AT WORK W/ ULLA-LENA VON KRUSENSTIERNA
At work is our new editorial series in which we speak to inspiring and interesting people about their day-to-day occupations. Meet Selaön-based alpaca farmer and Hermès scarf collector Ulla-Lena von Krusenstierna.
From collecting Hermès scarves and working with French perfumes to run an alpaca farm. Ulla-Lena von Krusenstierna lives with her husband Pieter on Näsbyviksgård on Selaön by the shores of Lake Mälaren.
Ulla-Lena von Krusenstierna started with fine wool sheep but fell immediately in love with an alpaca after seeing a photograph of brown-eyed beauty called Lucifer. She and her husband Pieter started in the spring of 2004 with Lucia and Lucifer and since then the farm has grown.
Ulla-Lena von Krusenstierna
In 2008, we imported two small crias (so-called alpaca foals) named Olga and Penelope from Switzerland. We have now, after almost 12 years, gone from having about 30 alpacas to four, we had to sell them because we have grown older and do not have the same energy to take care of them all anymore.
What is the difference between having alpacas and sheep?
It's much easier to have alpacas. We had 60 fine wool sheep and they got quadruplets and quadruplets that just disappeared out through fences and escaped. Alpacas do not accommodate, they are rather self-propelled and go in and out when they need to, but of course, you need to take care of them. They can also eat as much as they want and are not like horses where you have to portion out food four times a day. The alpacas want lukewarm water in winter. They are very nice and easy and they have personality. Our four alpacas are Galaxy, he has brown and white stars on his neck, is very calm and stands still when he is to be photographed, he is incredibly docile and kind. Barillo has four colors and came to us when he was four months old and he is so cuddly. Now he is six years old, a teenage. Packelino, the white is bred here on the farm and is a little nervous like his mother, it is unfortunately genetic. Then we have Penelope with her curly hair, she is very kind and has a very good temperament when she thrives but is also a rather determined girl.
“The alpaca is the only animal in the world that is available in twenty-two natural colors, with over 200 shades in between.”
The alpaca is the only animal in the world that is available in twenty-two natural colors, with over 200 shades in between. You spin the wool into yarn that is about as thick as sewing thread. This is crocheted, knitted and woven with. It is above all the wool but also breeding. You can use the leftover wool as insulation for houses because the wool is also flame resistant and does not melt, does not wrinkle, does not pluck and heats in the cold and let through excess heat. And the wool is also biologically recyclable.
There are different qualities of wool. The Royal Alpaca and Baby Alpaca, usually jumpers and blankets are made in baby alpaca quality. If you compare with sheep, alpacas have scales that are a little prickly against the body. The alpacas have instead tubelike hairs, and it’s soft against the body. The wool is also three times warmer than sheep wool and also does not have lanolin, which makes the wool allergy-free.
“Alpacas communicate with each other through singing/humming sounds. Because they sound so much, they have been given a nickname, ”’The dolphins of the fields.’”
How do you cut the wool from an alpaca?
You shave them with a pair of sheep shears once a year. We shave the saddle wool in one piece. That is what becomes yarn. Then I sit in the summer and clean the wool. The rest of the wool, which is not as "fine", some buyers have started to put in blankets and pillows. The prince of Sweden and his girlfriend of course have an alpaca blanket.
When you think of the fashion industry in general, alpaca wool has become increasingly popular and as a Swedish fashion brand we should be using our wool from Sweden instead of importing.
It is so sad because there are many alpaca owners who do not take care of the wool because unfortunately there is no economy in it. Norway was early to get locally produced alpaca wool on the market. It was not until 1980 that alpacas from Peru were exported, so it is a new animal in the western world. That may be why we have not heard much here about their fantastic qualities. We have merino wool that competes and just to make a cashmere sweater, ten goats need to be cut, but four sweaters can be made on one alpaca.
You told us that Alpacas are called ‘The dolphins of the fields’. Why?
Alpacas communicate with each other through singing/humming sounds. Because they sound so much, they have been given a nickname, ‘The dolphins of the fields’ as you can connect their sound to something similar to how the dolphins sound. And they are also herding animals and have to live with other alpacas and do not want to live alone.