Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Knitting with alpaca

We make all our own yarn and products here at our house. I spin up 100% alpaca yarn. I was asked recently how I like knitting with it. I passed this question onto my husband, since he does more of the knitting. He said it's all he's ever knit with so he doesn't know how to compare it. I have knit with other yarn, and I find I prefer the alpaca. It has some stretch to it, and it seems to meld to patterns quite well.

I've read and heard different things about alpaca yarn not having memory, and that garments can stretch out. I haven't had trouble with this. I do watch what garment I make with which alpaca's fiber, and I do pick patterns with some forethought.

From what I understand, fiber from huacaya alpacas has more memory than fiber from suri alpacas. We only have huacaya alpacas on our farm. The more crimp a huacaya has, the more memory the yarn will have. So, fiber from an alpaca with little or no crimp should be knit into items that drape or hang, like a scarf or shawl. Hats or sweaters will do better with very crimpy fiber. For sweaters, I also try to use patterns with some knit designs. For example, a simple stockinette stitch is going to stretch out easier than a pattern with cables.

We enjoy our 100% alpaca yarn, and love using it. I know many people enjoy blends (ie alpaca and wool), and that is also an option, it's just not one that we've incorporated into our production plans. Many fiber artists love dying their yarn too. I decided early on that I wanted many different colored alpacas, and that I would cherish the natural colors. I did not want to branch out into dying. I personally prefer our natural colors over the dyed ones. I figure someone could always buy our white raw fiber or white yarn and dye it themselves if they really want it dyed. There are so many choices in what to do with the fiber, every farmer has to make some limits, no one person can do it all. I won't even get into using a mill or co-op or having rugs made and so forth. My vision from the start was to make our own products from our own alpaca's fiber. We are making this happen. At the start of this all, I pictured myself knitting products out of mill spun yarn, I didn't think I would want to spin the yarn myself. Almost two years ago I added spinning the yarn into our plan, and I'm so glad I did. It's even more special to have home spun yarn to make our products.

I find I am always learning more about fiber and spinning and knitting. It's a "learn as you go" sort of thing. It's amazing how little you need to know to get started. It's not hard stuff, anyone can do it. But the rewards as you go and your skill improves are tremendous. Now if I could just figure out a way to increase my yarn production so I could have more product out there for sale!

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