Sunday, December 30, 2012

Erin Murphy Knits: A Year in Review!

What a great year 2012 was for Erin Murphy Knits! In our very first year of alpaca ownership, we not only launched a knitwear company, but also bred, then delivered, our first two beautiful cria: Erin Murphy Knits Moorea and Erin Murphy Knits Don't Mess With Texas. We had our first shearing day and spun all the raw fiber into yarn. I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, donated items to charity auctions and fulfilled orders as fast as I could knit. We also began using our alpacas for animal therapy for special needs children. In our efforts to spread awareness about the American alpaca fiber industry and these wonderful, eco-friendly animals we were featured in several magazines, newspaper articles and radio and news programs. Most importantly, our family has met some wonderful people all thanks to our beautiful alpacas. I can't wait to see what the future brings!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Diary of a Kickstarter Campaign: All or Nothing!

It's the countdown for the Erin Murphy Knits Alpaca Project! My Kickstarter Campaign has three days to go and is 82% funded. I've receeived several messages from my backers saying that they'd like to honor their pledges even if I don't reach 100%. That's not how Kickstarter works. Kickstarter is an "All or Nothing at All' platform. If I don't reach 100% funding, your credit card will not be charged. But I'm not worried yet. I feel great about the support of my backers and the enthusiastic messages that I've received. Hopefully when my project hits the 'Ending Soon' page on Kickstarter I'll pick up a few extra sponsors. You can help by telling your friends about the Erin Murphy Knits Alpaca Project! All rewards will be received in time for holiday gift giving. Wouldn't a hand knit alpaca hat make a great gift?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Erin Murphy's Knits: In The News

I thought I'd share the article I did this week with The Examiner: Many will remember actress, Erin Murphy who played that loveable little witch, Tabitha in the classic series Bewitched! Today, Erin continues working in the entertainment business behind and in-front of the camera. But one might not know that Erin is a Alpaca Rancher. I was able to chat with the stunning Erin Murphy about Bewitched, Alpacas, & her current Kickstarter project. Enjoy. Mike Pingel: How did you become a Alpaca rancher? Erin Murphy: I got my first 2 alpacas for 'pet therapy' for our little boy with autism. We fell in love with the animals quickly and our herd grew from there. M: What was your son's reaction to the Alpaca? E: Our little boy, Parker, loves the alpacas. They're such gentle inquisitive animals and they communicate by humming. They don't always like to be touched, but they approach you on their own. In many ways, they're similar to individuals with autism. M: What kind of characteristics does the Alpaca have? Like a goat, dog? E: Some alpacas are dog like, but most alpaca ranchers say they're more cat like. If I had to describe them as similar to another animal, I'd say they're most like a deer. M: How much does a Alpaca eat? E: Alpacas eat primarily grass hay (orchard) with a little alpaca hay for protein. I also feed the pregnant/ nursing females alpaca pellets and have loose minerals available at all times. About six alpacas eat the same amount as one horse. M: Have you always knitted? E: I was first exposed to knitting watching Agnes Moorehead knit on the set of Bewitched, but I really got into knitting after getting the alpacas. My friend actress Carolyn Hennesy was also very supportive in improving my knitting! M: Is the Alpaca yarn the best to use in knitting? E: I think alpaca yarn is the best for knitting. It's soft like cashmere, but has a longer staple length than cashmere so it's stronger. it's a hollow fiber so it light weight, but very insulating and naturally water and fire resistant. Alpaca fiber also doesn't have lanolin in it, so it's hypo allergenic. M: How long does it take to knit a hat? E: That's a hard question to answer. If you start from the beginning, it takes a year for the alpaca to grow the fiber, then it takes hours and hours to process and spin the raw fiber into yarn and a couple hours to actually knit the hat. I think one of the reasons, so few people offer hand knit items, is that if you really break it down and look at the time involved, it's not a money making venture. Definitely a labor of love! M: What do you hope to accomplish with your Kickstarter project? E: I'm excited about the Kickstarter project for several reasons. I'm just launching my Erin Murphy Knits company and I'm looking forward to having my items available in several small retail stores for the holidays. I'm also going to be getting a portable alpaca corral so I can bring the alpacas to special ed, school, hospital and boutique visits and I'm hoping to increase the public awareness of alpaca fiber. Alpacas are originally from Peru & Chile and although alpacas have been in the US since the early 80's, the fiber hasn't really been promoted as much as it should be. Most alpaca items available at retail are imported. I'm interested in supporting the local economy, so even as Erin Murphy Knits expands; every aspect from start to finish will be made in the USA. M: What kind of incentives are you offering? E: It was fun coming up with the rewards for Kickstarter. I'm offering things that should appeal to everyone from the casual Bewitched fan to those interested in luxury alpaca accessories. I have alpaca felted soap (which is like soap encased in a wash cloth, handknit scarves, hats and baby sets and woven alpaca rugs. One of the surprisingly popular rewards is a visit to our small ranch to hang out for the afternoon with me and the alpacas (or is it the alpacas & I?). M: Do you have a favorite or funniest moment with one of your Alpaca? E: Alpacas are funny animals. They look like Muppets. One occasion, one of the girls leaned in to give me a kiss & spit right in my face. It wasn't really funny to me, but was to everyone else! M: ..and I have to ask.. for all the Bewitched fans reading this… do you have a favorite moment on the show? E: Bewitched was just wonderful all around. I worked with amazing people on a show that was so well written and really held up over time. People have been so kind about it over the years and I feel really lucky to have a small place in TV history! M: Where can people go to get more info on the Alpaca project? E: You can find out more about the Erin Murphy Knits alpaca project on Kickstarter or on my blog:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Diary of a Kickstarter Campaign: Gaining Momentum

