Sludge Red

Issy’s colouring is known as ‘rose grey’. She was born in Chile, imported in 2006 and became ours in 2008. Like some other greys, she has only ever been able to produce one cria, Rupert. Rupert’s dad was dark grey and Rupert is a lovely rich brown. He moved around a bit and ended up in Somerset.

Unable or disinclined to produce more grey alpacas, Issy’s main purpose apart from looking lovely, is to produce soft fleece that appears grey. It isn’t grey at all but a combination of black, white and brown fibre. The purpose of the fleece is to create a mottled yarn over which to dye vibrant colours to achieve smoky hues. Or maybe they are shades because they contain black.

It is always interesting to see what happens in the dye pot. There are no precise measurements or recipes and no way of ensuring that the same result can be achieved twice. The variables are difficult to replicate – temperature of the water, small differences in the amount of dye, how much dying process takes a couple of hours regardless of quantity and the final colour isn’t apparent until the yarn is dry which takes up to twenty-four hours.

Using Issy’s rose grey which sounds pretty but is not, vermillion dye was used to achieve a brick red yarn, royal blue to arrive at dusky blue and aquamarine to produce a wild sea watercolour. The blue and the aqua were good results, the brick red is unsympathetically industrial and reminds me of some sludgy unguent my father, a proud scientist and bodger kept in the garage. I think it was used to mend holes in the radiator of a car.