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All crea­tures woolly and won­der­ful

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Comp­ton

I’ve never met any­one who knows as much about wool as, aptly named, Kathy Chapde­laine. Kathy doesn’t just knit; she raises sev­eral kinds of wool-pro­duc­ing an­i­mals, har­vests their fleece and down, and has it spun the old-fash­ioned way into

skeins of nat­u­ral wool of the high­est qual­ity. Then she knits with it! “What’s nice about hand-spin­ning is if the an­i­mal has many colours, you get the nat­u­ral mix of colours in the wool, the vari­a­tion,” men­tioned Kathy in our in­ter­view that took place at the small farm that she runs with her hus­band, David Lord, in Comp­ton.

The kinds of sheep that are in­cluded in the Comp­ton cou­ple’s menagerie are sev­eral Shet­land sheep, Ice­landic sheep and one very im­pres­sive Ja­cob sheep that had four long horns. “The Ja­cob is a very old sheep and can grow up to six horns,” said the ex­pert. They also have lla­mas, al­pacas and a huar­izo: a cross be­tween an al­paca and a llama that I got to meet up close. He was very friendly but a lit­tle too ram­bunc­tious for my lik­ing, jump­ing in the air like a gi­ant dog with huge hoofs. “The lla­mas and al­pacas get along re­ally well to­gether. They’re re­ally easy-car­ing an­i­mals that eat a very ba­sic diet.”

And then there are her cash­mere goats, those pro­duc­ers of the finest, soft­est wool imag­in­able. “We’re one of only two cash­mere goat breed­ers in Que­bec,” said Kathy as she showed me some skeins of ivory-coloured wool, I think the soft­est I’d ever felt. “Cash­mere is not picky at all. It’s ex­tremely warm for its weight but it doesn’t wear well. It’s not good for socks. I get my cash­mere fi­bres tested at a lab in New Zealand to make sure it’s pure cash­mere. The cash­mere fi­bre has to be less than 19 mi­crons wide and the length has to be at least 1 ¼ inches. I don’t shear the goats, I brush them to get the down. It’s eas­ier and there’s less waste. When you start to see lit­tle fi­bres grow­ing on the goat’s horns, that’s when it’s time to brush them. Knit­ters ap­pre­ci­ate the cash­mere; it’s the ultimate.”

When Kathy and her hus­band moved to their farm in Comp­ton, they first be­gan rais­ing horses and goats. “We had Boer goats for meat and I thought it was sad when we had to send them for slaugh­ter. Then I was look­ing at a web­site and saw that in North­ern Bri­tish Columbia they had cash­mere goats. So I de­cided to buy one male and three fe­males. Af­ter that it was any­thing with hair!”

Be­sides pro­duc­ing beau­ti­ful wool from their small mixed herd, keep­ing all the down and fleece sep­a­rate so as to pro­duce wools of pure cash­mere, al­paca, llama etc., Kathy also likes to ex­per­i­ment. “This scarf was knit from wool made from the hair of my col­lie,” said Kathy as she showed me a lovely, soft scarf in dif­fer­ent shades of tan. The colours were nat­u­ral and the scarf ac­tu­ally smelled...nice!

If you’ve ever been to the Ci­tadel of Que­bec for the chang­ing of the Guard Cer­e­mony, then you know what a cash­mere goat looks like: the mas­cot of the Royal 22nd Reg­i­ment is a cash­mere goat and it’s the high­light of the cer­e­mony for many. As one of the few breed­ers of cash­mere goats in Que­bec, Kathy’s herd drew the at­ten­tion of the Ci­tadel’s an­i­mal keep­ers many years ago. “The Shah of Per­sia gave cash­mere goats to Queen Vic­to­ria in the 1800’s and when the Ci­tadel needed new goats for their herd, they would get them from the Royal herd. But once the mad cow disease came out, they couldn’t get the goats from Eng­land any­more. So they con­tacted me for goats. They’ve even given me cash­mere goats when they had ex­tra ones,” she ex­plained.

Kathy en­joys rais­ing her an­i­mals and they all seemed con­tent in their small pas­tures on the farm be­side the Moe’s River. “The goats need a re­ally good fence – the sheep are eas­ier to keep. Once our goats got loose and my dad man­aged to get them into the garage. When we got home from work and opened the garage door, one of the goats had a pail on its head! They’re very cu­ri­ous.”

“More than a pas­sion, I’d call my in­ter­est in wool an ad­dic­tion. I’m al­ways check­ing out other wools. I’m also tak­ing knit­ting lessons and I’m in a knit­ting club. Knit­ting is get­ting more pop­u­lar again; it’s ther­a­peu­tic!”

Kathy sells her wool and wool prod­ucts at lo­cal craft fairs, Christ­mas shows and through her web­site. She will also be demon­strat­ing her craft this Sun­day dur­ing Old­Fash­ioned Days at the Cook­shire Fair­grounds.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Kathy Chapde­laine gets a kiss from Falala, a huar­izo which is a cross be­tween an al­paca and a llama.

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