Jousting with distaffs: symbolism through the ages


I (Kirstin) recently came across an article on medieval women warriors. As you might expect, there weren’t many, and in a world where history is written not only by the victors, but also mostly by men, what we know about these women is very little and very skewed. For instance, monks illustrating manuscripts refused to represent women jousting with actual lances because the imagery was too…uhm…provocative. 

JoustingDistaffs

Yale has made this manuscript available online here: http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3433279

Instead, they represented women as jousting with distaffs. Although one could argue that the distaff is nearly as…risque…as a lance, since spinning was a traditional pastime for females, they felt more comfortable with it. 

Anyway, I know it’s been a long radio silence from us here at Cliff House. Rest assured, the business is cranking along. In fact, we have so many projects in the works we are going to have to let our regular updates on the blog slip. We are still here, still taking custom orders and making products, but we are concentrating on getting a more modern online store up and running (and Mom is learning how to spin).

Contact Mom at jan.holfelder@gmail.com if you need anything or have any questions for us, and we’ll update the blog when we have something interesting to report! As ever, thanks for your support. You make what we do worthwhile. 

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Black and White – Always Right


Momma here, wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Our Colorado New Year started out cold and snowy, but thankfully we missed the big snow storm currently covering most of the nation. Dad and I took some excellent photos of our little herd’s snow antics on Sunday morning, and I thought you might enjoy seeing them.

Brittany 1 Brittany 2

Brittany is our true black alpaca, but on a cold and snowy day she is anything but true black. The density of her “blanket” or fleece keeps her insulated from the cold; just look at all of the snow still sitting on her back.

CiCi

CiCi and Brittany trudging through the new snow. Notice how CiCi has no snow on her fleece. She sleeps in the barn, no toughing it out in the elements for her.

Vannie

Vannie standing tall in the turnout. His “blanket” is incredibly dense, at noon he still had a thick layer of snow on his back.

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There are no stupid questions!


To start off 2014 I, Momma, want to share with you 20 questions and 20 answers about alpacas. These are questions we get asked all the time. I’m going in reverse order from a question or two to the most frequently asked.

#20 – Why should I wear alpaca instead of wool?  Alpaca fiber doesn’t contain lanolin like sheep’s wool. Each hair shaft’s hollow core deters dust mites which cause asthma and allergies. Alpaca is 3 times warmer and 7 times stronger than wool.

Fiber

Vannie’s 2013 “blanket” before we begin to process it.

 

#19 – What’s so great about alpaca fiber?  Alpaca fiber is as soft as cashmere, requires no chemical agents for processing, light weight and alpacas come in a variety of natural colors. Alpaca has a low absorbency rate and superior wicking ability.

QQQ

A photo of a few of our alpacas shows we have a brown, white, black, light grey, dark grey and a fawn.

#18 – What do you do with alpacas? Alpacas are raised for their luxury fiber. In the United States ranchers consider them exotic livestock.  At Cliff House we shear, skirt, spin their hair into yarn; and knit, crochet and weave our alpaca’s yarn into clothing, blankets and rugs. 

spinning

Kirstin spinning our alpaca’s fiber into yarn. We’ll knit this yarn into clothing.

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Christmas with Cliffhouse


Hello all! Production has staggered to a halt as we all take a break from knitting and spinning to celebrate being together.

Jared, Olive and Bobbin get ready to open presents.

Jared, Olive and Bobbin get ready to open presents. Christmas really goes to the dogs around here, and we love it.

Jared and I are still the kids in the family, though Momma and Dad have a grand-dog, Derby. So we lavish plenty of attention on the inside animals as willing surrogates.

Being spoiled is exhausting.

Being spoiled is exhausting.

We have our big, semi-formal party on Christmas eve. So Christmas day is about lounging around in pajamas all day, opening presents.

From left: Me (Kirstin), Aunt Geri, Uncle Jerry (I know, right?), Jared, Grammy.

From left: Me (Kirstin), Aunt Geri, Uncle Jerry, Jared, Grammy. Derby is my black dachshund and Bobbin is our beagle.

Santa knows me well. This year, I was overjoyed to receive a luxury item: onion goggles! I can’t even cut scallions without sobbing like a little girl, but these goggles seal out those horrible onion fumes. Seriously guys, when the fumes meet the moisture in your eyes, acid is formed. :P

Onions are in everything. And I couldn't bear to be in the room when they are being cut. But no longer!

Onions are in everything. Once upon a time, I couldn’t be anywhere near them. But no longer!

I hope you all had wonderful holidays, filled with family and joy.

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Winter White


The Friday before Christmas I, Momma, was lucky enough to experience Mother Nature’s “Winter White.” I put my barn chores on hold, grabbed my camera, and spent 30 minutes snapping photos of our ranch covered in hoar frost (a grayish-white crystalline deposit of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc).

Frost

Hoar frost sitting on our Spirea bushes in the front yard.

2

Our baby Ponderosa Pine on the east side of our circle drive.

As I walked in the clouds, due to a shroud of fog covering the ranch, the sounds of silence granted me a subtle peace. Our family wishes all of you a very Happy and Peaceful New Year.

YY

The Three Musketeers stand covered in a coat of “Winter White.”

