Meredith Holt, Published June 01 2012
No run-of-the-mill yarn
Next door, with her dog Cali nearby, she processes raw fiber from her pack of nine Suri and Huacaya alpacas and two yaks.
The Kindred woman says the recently shorn alpacas, who look like curly-haired aliens, are “easy keepers.”
“They don’t eat much, and they fend for themselves,” she says.
Armbrust says the cold, hard winters of North Dakota are ideal for producing excellent fiber growth from herds.
Her new Dakota Fiber Mill, 17 miles outside Fargo, accepts fiber from sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas and yaks – even dogs and cats.
Customers send her fiber by the pound from as far away as Washington state. She charges $9.95 a pound for roving and $19.95 a pound for yarn.
One woman sent her three bags from a pet sheep so her grandmother could make mittens from it.
“That was just precious,” Armbrust says.
The material goes through a nine-step process. “You can’t push it through in a day,” she says.
She’s gotten as much as 350 pounds, which will take months to complete.
“I have no limit,” she says. “If they want to send me a pound, I’ll do it. If they want to send me 350 pounds, I’ll do it.”
The mill, the only one of its type in the Dakotas, also does business locally.
“There are a lot of people who hand-spin in the area,” says Armbrust, herself a hand-spinner and knitter.
Before she started her own business, Armbrust was using an outside mill and waiting eight months to get her yarn back.
“They’re that backed up,” she says. “That’s industry standard.”
People wanted to buy yarn from her, and once she put the idea into motion, she made that possible.
“I came up with this idea last year shearing, and a year later, here I am, up and running,” Armbrust says.
She hopes to add a store and classroom space by late fall.
“Cashmere comes from a goat,” she says. “I want people to come out here and see what a cashmere goat looks like.”
Dakota Fiber Mill
Where: 17061 54th St. SE, Kindred
Owner: Chris Armbrust
Contact: (701) 238-4002 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590