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Will and Lee Rankin, left, with three of their alpacas, and Melinda Rose, co-owner of Sew Original in Boone, celebrate a new partnership during this week’s grand re-opening celebration of Rose’s shop. Sherrie Norris | Watauga Democrat.

Originally published: 2013-08-21 10:44:14
Last modified: 2013-08-21 10:55:38

Alpacas help celebrate sew shop's reopening

by Sherrie Norris

When Shirley Bailey and Melinda Rose decided to move their Sew Original shop down a few doors at the Gateway Shopping Center in Boone earlier this month, they knew the additional corner space would allow them to expand upon the services and products they already offered.


As a full service Bernina dealership and quilt shop stocked with a wide selection of fabrics, patterns, accessories and more, Sew Original is celebrating its grand reopening this week with free classes, demonstrations, door prizes, trunk shows -- and special guests - through Saturday.


Introductions to its newest fiber line provided for a unique attraction on Monday, as some of those special guests -- a trio of alpacas -- came to town for the party.


Appearing undaunted in the side parking lot of Sew Original by all the fanfare their appearance was making, the alpacas from Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk and their owners, Lee and Will Rankin, joined Rose in the official announcement that Sew Original is now a dealer for the Apple Hill Farm alpaca fiber.  


"We are so excited about all this, and our customers are loving the soft, lighter wool that comes in so many wonderful colors," Rose said.


Alpaca fleece has been used for centuries in clothing items for royalty. According to Rose, the fiber is as soft as cashmere but lighter and warmer than sheep's wool, and anyone even working with the fiber feels like a queen.


Native to Peru, Bolivia and Chile, the popularity of the alpacas began spreading throughout the United States more than two decades ago, raised for their beautiful fiber and their market value as breeding livestock.


For the last decade, a few of the lucky animals have found a home in the High Country, where they have been cared for by the Rankins on a mountaintop area overlooking Valle Crucis and Banner Elk.  

Currently, there are 22 alpacas on the farm, with 16 of those considered High Country natives, having been born on the farm.


It's where animals talk and people listen, said Lee Rankin, describing her farm, once a large apple orchard, on which the alpacas now share space with other farm animals, including horses, donkeys, llamas and goats, to name a few.    


Providing 22 different natural fiber colors, from black, to grey, to white and all shades of brown, Rankin said alpacas produce the most natural colors of any animal used for fiber.


Sheared once a year, alpacas produce about five to eight pounds of fiber per animal.

"The fibers are soft and have a hollow core," Rankin said. "When spun and knit into sweaters, scarves or socks, the fibers provide insulation without being hot and do not hold moisture or odor. On top of that, they have a luxurious softness. Alpaca fiber is also considered to be hypoallergenic because it does not contain lanolin (found in wool) or other allergens."

Sew Original is located at 1542-G Hwy 421 S in the Gateway Shopping Center in Boone.  For more information, call (828) 264-1049 or visit

To learn more about Apple Hill Farm and the alpacas, call (828) 963-1662, visit or 400 Apple Hill Road in Banner Elk.