Elise was a young alpaca, or cria, born to one of my alpacas, Trixie, several years ago. Sadly, she was born with a partial choanal atresia, which in most cases is incompatible with life. It is a defect in which the nasal passages are blocked off, and the cria cannot nurse effectively. In Elise's case, only one nasal passage was blocked, and after talking with several other breeders who had heard of alpacas surviving with this condition, I gave a go at bottle feeding her every two hours around the clock until she was about two or three months old. This was an exhausting pursuit.

When I saw her eating hay and grain and drinking water, I felt that she was going to do okay and reduced the bottle feedings. After a few weeks of this, she had become so thin; she was clearly not thriving, and I decided to begin the bottle feedings again and ran out to get the items needed for her formula. By the time I returned from the market and mixed up her formula, she had already died.

I was so heartbroken. Her fleece was so dense and fine, that I decided to shear her postmortem, in tears. It was hard to do because I was conflicted with sending her to her final resting place with no fleece and keeping the fleece from her as a memorial and make something special with it.

I'd decided to keep the fleece -- my intellect telling me that she no longer had use for it underground -- and asked a local spinner to make yarn out of it for me in exchange for another alpaca fleece. "Bizzy Lizzie" blended Elise's fleece with 50% cormo sheep and gave me the most beautiful, soft, woolen yarn one could ask for. I tucked it away knowing I would make something small out of it, perhaps a cowl.

Fast forward to winter 2016 when I signed up for a Beginning Design class at Webs where we would design a cowl! Perfect use for Elise's yarn. The cowl I designed is available as a free pattern on my website. I hope you enjoy knitting it as much as I enjoyed creating a keepsake from a special little alpaca.


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