By most accounts, the middle of a Kickstarter campaign is where you hit a lull and backers drop off drastically. I think by holding off putting up my project video until the middle of my campaign, I avoided that. Six days ago, when I added the video, my project was 33% funded. Today, I'm 72% funded with 11 days to go. I felt a huge rush of relief when I reached 50% funding! One 'bad' thing happened this week with my Kickstarter project. There was a suggestion to have a vanity URL, which you get by simply checking a link in settings. Supposedly that makes your project easier to find. Sadly, it also deleted all 300+ 'Likes' that my project had. Since popularity on Kickstarter is based not only on backers & dollars but also on "Likes', this sent my project into Kickstarter oblivion. Even with the increase in numbers, it's no longer listed on the popular page. So I would suggest if you want to use a Vanity URL, you add it at the launch of your campaign. Right now I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. I love when my family and friends get excited and call when they see that I have a new backer. Another great thing happened this week, when five of my previous backers increase their pledge amounts. I'm so excited about knitting up the rewards and having people out for ranch visits. One supporter is even having me knit her ring bearers' pillow for her upcoming wedding. What an honor. I can't tell you how much your support is appreciated. Look at the amazing illustrations that Sean McHugh did for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Diary of a Kickstarter Campaign: The Project Video

By all accounts, the project video is the single most important component to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Only 30% of projects without a video end up being fully funded. Kickstarter strongly recommends that you post your video at launch. I didn't do that. I'm trying to keep the momentum going with my campaign, similar to the 'But wait, there's more!' pitch used in direct response. My Erin Murphy Knits Alpaca Project was up on Kickstarter for a full fourteen days before I added a video today. I think the thought of making a video can be pretty daunting. It doesn't have to be. My video was completely made by my twelve year old son, Dylan, during a two hour Apple Film Camp.
He produced it, directed it, filmed it and scored it. He wrote the music on Garage Band and used I-Movie. We shot it in one take. Some of the project videos on Kickstarter are pretty fantastic, with hired production teams and big budgets. Our video is decidedly low-tech with no budget. We included the basics that every crowdfunding video needs. First, you need to tell the audience who you are. It's definitely nice to put a "face" with the project. I also think it's a good idea to tell a little bit about what Kickstarter is. Crowdfunding is still a fairly new concept. Then you need to talk about what your project is and what you're trying to raise money for. Then, talk about your rewards. Kickstarter is a win/ win type situation. Backers support up and coming creative projects and in return they get something cool from the project. Tell the viewers all the different ways that they can help support your project. In addition to backing you, they can also spread the word via Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Finally, thank them! Crowdfunding is a team effort! My project is currently 33% funded with 16 days left in the campaign. Click on the link to see our new video and a huge thank you to all my supporters!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Diary of a Kickstarter Campaign: The First Week

