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They are all about alpacas

Women find many uses for the animal, and they are all on display at Leetonia store

LISBON — When they each got into raising alpacas, Karen Biscella and Lori Brooke were primarily interested in showing their animals. But now the two women have expanded their interests, looking at just how many ways they can use the soft fibers derived from their Suri alpacas to create both beautiful and useful items.

Much rarer than the Huacaya alpacas, Suri alpacas are known for their soft, long silky fleece. While the Suri alpacas are shown competitively in their earlier years. When shorn of up to three inches of long, soft fibers, the fleece can be twisted to create a yarn for making scarves, hats, shawls and other lovely items.

Around 2005, Brooke and Biscella had both purchased their Suri alpacas from the same farm and became friends while showing them. Biscella started Victoria Lane Alpacas near New Waterford, while Brooke has Suri Springs Alpacas just outside of Salem. The women were showing them, breeding and selling the offspring.

But by 2010 the women and others participating in the shows who they knew were looking for more things to do with the bags and bags of lovely fiber that were coming from the alpaca they were caring for on their farms.

They sent some of the fiber to a co-op, where it is milled into yarns. Some of the yarn which comes back the women sell for those who want to create their own projects. Some of the yarn they personally use to create items or send to others who knit and create items. The yarn creates luxurious items with a drapey, soft feel, warm but light weight.

Biscella and Brooke also began selling items derived from the alpaca fibers at craft shows. They have been known to frequent the Christmas in the Woods in Columbiana and the annual Canfield High School craft show, bringing with them a selection of handmade items derived from alpaca fibers. Items they offer include hats, shawls, gloves, scarves and capes.

Now they have expanded to open a small shop in Leetonia – VLSS — which located inside a former hardware store on Front Street.

Additionally, the women have began offering products that result in mixing the alpaca fibers with others to create items that while still soft better retain their shape even better.

For example, one scarf in their store is made from yarn combined as 90 percent alpaca and 10 percent yak silk. A hat contains 80 percent alpaca and 20 percent merino wool. One item is made with 100 percent alpaca yarn with a pearl infusion, which adds sparkle to the scarf.

Some of the items are made from dyed alpaca yards, while others are straight alpaca fibers, which Brooke and Biscella can easily recognize to tell which of their animals it comes from.

While the areas around their middle creates some of the softest fibers, the tendrils coming from the legs for instance are a little courser. Brooke has began utilizing what comes from there to create dryer balls used as a natural fabric softener or placing them in ornaments that can be hung outside for the birds to pick through for soft nesting materials.

The fibers can even be felted. Biscella has been using felted alpaca as a material for handbags. The store even has insoles from felted alpaca fibers, a material that is known to wick away moisture. The women point out even if you hose off your alpaca, it never really gets wet underneath.

In their efforts to utilize everything from the alpacas on their farms, the women even offer small bags of alpaca fertilizer for the gardener.

Although the VLSS store is only open by appointment right now, during the holidays the women had some hours on the weekends. Their phone numbers are 330/503-9561 and 330/716-0568.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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