Posted by: jinniver | August 4, 2008

Finding yarn on the Island

Steve was a little disgusted to discover that I had already scoped out the only LYS on Friday Harbor before we even got on the ferry. He was resigned when he realized that I’d found another store that sold yarn before we disembarked.

I actually didn’t realize the store I’d seen from the ferry sold yarn, but any store named the “Alpaca Store” was going to catch my attention.  Steve grudgingly agreed to come straight back after we checked in to the B&B…probably because he realized I was going to obsess about it until he did.  On the walk back I mentioned that I was hoping the next day we’d be able to take time to find the LYS I’d found, Island Wools, on KnitMap. And that’s when we saw:

IslandWools (1)

Apparently, this was my day.  However, since I didn’t know if the Alpaca Store actually had yarn, I decided to save the LYS for last so I could end on a high note.  From the outside, the Alpaca Store didn’t look particularly promising–the sweaters hanging outside were beautiful, but it looked like just a clothing store.  We stepped inside, and like iron to a lodestone, my head swung around to the right, and there it was:  yarn.

Dax Alpaca Indigo

Dax Alpaca Spinach (2)

The supply was extremely limited, which isn’t surprising since it really was a clothing store.  Actually, the fact that they had a supply at all was surprising.  There was only one type of yarn available, a DK weight 100% alpaca, but it came in several beautiful colors.  I had a hard time deciding, but I finally picked up a couple balls of the blue (to match Lexie’s eyes) and of the green (to match Jeffrey’s).  It should be enough for a hat and a pair of mittens for each of them…once we get somewhere that’s cold enough that they’ll need hats and mittens.

Flush from my unexpected success, we headed back to Island Wools after lunch.  Of course, the store was closed, but the sign on the door said they’d be back soon, so we ducked into the souvenir place next door to pick up a few gifts for the kids–and a few lighthouse themed items for my husband’s parents (who, incidentally, have yet to notice the additions to their house).  Island Wools was open by the time we were finished, so we ducked in out of the rain.

IslandWools (2)

The selection was decent, especially for a store that small–a good range of fibers, colors, and prices–but it was not an LYS geared to tourists.  This is not meant to be disparaging–after all, as the only LYS on the island, naturally it’s going to cater to it’s usual audience–but I was hoping for some local fibers, as the initial review on KnitMap mentioned.  Unfortunately, they only had one yarn which was raw wool (still full of lanolin).  I was disappointed because I knew there were fiber-producing farms on the island, but when I asked about local yarns, the woman in the store made mention that one of the farms that used to sell there now sold independently.

IslandWools (3)

So, a good LYS for the locals, but not geared towards tourists.  Still, it’s against my nature to walk out of an LYS empty-handed, so I decided to take advantage of the reasonable pricing and splurge on some yarn I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for awhile:  the Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend. I could have easily purchased one (or several) of each color, but I finally settled on two variegated yarns, one that looked like the ocean just after sunset (with just a few touches of golden sunlight reflecting on the waves) and one that looked like a northeastern forest in the fall.

Manos del Uruguay Evening Ocean

Manos del Uruguay Autumn

I did promise to talk about the alpaca farm in the last post, didn’t I?

I’d seen the alpaca farm, Krystal Acres, on the map we were using, but I hadn’t initially said anything about visiting. We already had a visit to an alpaca farm lined up, one near where my in-laws lived.  Honestly, I thought two alpaca farm visits might be a little greedy, especially considering my unexpected alpaca yarn bonus at the beginning of our Friday Harbor vacation.

Fortunately, along with his many other good qualities, Steve’s the sort of husband every knitter wants (and yes, ladies, he is so very taken, so back off!).  During our circumnavigation of the island, we were driving right past Krystal Acres, and when I oh-so-casually mentioned it to Steve, he agreed to stop with nothing more than a rueful grin.

AlpacaFarm (1)

The farm was beautiful–well-maintained and in a gorgeous setting with mountains all around.  There were already a number of people oohing and ahhing over the alpaca which just happened to be grazing close to the fence, perfectly posed for a few shots.

AlpacaFarm (2)

As you can see (especially on the fawn colored alpaca above), they had been shorn recently.  It would have been interesting to get to see some unshorn, but I enjoyed just getting to see alpaca up close and personal for the first time.  We watched the alpaca graze for awhile, but the lure of the Country Store was just too strong.

The store is fairly small–two rooms–but frankly much bigger and much more polished than I expected.  You can see what they sell if you check out the website hyperlinked above (they have a button to take you to the Country Store online), but I can tell you it was more than I anticipated.  There are coats, sweaters, gloves, hats, scarves, pillows, stuffed animals…and, of course, yarn.  In addition to some imported yarns, which I bypassed, the Country Store featured yarns spun from the fibers of their own alpacas.  For the first time, I finally found some undyed alpaca yarn, which was the same lovely color off the alpaca as it was on the alpaca.  I bought two skeins each of three different colors–brown, fawn and cream–to make Jeffrey a striped sweater.  Even his dad had to agree with that.

Krystal Acres Alpaca Oreo

I got a kick out of the fact that each skein had a tag attached with the picture and name of the alpaca the fiber had come from, as well as the year of the shearing.  I guess that’s the closest you can come to a “dye lot” with undyed fibers.  And it was cool to at least have a picture of my yarn in it’s “natural state.”  The dark brown yarn was courtesy of Oreo, and the light brown (fawn) below came from Houdini.

Krystal Acres Alpaca Houdini

The yarn below, from Xavier, is officially called white, but it’s actually a lot less white than it appears in the picture.

Krystal Acres Alpaca Xavier

Well, now I’d gotten something for Jeffrey–that means I had to get something for Lexie, right?  It just so happened that the Country Store also sells beautiful hand-dyed yarns, dyed right there on the farm from their own alpaca fiber.  I picked up two skeins each of variegated yarns in coordinating colors to make Lexie a sweater as well.

Krystal Acres Royal Baby Alpaca Teal and Purple (4)

Krystal Acres Royal Baby Alpaca Purple and Blue (5)

I would have liked to see something of the process from fiber to yarn, but I’m not sure if they gave tours of that part of the process (although the woman who initially started to check us out had to swap out with another woman just in from the barn so she could don her own coveralls to go out and learn how to shear).  Besides, Steve had been patient enough, and there was another alpaca farm on our itinerary once we returned to the mainland.  I’ll tell y’all about that one next time.  In the meantime, we’re packing up and getting ready to head back home tomorrow–I’m looking forward to getting home, but not to the trip…wish us luck!



  1. So jealous, Jen, that natural alpaca is to DIE for! I loveitloveitloveit! Especially the off-white color. It will make such a handsome sweater. I’m such a sucker for alpaca.


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