The first week of my Kickstarter project, Erin Murphy Knits Alpaca Project, has been invigorating, embarassing, exhausting and FUN! Not all projects sent in to Kickstarter are approved. My initial project was sent back because it was for 'general business expenses' and Kickstarter only allows projects with a finite goal. I also have a charitable aspect to Erin Murphy Knits and Kickstarter doesn't support charitable campaigns. I rewrote my pitch in five minutes and sent it back for approval. They contacted me 24 hours later to tell me it had been accepted. I think what most people expect when they launch a project on a public funding platform is that the 'public' will be able to see their project. With over 4,000 projects on Kickstarter right now, only a precious few are featured on their front page. You need to reach out to your friends to spread the word. In the first 24 hours of my launch, I wrote about my campaign on Facebook and Twitter. On the second day, I wrote about it in my blog and on my favorite Bewitched website message board: For most Kickstarter campaigns, including mine, there's an initial burst of traffic and backers at the launch, then there's a 'trough' in the middle with occasional backers and a sudden burst at the end as the project is featured on Kickstarter's Ending Soon page, where it's visible to all the Kickstarter viewers. In my first three days I had fifteen backers and was 12% funded. The part that's been most difficult for me is asking friends for support and asking everyone to share the link via Twitter and Facebook. Asking for help is a crucial component of crowdfunding. You have to be able to reach outside your group. As a "pitchperson' by trade, I love to sell things. I love to point out the benefits of a product and tell people honestly how that product is a solution to a problem. Also I'm involved with many charities and have no problem reaching out and asking for help for someone else. With my Kickstarter project I'm definitely out of my comfort zone reaching out and asking for help for myself! I'm trying to keep my campaign interesting and adding rewards as I go. I'm hopeful that will keep the project fresh and allow me to share updates that aren't completely repetitive. Some Kickstarter employees Tweeted about my project and commented that they "Wish I had a video for my project". I'll be adding one this week. I shot one on Friday, but when I went to put it up the video and audio wouldn't sync. I'm not using my TV production connections to film my video. I'll be shooting it in one take on my 12 year old son's camera. I'm sharing lessons I learn with my launch in hopes to help others make their projects successful. The goal of my campaign and most Kickstarter campaigns is to raise funds to complete a creative project and I don't think you need to spend money or be high tech to do that. Yesterday my project was featured on a website called They had me listed as #2 on their Hot List; but also had me trending as only getting 63% of my funding goal. Fingers crossed that they're wrong! I think timing the project you launch is crucial. I may be fighting an uphill battle promoting handknit alpaca accessories in the midst of a summer heatwave. But there really is a method to my madness. The goal of my project is to launch a Winter 2012-2013 Erin Murphy Knits Alpaca Collection. With a summer Kickstarter launch, everyone will get their rewards well in advance of Winter and holiday gift-giving. Please click on the link below to check out my Kickstarter campaign. While you're there click on the "Like" tab right under the photo. If you're feeling particularly generous you can also click on the "Tweet" tab to share with your friends and be sure to check out the rewards!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Erin Murphy Knits Diary of a Kickstarter Campaign: The Launch

