About two hours south of Athens, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Huntington, West Virginia, a 16-head herd of llama spend their days grazing, lounging, and dust bathing. Some of them get to eat treats their owner provides by mouth, a “kiss” if you will. There’s a reason for this: the llamas are trained as therapy animals for nursing home visits in and around Chesapeake, Ohio and close contact training is critical to managing their behavior.
Tom, Judy, and their daughter Mitzi, have worked with their herd at Good News Llamas for about 20 years and spend a lot of time in the airy barn. They shear the animals themselves, and this time of year, before the llamas start dust bathing to relieve warm weather itching, it’s critical to remove their blankets, the part of the fleece across their backs and sides that is the most valuable for fiber artists. The rest of the fiber will be sheared when they get a moment to do so.
One of their llamas, a beautiful white animal named Angel, gets a lot of the therapy llama work in the community. She loves to give kisses for treats and enjoys her human companions’ hugs, while also sporting a sleek and soft fleece perfect for petting. Her irresistibly soft wool has won awards at national llama shows, and she took home National Grand Champion and regional Reserve Champion breed awards in 2006.
Many people have never had the opportunity to try llama as a craft fiber, but Judy finds a lot to do with it. She makes felt “paintings” with the fleece of both her llamas and wool that she buys, and dyes her own projects. We came home with a pound of llama roving, some raw fleece, and a whole bunch of random dyed locks, fiber, and felted bits and bobs. It’s all those colorful fiber pieces that will be used by 12 year olds at an art camp in June.
If you would like to try llama fleece, please contact Tom and Judy through their website at Good News Llamas!