Needles

Ponderosa pine needles flocked with frost.

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“Skywalker”


Aunt Geri here with the latest Magic Scarf creation. This scarf is thick and Uncle Jerry says it’s just “beefy”. It is a wonderful alpaca boucle with a variegated wool strand and a ribbon. The name came about as we were watching old Star Wars movies, and I made it thick and warm because the movie people were living on an ice planet and it was -30 degrees here?!!

Skywalker

I guess thoughts of spring abound because of the bitter cold wind with a triple berry Magic Scarf. It’s another “beefy” one – as Uncle Jerry says, and has pink and purple alpaca worsted yarns with a wonderfully soft nylon eyelash accent. Someone will be “plum crazy” about this one!

Mountain Berries

The magic scarves just keep rolling off my needles! This one is a lovely olive color with the contrast being created from textures. The base yarn is Joya, which is an alpaca boucle that customers love (sadly, it was discontinued). Mix this with an olive worsted alpaca yarn and some gold glitter…………….Magic, and super soft.

When In Greece

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Got cold feet?


One sock, two socks, red socks and blue socks.  Only 5 days left to shop until Christmas! Don’t forget our barn store is open, and we’re here just about all of the time. This year we are selling alpaca socks and more alpaca socks. Our close friend Cindy, tells me, Momma, the socks just seem to sell themselves.

Caption

Our work socks are made in the USA from alpacas raised locally. They come in a boot sock and a crew sock.

Actually we gave Cindy alpaca socks last year for Christmas, and she loved them so much she gave them to her students and friends, and they loved them so much they gave them to their friends and family, you get the idea.

Caption

Our dress socks are made in Peru. We obtain them through a free trade organization headquartered in Denver.

We have two kinds of socks: work socks which have microbial silver knit into them for keeping sweaty, smelly feet warm and happy, and we have dress socks which are great for keeping your toes toasty and they’re mega soft.

Caption

The microbial silver knit into our work socks fights bacteria which causes athlete’s foot. Sweaty feet don’t smell bad, and your feet stay warm.

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When inspiration strikes


Hi all, Kirstin here. Thanks for your concern about my shoulder. It looks like it’s going to be a slow healer, I’m afraid. Anyhoo. I’m close to driving myself nuts, since I can’t do any of the things I normally do, but I have had time to collect some reference pictures for inspiration.

I’m thinking my next project will be a large felted scene. For such a potentially long project, I want to choose a subject that I love. I went through all the pictures I have from backpacking with Dad and my brother, and hiking with my friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think I’ll start with the above scene. We took this picture on a trail named “Endlich” (which means “finally” in German) in the Weminuche wilderness area, in southwestern Colorado. It was long trip and this was our last pass. We were really in the groove, our packs were light, and we beat the afternoon storms to the top. As we rested before heading down the other side, we turned around and took this shot.

I think it would really fun to play with perspective and dimension, having detailed flowers and grass in the foreground that fade to more impressionistic splotches of color in the background.

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I’m less certain about the other scene. It will be some amalgamation of the pictures above, with lots of granite and snow (ideal, since we have grey and white alpacas). I’ll probably add a high alpine lake to the foreground. That one will require some sketching before I nail it down. I don’t improvise well when I’m felting.

Actually, that sentence could just say: “I don’t improvise well.” ;)

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“Big Wheel Keep on Turning”


Then sometimes the wheel just falls off. Dad here with today’s blog post. Our compost pile is quite a ways from the house and barn. This means we have to use a dump wagon to haul the “goods” to the pile. This trip happens at least once a day and sometimes more, and in turn puts a lot of miles on the wagon. On Sunday’s second trip I lost my wheel. One minute it was there, the next it wasn’t. I walked back down the road and there it was.

Wobble in Wheel Made It Back

Turns out (pun intended) that the wobble in the wheel wore out the hub. Luckily I keep all of my worn out wheels and tires for one reason or another. I have another wheel with a good hub, but a bad tire. So I’m off this morning to Big’O Tires to swap the rims and we should be back in business.

Off it goes Blown Tire

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Cliff House Barn Store ready for Christmas!


Happy Friday everybody! If you’re like me you still have some Christmas shopping to do.  We’re finished with our holiday craft shows, and I finally have our barn store set up for any Christmas shopping you might have left to do. I know, I ‘m running a little late, but Thanksgiving came late this year, and I can’t think about Christmas until Thanksgiving is over.

Getting started with setting up the store

Getting started with setting up the store

If you have a certain someone who is difficult to buy for, there’s nothing more unique than something made from alpaca. As you can see from the pictures, we have something for everyone. We don’t have set hours, but I’m rarely off the ranch. Please just give me a call before you get on your way. My phone number is: 303-842-0173.

Hand knit scarves for one and all

Hand knit scarves for one and all

Reasonably priced free trade items from Peru

Reasonably priced free trade items from Peru

We still have some of our alpaca rugs in inventory

We still have some of our alpaca rugs in inventory

An alpaca blanket will keep you warm and toasty

An alpaca blanket will keep you warm and toasty

 

We have a wide selection of hats and hat and scarf sets

We have a wide selection of hats and hat and scarf sets

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