At an event recently, I was talking to an executive about my new company, Erin Murphy Knits, and some of the things that I'd like to accomplish this year. She told me it sounded like a perfect fit for Kickstarter. So my journey into the fascinating world of "crowdfunding" began. Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. People set a specific fundraising goal for a project and offer rewards to their supporters. My project, Erin Murphy Knits Alpaca Project, has several goals: to increase awareness of alpacas and the benefits of their amazing fiber, to support the local economy, and to develop and expand the Erin Murphy Knits brand by creating a winter/ holiday 2012-2013 collection. One of the main goals of my Kickstarter campaign, is to raise enough to get a portable alpaca corral, so I can bring the alpacas to special ed, school, hospital and boutique visits. It may seem silly to launch a project that features knit wear in the middle of summer. I was thinking ahead to the fullfillment dates of all the rewards. I wanted to make sure that everyone would get their finished products in time for winter and the holiday season. Wouldn't a handknit alpaca hat or scarf make a great holiday gift? I tried to come up with fun rewards that would appeal to everyone from the casual Bewitched fan, to those interested in owning luxury fiber products. Our family first got involved with alpacas as a form of pet therapy for our little boy with autism. As parents of a child with special needs, we were also thinking of a long term career option for our son, since animals are his greatest love. Alpacas are truly magical creatures. They are extremely eco-friendly and easy on the environment. They're clean and quiet animals, with padded feet. Alpacas are consdered exotic animals or livestock and are primarily used for their fiber. Once a year, the alpacas are sheared. Then we process the fleece and I handknit items with the yarn. Alpaca yarn is soft like cashmere, lighter weight but warmer than wool. Alpaca fiber is hollow and naturally water-resistant and fire-resistant. There's also no lanolin in alpaca, so people who are allergic to wool, or don't like the itchiness of wool, love alpaca knits! One of the great things about the concept of crowd funding is that you have the ability to reach outside of your small circle of friends. In order to do that, I need your help to spread the word! Tell your friends about the Erin Murphy Knits Alpaca Project on Kickstarter. Share the link below. While you're on the Kickstarter website, look around at some of the other projects. There are some really cool ones!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Update on our Premature Alpaca Baby, Moorea

Here's an update on our little girl who was born on Monday, June 25th at 320 days gestation. She's doing great!! For the first 36 hours, I syringe fed her one ounce of colostrum every hour. She wasn't sucking on her own, so the syringe was needed. I gave her a baby enema, with warm soapy water to get her to pass her meconium (the first poop). She was still weak, floppy & struggled to stand. I gave her 4ccs of alpaca nutri-drench in a child's oral dosing syringe (1 cc= 1ml). Since she can't regulate her own body temperature yet, I found myself moving her from the shade to the sun as needed. It's summer here in Southern California; but it dips to the 50's at night, so I need to make sure Moorea stays warm. I put her in a child's sweatshirt at bedtime & wrapped her in a warm blanket. I found that the "furry' blankets for kids retain the heat better than towels. Also in the middle of the night when it's coldest, I filled two plastic milk jugs with warm water & put them on both sides of her with the blanket draped across the top.
Finally, success! Moorea is nursing on her own! I still need to watch her temperature & monitor weight gain. I also need to remind her to eat every couple hours. I find a small squirt of warm colostrum (from an unused clean enema bottle) is just enough to get her up & nursing on her own. The next few days is still critical, but I'm very optimistic (& sleep deprived) at this point!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Introducing our baby alpaca, Moorea!

We had a little surprise at Erin Murphy Knits yesterday. Our alpaca Tahiti had her baby 20 days early! Luckily I had my cria (baby alpaca) kit assembled, so I didn't need to rush out to get supplies. I was down in the corral at 10:00 hanging out with the herd & all was normal. At 12:20, I promised my 9 year old lunch at McDonalds, so we headed out past the corral. There was a beautiful little girl kushing (laying upright, see photo above). It was obviously a fairly quick easy labor, as she'd already passed the fully intact placenta too. After checking to make sure all was well, we made the quick trip down the street for chicken nuggets from the drive-thru. The new little girl is named Moorea & since she's premature she's an at risk baby. She has all the symptoms of a preemie alpaca: slightly floppy ears, teeth that haven't erupted the surface, down on the pasterns (legs) & trouble sucking. My vet told me that at 320 days gestation, she has a good chance to survive, with significant assistance. the vet had me give her a few cc's of Karo syrup for energy & then she attempted to stand & nurse for the first time. Due to her weak sucking reflex & her mom's engorged teats, the vet has me milking the mom & feeding Moorea 1 oz every hour. I've been syringe feeding her colostrum (the vital first milk)for the last 17 hours. She's made attempts to nurse, but only for very short periods. At this point, I don't know what her prognosis is. the first week is really critical. She can't regulate her temperature, so I need to make sure she's neither too hot or too cold. I'll continue to post updates. Thoughts & prayers are always welcome!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Erin Murphy Knits on LA Talk Radio

