Mustang Creek Alpaca Company wasn’t born out of a lifelong dream. In fact, it was Kathy Fleming’s love for dogs that has ultimately led her to discovering the adorable Peruvian creature with angelically soft fur and a face for comedy. “While vacationing in the Mt. Hood area of Oregon in 2006, we came across a hobby farm advertising yarn for sale. The farm happened to be an alpaca farm,” Fleming says. “While the owner was telling us all about her alpacas, the cutest Great Pyrenees puppy named Charlie came out of the barn and sat at my feet. Charlie was in training to become a livestock guard dog. I was sold on the idea of buying alpacas – so that I could get a dog like Charlie.”
Though affection for a canine was the genesis of Fleming’s love for camelids, since that fateful rendezvous in 2006, Fleming and her husband Mike have dedicated her life to the alpaca. Currently, 31 of them reside on the land surrounding Fleming’s Mustang home, and she uses their wool to create a multitude of products ranging from socks, hats and scarves to rugs.
Alpacas are part of the camel family and come to the United States mostly from Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The species are often mistaken for one another, but llamas weigh up to 400 pounds and are kept primarily as a source of meat, while alpacas are considerably smaller – weighing just 150 pounds – and raised only for fiber. Because of their fur, Alpacas have been treasured dating back to the Incan Empire.
Creating the perfect wool, Fleming explained to me, involves years of breeding. “Long before we make products, we decide which male will complement our female's fleece, with the goal of always improving the fleece through the next generation,” she says. “After we shear the fleece, I skirt, or sort it by staple length and degree of softness. Softer fleece with a longer staple length is sent off to mom and pop mills to be made into socks or yarn for knitting and crocheting. The coarser fleece is hand-washed, air-dried, carded and felted into a variety of items, such as dryer balls, shoe inserts and cat toys.”
Because of its warmth and ability to wick water and absorb odors, plus its heavenly texture, alpaca wool is most popular in the world of apparel and stuffed animals. More and more alpaca products are starting to appear in homes, especially in the form of rugs. These beauties are hand-sheared, handwoven and dyed with natural dyes all here in Oklahoma.
Mustang Creek Alpaca Company products can be viewed online at mustangcreekalpacas.com, and though the location of their farm is a secret – alpacas have become popular Instagram subjects, thus creating traffic jams in their neighborhood – Kathy and Mike hosted an educational display and assortment of merchandise at the Oklahoma State Fair’s Oklahoma Expo Hall. Not only could visitors feel how soft these rugs are for themselves, the Flemings rolled out with two alpacas from the herd.