Handspinning wool and fiber is no longer an ancient art; what was once the sole method of creating textiles is now a handicraft growing in popularity. For thousands of years, the silky coat of the alpaca has yielded luxurious clothing and accessories. Warmer than wool and softer than silk, alpaca products are unmatched when it comes to cozy cold-weather accessories.
David and Anna Lai know all about the novelty of alpaca products, and want to share them with South County. The two started Rhode Island Alpaca Farm in North Scituate’s charming countryside in 1998, where they (and over 30 Peruvian and American alpacas) make a home. “We’re big animal lovers, so adding alpacas to our family seemed very natural,” says Anna.
Their Rhode Island Alpaca Farm opened a shop this past October at 58 Main Street in East Greenwich, featuring a variety of fine fiber products made from the beautiful fleece of the farm’s alpacas. Cold weather accessories like scarves, hats, mittens, socks and stylish shawls adorn the shop, as well as an assortment of baby hats and blankets. Soft handspun yarn and raw fiber can also be purchased for knitting and crafting products. Also featured in the shop are adorable handcrafted yarn dolls of different sizes and colors, reusable coffee cup sleeves and crochet flowers, which can be used as a brooch or hair accessory. The Lais also take custom orders.
Anna Lai’s passion for knitting and crocheting dates back to her childhood, when she and her mother enjoyed the hobby together. “It wasn’t until my children got older that I was able to indulge in hobbies again,” she explains. “Once my two oldest children moved away to college, I immersed myself in learning how to process the alpaca fiber and familiarize myself with the different knitting and crocheting techniques.” The process of transforming raw fiber to the silky yarn that crafts such beautiful products is a tedious one: the first step, washing and carding the fiber, can take months. It then takes Lai a couple hours to spin a few ounces of yarn. “The spinning and knitting has proven to be very meditative and peaceful,” she explains.
Besides being in the shop or on the farm, you can find The Lai’s participating in arts and craft fairs and vendor markets in and out of state, bringing the quality merchandise of the gentle South American species to the public. Rhode Island Alpaca Farm also sells its cozy merchandise on Etsy. There are exciting things in store for the shop, as Anna Lai hopes to offer some felted alpaca goods in the near future. “I’d also like to offer knitting and spinning classes somewhere down the line,” she adds.