are classified as “thirds,” and since it tends to be coarser, are used for items like shoe inserts, felting or more industrial purposes.
All the colors of the alpaca yarns sold at the shop are natural, not dyed, Susan pointed out. According to the information sheet, alpacas come in 22 colors naturally.
Skeins cost roughly $20 to $25 and are based on production costs. In addition to items made with Taylor alpaca yarns, the shop also has a very nice collection of hand knit goods made from other fibers and yarns, including synthetics.
The shop will include several items that were made from the Taylor’s alpaca, but manufactured offsite. She described a process where fibers are shipped to manufacturers to be made into specific items at the farmer’s option and depending on the quality of fiber available.
The farm is located northwest of the Town of Berlin on Route 50 westbound just north of the Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack. For more information on Ocean Breeze Alpacas call 410-251-0931.