A closer look at alpaca fiber

Sweet-Alpaca

About two years ago, I visited a darling yarnshop in Hood River, Oregon called Foothills Yarns. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the shop owners keep their own alpacas.

Alpacas are so gentle and sweet, I really like their personality.

Not only is this knitter enamored by their personality, I simply adore their fiber!

Alpaca fiber is very long compared to merino fiber which is short and rather pooffy.

Alpaca’s long fiber gives its knitted yarn several characteristics. I would like to use my two Eco Alpaca Swatches which I wetblocked yesterday and are now dry to be gauged.

Alpaca’s drapey character

ACLAA1

After measuring my two swatches I yield the following stitchcount:

With needle size US7 : 9 stitches per inch row count and 12 stitches per inch column count.

With needle US5: 10 stitches per inch row count and  13 stitches per inch column count.

Now what does this actually mean? Let’s take a look.

Swatch with larger needle US7

ACLAA3

With larger needle US7 I yield less stitches per inch compared to smaller needle US5.

So, the larger your needle, the less stitches per inch you will get. What does this mean?

With less stitches per inch your knitted fabric will have more space in between the stitches. This is also refered to as being a loose knit. For my swatch this means that it will be more drapey, it literally hangs loosely.

A fabric that is made fairly loosely, will have the tendency to “flow” more, to be more “free”.

Swatch with smaller needle US5

ACLAA2

With smaller needle US5 I yield more stitches per inch compared to bigger needle US7.

So, the smaller your needle, the more stitches per inch you will get. What does this mean?

With more stitches per inch your knitted fabric will have less space in between the stitches. This is also refered to as being a close knit. For my swatch this means that it will be more stiff, it  as no room to breath, so to speak.

A fabric that is made fairly closely knit, will have the tendency to be quite stern.

So knowing all this, what to make with this fiber?

For my swatch with looser knit the following comes to mind:

  • Flowy triangular scarf
  • Baby Blanket
  • Long fingerless gloves
  • Medium length cardi that has lots of drape
  • Lace shawl

For my swatch with a closer knit the following comes to mind:

  • Jacket for baby
  • More substantial and thicker scarf
  • Thicker and warmer blanket
  • A hat
  • Medium length cardi or pullover

All in all I think alpaca is such a wonderful fiber. It is elegant, soft and so very warm. Alpaca is also a quite heavy fiber. I therefore would vote against a very long cardi or very long pullover because it might pull down and stretch because of its weight.

Thank you for your comments

I would like to thank each and every one of you for leaving me comments especially with regard to my last few posts.

At the moment I am doing research regarding my family’s history and have come accross several books and interesting articles.

One article that really encaptured me is an article I found on the website InsideIndonesia.org : Seeking Soeparno – a man who left his home to work in a plantation half way around the world.

Besides the written history, I am also interested in oral history. I want to view this topic from every angle possible, as objective as possible.

This winter I will be traveling to the Netherlands and am planning on getting my hands on all kinds of books and articles at several institutes. I also would like to open up conversation with my family and hear their stories.

As thoroughly as I studied knitting in the past three years, just as thoroughly I want to do research in my family’s history.

Thanks again everybody for reading and until the next entry…



One Response to A closer look at alpaca fiber

  1. Rebecca Z. says:

    Laughing, just sent you an email about alpaca farmers; and I took a break from writing about swatching to check for a new post here. I really like that you listed the possibilities a swatch suggests; I do the same think, and I’ll often outline several potential designs based on a single swatch or set of swatches.

    This is a terrific explanation of gauge, Nancy.

    And happy history hunting. The past does shape the future. If we want a flattering fit for our lives, understanding that shape — and learning from it — are vital.

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