Illinois Breeders Expanding Yarn Production

by Claudia Lenart
Barrington residents can get locally-produced food at the farmer’s market. Now residents can also find local, sustainably-produced alpaca yarn at Gene Ann’s, courtesy of Safe House Farm, on Cuba Road in Barrington.
Karen Tomaszek said it was an honor have to her yarn at Gene Ann’s because the store has high standards. Karen operates Safe House Farm along with her husband, Jim Tomaszek, and friend Linda McGill.
This is the first time the entire crop of alpaca clippings was sent to be processed on its own, without being mixed with alpaca fiber from other farms. Karen said the mills that turn shearings into yarn were impressed with the quality of the fiber.

“Our goal is to make the best fiber possible,” said Jim. An active member of the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, Jim is a walking encyclopedia on everything alpaca.
What’s so special about alpaca?
Alpaca is one of the most luxurious of fibers, says Jim, comparable to cashmere in softness; warmer, lighter and stronger than wool.
“Unlike wool, alpaca doesn’t have any smell. If you’re wearing wool, you have lanolin next to your body; if you’re wearing cotton, you have pesticides and herbicides next to your body; if you’re wearing alpaca, you’re just wearing alpaca,” Jim said. The farm’s motto is “Going Natural, Going Elegant, Going Green.”
An interesting historical note about alpacas—they originated in North America, in the Midwest Plains, Jim said. From North America, they traveled south to evolve into llamas. Camels and vicunas are also related to the alpaca.
As a breeder, Jim’s goal is to return the alpaca to its original form. “We breed an elite stock, called a primitive,” he said. "We're in the top 10 percent of the finest fiber in the country." Safe House Farm breeds and shows their herd of about 40 alpacas.

Karen and Linda are hoping  to open an alpaca fiber store in the future. Karen is a nurse at Sunrise Assisted Living in Barrington and Linda is a retired teacher.  The store would sell fiber and yarn from their alpacas as well as a variety of alpaca products, from near and far—socks, clothing, yarn, rug yarn, rugs, scarves, mittens and more.
“We hope to increase community awareness regarding alpacas, and all the different things that their fleece can be used for,” Karen said.
Another plan for the farm is to offer an adopt an alpaca program for local 4-H groups. The farm welcomes visitors and school groups to arrange a tour.
A special event at Safe House Farm is held the first weekend of September when the farm holds an open house for National Alpaca Farm Days.

To learn more about Safe House Farm, please visit their website at: http://www.safehousefarmalpacas.com/.