Posted by: Leslie | August 20, 2010

My visit to Laurentian Alpacas

It was just about a year ago that I took my camera, checkbook, and a printout from Google maps and headed for the Laurentian Mountains in Québec. I was starting to get the idea for my Spin Off article, and figured it was time to visit a farm I suspected was one of the better places to get alpaca fleece in this part of the country. Laurentian Alpacas is about an hour north of Montréal and a good three hours from Ottawa via narrow roads with lots of blinds turns and province-posted signs reminding drivers that “this is not a racetrack.” The countryside was beautiful especially as I got further from the city and closer to the Laurentians themselves. It’s a funny thing how the human brain tries to find familiar patterns in new things– I’d never seen scenery like that before, but my mind kept searching for little similarities to the Rockies, the Black Forest, Western Massachusetts, whatever. When I was in Russia several years ago, I remember several fellow West coasters remarking that the hills around the village where we stayed looked just like the landscape in Northern California. This photo reminds me a lot of particular highway in Colorado and looking at it I can almost imagine that behind that little ridge, huge granite peaks will come into view.

Laurentian Alpacas occupies a lush, hilly piece of land in Sainte-Marguerite-du-lac-Masson. As soon as I got out of the car, I was greeted by and hit it off with Jane Orrom, one of the owners of LA. It was refreshing to meet an alpaca owner who understands the importance of good genetics and breeds for animals with exceptional fleeces. It seems like it should be obvious that alpacas, being fiber animals, should be bred for fine fiber, but inflated prices mean the animals themselves are often the moneymaker, not the fleece they produce. A $20,000 alpaca might only produce $200 worth of fleece every year, which has led some breeders to neglect fiber quality in their herds. Fortunately, farms like Laurentian Alpacas strive for excellent fiber in their animals and as a result produce outstanding fleeces.

As you can see from the photos below, I had missed shearing time and in fact almost all of the farm’s fiber had been sent to the mill a few days before. It was terrible timing as I’d planned to buy a full fleece on my trip, Jane showed me some samples and promised me the first pick of the 2010 fleeces (two of which will soon be on their way to me in the mail).

This group approached me suspiciously, humming as alpacas do when they are nervous. They were curious, though they always kept just out of my reach.


Herdsire Viracocha, in his own barn.


I did buy some roving that she had, as well as yarn, with each skein consisting of fiber from a single animal (a brilliant way of keeping track of fleece quality for each animal every year). Zodiac and Churi were the sources of the roving and the yarn, respectively:

My visit felt way too short and I promised to return, which hasn’t happened yet but I have hopes for in the near future. I passed along the farm’s information to Ariadne Knits, who now stock their “single-origin” skeins, and have stayed in touch with Jane. The next time I can swing a 6-hour round trip, I think I’ll be back for a visit.

Evening sky, after my visit, down the road in Saint-Sauveur

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Responses

  1. beautiful trees and sky

  2. Aren’t they? It was a lovely trip.

  3. […] The theme for the next issue is camelids, so I spun up a lock each of the two fleeces I bought from Laurentian Alpacas this year. It remains to be seen if my sample makes it into the magazine, but I like the effect of […]


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