Yesterday I did an interview with LA Talk Radio talking all about how I quickly went from having two alpacas, to having an alpaca ranch & starting Erin Murphy Knits. You'll hear all aboout the benefits of alpaca fiber, what's involved in processing & all the steps to turn raw fiber into a finished product. We also talk about supporting the local economy, marketing via social media and how to start your own small business. Plus of course, the conversation includes Bewitched & my current acting career. The entire interview is archived online (Thursday, June 21, 2012). Enjoy! While you're at it, check out my 100% alpaca hand knit hats for sale!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hats for Sale!

I'm very excited to announce that Erin Murphy Knits is offering our very first items for sale: HATS! These aren't just any hats. They're 100% alpaca, hand knit hats. Our alpacas are raised & loved right at our home & the yarn is processed & spun by hand. Each hat is handmade to your specifications by actress Erin Murphy. Most people aren't aware of all the benefits of alpaca fiber. The fiber is soft as cashmere & lighter weight, naturally water resistant & more durable than wool. Alpacas have no lanolin, so the products are hypo-allergenic. Erin Murphy Knits is completely eco-friendly since alpacas are very easy on the environment & no chemicals are used in processing. We are committed to supporting children's & autism charities! Your hat can be knit in several natural shades ranging from off-white to black or custom dyed in the color of your choice.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Agnes Moorehead Knits!

People always ask me when I got interested in knitting. One of the most frequent things I hear when I'm knitting in public is 'knitting is a lost art'. Let me start by telling you about my earliest memories of knitting, long before I owned alpacas & decided to start Erin Murphy Knits. One of my fondest memories of childhood is sitting and watching Agnes Moorehead knit. Since my only living grandma lived a plane ride away, Agnes was my Grandmama that I got to see every day. She would tell me stories about how she had loved to do needlework since she was a little girl. I loved watching her knit and listening to her stories. Today when I knit, I frequently flash back on those fond childhood memories. Knitting is the perfect activity on a film/ television set where there are long periods of inactivity. Lots of current actresses knit on set: Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Sandra Bullock, Debra Messing, Sarah Jessica Parker, Christina Hendricks & Madonna. Lost art indeed!! Thought you might enjoy some photos of a few Hollywood legends who had a passion for knitting as well:
Like us on Facebook:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spit Happens!

One of the questions I get the most frequently about alpacas is "Do they spit?". The honest answer is..sometimes! Alpacas don't spit as often as llamas & they don't usually spit at people. You'll also get a few warnings before they spit: ears back, head back with neck arched. They do occasionally spit at each other when they squabble over hay. One of the times you definitely want to see an alpaca spit is when you perform a spit test, which is an alpaca pregnancy test that even a novice can perform. The alpacas' gestation period is 11.5 months and they don't really look pregnant till the end. you want to make sure that once you get your female pregnant that they maintain their pregnancy. Ultrasounds can be expensive and require a vet visit. Progesterone testing isn't always accurate. Right now I have four females that I'm hoping will maintain their pregnancies & provide me with cria (baby alpacas). Once every month, I bring one of my males into the female pasture on a lead & walk him amongst the pregnant girls. I have two maidens (females who haven't given birth before) & two proven moms. If the females are open (not pregnant) they'll typically cush (lay down) for breeding. If they are pregnant they'll either spit, kick or run away. These could also be symptoms of a retained CL (Corpeus Luteum); but that's probably more info than my casual blog readers are interested in. Today, I had four positive spit tests, so fingers crossed!
I've attached photos of the two beautiful studs we used this year: Canzelle's Mombasa & Canzelle's Swahili.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Erin Murphy Knits....Coming Soon!

Fine Alpaca Accessories Hand Knit With Love * Raised & Knit in The USA * Luxury Fiber Soft as Cashmere * Warmer & Lighter Than Wool * Hypoallergenic * Eco Friendly * A Portion of All Proceeds Go to Children's & Autism Charities