Three California women spin deluxe Peruvian alpaca into lovely home textiles.
Asher Market, Sonoma
Northern California, by way of Peru, has become an unexpected hub for the alpaca trade. Ashley, 30, and Erin Hayes, 28, the sisters behind Sonoma-based Asher Market, year-old purveyor of alpaca pillows and throws, stumbled upon the cashmere-like fiber quite by accident. Between them, they have a law degree, a psychology degree, a photography business, and fashion and culinary training. But all they really want to do is sew.
“From sun up to sun down, we made floor cushions, robes, aprons,” explains Ashley, who says their Texan grandmother, an accomplished seamstress, taught them the craft when they were girls. They took their wares to stores like Wonder in Santa Barbara and turned their hobby into a business. Not until Ashley took a trip to South America and scooped up cozy, lightweight Peruvian alpaca blankets did they find their niche.
“She brought them home to sell with the things we made, but that’s all anybody wanted,” Erin laughs. Soon after, the pair was back in Peru, designing blankets in bold chevron and diamond prints, and a painterly palette of vibrant colors. They quickly added pillows to the mix.
“We blend the alpaca with a little synthetic fiber to make them machine washable and reduce allergic reactions,” she says. “Plus, we design them seasonally, so once a color is gone, it’s gone for good. You’ve got to get them while they’re hot.” From $110; ashermarket.com.
Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca, Healdsburg
On the higher end of the design spectrum, Sandra Jordan offers luxurious and lightweight alpaca by the yard. As a girl in Peru, she learned about the Incan traditions of weaving silken fabric from alpaca fleece. “They called it the gold of the Andes,” says the former creative director of Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, “but the itchy blankets I used to see in the marketplace didn’t match what I’d read about.”
The diplomat’s daughter came to the U.S. for college in the ’60s but never lost a connection with her home country. In 2006, when she researched textiles for a redesign of the winery, she stumbled upon a story in Discovery magazine on the DNA of purebred Peruvian alpaca. Several trips to Peru later, her exclusive line, Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca, was born. Today, she works with a sustainable Peruvian mill that uses highest quality, purebred fibers to create upholstery weight weaves or drapery sheers in 50-plus shades by the yard. Some big names are fans: Designer Jiun Ho used it for his new upholstered furniture line. Michael S. Smith bought the fabric in Peony pink for the Obamas’ White House bedroom. “I got an order for 140 yards of the Mushroom from Kanye West,” she says. “My kids had to tell me who he was.” 707-836-9240; sandrajordan.com.
Written and edited by Christine Lennon