Before my visit to the Minnesota headquarters of Blue Sky Alpacas and Spud & Chloë, I had read the story of how the owner, Linda Niemeyer, got her start in the fiber world. It’s one of those stories that gives hope to every knitter-with-a-day-job. Linda had been working a corporate design job, which she didn’t particularly like. One night, she watched a documentary on camelids; she fell in love with alpacas, dropped everything, and started an alpaca farm. After a while, she decided to narrow the scope of what she was doing (which at the time was everything from breeding alpacas to selling finished garments made with their yarn). A chance encounter with a missionary stationed in Bolivia led to Blue Sky Alpacas and Spud & Chloë, two yarn companies known for their high quality, natural fibers, and gorgeous colors.
When I met Linda, I immediately understood how she had pulled it all off. This woman is high energy. Perhaps it was the fact that I was on vacation, or that I was still on California time (where it was only 7 a.m.), but she seemed to me to be moving at light speed. After offering me coffee, she introduced me to her equally energetic staff and Blue (one of her two dogs). Then, we sat down to chat at a big wooden table in the “dining room” area of the office, which is a bright and homey building at the edge of a corn field.
The yarns made by Linda’s two companies are designed to serve different hand-knit needs. Blue Sky Alpacas is the luxury line; Spud & Chloë is meant to be more kid friendly, with yarns you can throw in the washing machine. Linda and her team design the yarn here and work with companies in South America to manufacture it. She makes one or two trips each year to check in on the production (and pick up local textiles–she showed me a few beautiful woven pieces from her last trip).
Not content with running just two companies, Linda is contemplating a new venture that would sell handknit baby wear (made by a women’s cooperative in Peru), throws made with local wool batting, and other finished products.
I got a glimpse of all of these products, old and new, on my tour of the studio and warehouse. A person could die happy surrounded by that much yarn. By the end I couldn’t keep track of all the different blends and twists, but a few stood out. The BSA organic worsted cotton knit up as soft and springy as wool. I saw a sample of the “Metalico” knit into a shawl, which slipped through your fingers and shone like, well, metal. Finally, I took home a couple of skeins of “Extra,” a 55/45 blend of baby alpaca and fine merino, just enough to make this wrap from the fall pattern collection.
Finally, Linda brought us back to her house, where she still keeps four alpacas. “If you want them to come up to you, keep your hands behind your back and stick out your lips.” We followed these instructions and ended our visit with a sweet alpaca kiss.
- What fiber does BSA/S&C produce? Most of the wool, cotton, and alpaca used in BSA/S&C yarn is grown in South America. Linda still keeps four alpacas at her home in Minnesota.
- What products does BSA/S&C sell? Yarn, patterns, needles, and hand-tied batting.
- Where can I buy these products?On the web and at your local yarn store. Retail and online shops are listed here (BSA) and here (S&C). Hand-tied batting available under the name L.M.N. at purl soho.