Successfully Working with Alpaca Yarns April 1, 2021
We have the joy of interviewing Jamie and Susan from Humming Oaks Farm on Thursday. They have three fabulous Alpacas right in our area! And have created some lovely pure alpaca and alpaca blend yarns. We wanted to spend a little time talking about the properties of alpaca and how to make successful choices. There are literally books written about this so I am just giving you my highlights!
Alpaca is soft - it is often referred to as the "poor man's cashmere." Not that Alpaca is cheap! It is still a luxury fiber and in the Andes is referred to as the "fiber of the gods." The softness comes from the fineness of the fiber, the lack of scales, and the fact that Alpaca do not produce lanolin. They do have guard hairs so if you have ever felt alpaca that poked at you it is because it was not well processed. If you are wool sensitive you might find that you love Alpaca due to the lack of lanolin. The possible drawback of the lack of scales is that alpaca yarns can grow and often do not have much memory. Memory in yarn comes from crimp and alpaca can range from no crimp to lovely crimp - it never has as much as a Merino wool. Combine the less crimp with the lack of scales and the finished project can grow. Avoid this by using stitch patterns with texture, knitting at a slightly firmer gauge - but not so firm that you make the fabric mean. Blends really help offset the growth while maintaining the softness.
Alpaca is warm and wicking - Alpaca is considered one of the warmest fibers and is almost twice as warm as wool. Given the fact that we live in a hot place, you might wonder if it is right for you. And it is very breathable. If you ever wondered how Alpaca could live in the warmer climate of SoCal, it is because the hollow fibers also help insulate the critters from the heat. The fiber is pretty water resistant. Because it the fiber is hollow it will not absorb the water and causes it to dry faster, hence, alpaca is also a wicking fiber - meaning it will pull sweat away from the body. And because it does not absorb water it is odor resistant! So socks are an awesome choice - especially for alpaca blends.
Alpaca is a strong fiber - Alpaca is considered one of the strongest fibers to come from a mammal. And it is a fiber that lasts the test of time. Blankets in the Andes are passed from generation to generation. This also makes alpaca really amazing for weaving! And in fact the Andes textile traditions are steeped in woven alpaca.
Alpaca has fabulous stitch definition - And this is both a really positive and negative thing! It will show off textured knits so beautifully. And cables are lovely (although they add weight so use with some caution). Lace is a beautiful way of extending this luxury fiber. But, if you have any inconsistency in your tension, you will see every bit of it in your knitting so plain stockinette may not be your friend.
So what should you knit? With pure alpaca, avoid items that have to fit and retain their shape - like hats. Try you hand at scarves and cowls. Especially textured knits like Purl Soho's No Purl Scarf. Or Isabel Kraemer's Gryer that is mostly garter. Diamond and Willow Cowl is beautiful lace cowl. The Beeswax Scarf is a beautiful blend of lace and texture - and would be gorgeous in Julio! And anything with a Gansey patterning would be amazing, like the Inshore Legwarmers. Gauging is always advised to see what the final product will look like. Take the time to swatch to see if you will like it!
With alpaca blends - the sky is the limit!
One last thought - I loved this image that showed the difference between the scales in wool, alpaca, and cashmere:
We asked you for your Silver Linings from 2020
I have built my network of knit and crochet buddies via Zoom and learned a lot of new techniques from the various guilds and meet ups I have been fortunate enough to find on line. Something good always comes out of something bad, we just need to find the good and sometimes, like this past year, it was a tough search.
I started knitting again! I needed a break from books and tv, so started knitting again. More importantly I have actually finished projects! Thank heavens you stayed open to keep me busy!!!
I’m enjoying the zoom get togethers and classes. I can stay in my PJs and enjoy on my couch. Thankfully, my circle of family are very careful so we have been able to meet. My spinning group meets outside; six feet apart with masks. I’m very fortunate because I’m retired.
I should add that the Riverside Knitting Guild has been fabulous in keeping us together with zoom. Also, Hands on Knitting has been a blessing in that too. I do zoom in on a shop in Washington State and have enjoyed them too. This is a time to support and appreciate small local yarn stores. So, all this makes me happy.
My household remained "steady and we'll."
Friendships formed using zoom. Attending knitting events and book author events that otherwise would have been out of reach for me. Hunkering down at home and appreciating the beauty around me that I had taken for granted.
Making friends all over the country over Zoom who I otherwise would never have met.
ZOOM. getting proficient in using zoom for staying in touch with people when we cant touch.
A friend and I started KAL projects to knit down our stashes and finished 19 + projects since August - December (some big, some small) We are so different in taste and personality but have motivated each other whenever one of us is ready to pitch a project towards the UFO pile. We knit via zoom as often as we can, also mask to mask lunch in Burger-king parking lot and Corona Crossings. I’ve learned new techniques and become fearless( mostly) about trying something new She inspires me!!!!!
I participated in my first KAL (completed) and am working on my second KAL. My first MKAL started in 2020 is being revised to add ,another eight inches in length - two inches to go! I also completed three large, eight medium, and seven small-sized projects for charity, two additional projects for myself, and thirteen small projects for family between last March and this March.
Happy New Year!
Let's talk resolutions - the making and keeping
We are, gladly, coming to the end of 2020 and it is time to make our New Year's Resolutions! And, as fiber fanatics, not only do we make resolutions in our lives, but we also make resolutions for our craft. So here is some information to help you make and meet your resolutions.
- Goals should be attainable and realistic. Many of us will say, "I am only going to knit from my stash!" But the problem is that we LOVE yarn and enjoy acquiring yarn. So the moment we buy a new skein we feel like we failed and just give up. So try a goal like: "Every project will use yarn from my stash and new yarn." or "For every project I make with new yarn I will make one with stash yarn."
- Write down your goals: All of the science says that if you write your goals down and read them from time to time you are much more likely to achieve them. It changes where you recall the information from in your brain and the very process of writing down the goal helps you clarify the goal. And we created a form for you!
- Goals should be measurable: As you write your goals and clarify exactly what you are trying to do, be sure to have a way to measure your progress. For example, if you want to finish UFO and WIPS, gather the ones you know you want to finish and have them in sight - even name them! Pull out the stash yarn you want to use this year and find projects for them.
- Share your goals: Share your goals with a friend who has similar goals and form an "accountability buddy." We created the YARNO game to help people write and make their goals - plus you get to earn prizes!
We created a printable form for you to write and share your fiber goals. Just click the link below - and get a $5.00 coupon for playing!