Fibre farmers and knitters prize alpaca fleece for its softness and warmth. The fibre makes dense yarns that drape well and feature a fuzzy halo. Fibre processors make most of heir alpaca yarn from 2 varieties of alpaca: huacaya, a domesticated descendant of the wild vicuna, and suri, a rare variety of alpaca whose extra-long, coiled locks make yarns similar to brushed kid mohair. Knit your next project with alpaca yarn and you'll understand why so many knitters adore the fibre.
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Things you need
- Alpaca yarn
- Knitting needles
- Measuring tape
- Knitting pattern
Choose a project that works well with alpaca yarn's characteristics. Its warmth makes it a great choice for outerwear and small winter accessories.
Decide on a stitch pattern. Knit garments with open stitch patterns to create alpaca garments to wear indoors. Lace patterns worked up in sport weight or finer alpaca yarn yields light, warm clothing.
Knit a 10-inch square gauge swatch in your stitch pattern before beginning your project. Your gauge, or the number of stitches and rows you can fit into a four-inch square, depends on the way the alpaca yarn is spun and on the size of your knitting needles. A smooth, two ply sport weight yarn worked up on size four needles will produce a very different gauge than a bulky single ply yarn knit on size 10 needles. The stitch pattern you choose will also effect gauge.
Wash and block your finished gauge swatch. Allow the swatch to dry, and then weight and hang it to determine how much the finished garment will grow in length due to the effects of gravity. Measure the stretched swatch to see how many stitches fit into a four-inch square.
Cast on the appropriate number of stitches; you can determine this number by comparing your gauge to your project's desired measurements. You will cast on enough stitches to equal the length of the project's cast-on edge.
Adjust your pattern to account for alpaca yarn's characteristics as you knit. If you're knitting a sweater and the pattern calls for you to knit in the round, revise the pattern to knit it in pieces instead; seams will add structure to stretchy alpaca yarn and keep your garment from growing in length as it ages.
Knit sleeves from the shoulder down so you can adjust the length to account for stretching that will occur as the garment ages.
Work any ribbing with smaller needles than usual and twist your stitches as you knit to keep the fabric from stretching out too much.
Wash and block items carefully. Many alpaca yarns will begin to halo, or become fuzzy, with handling. Aggressive washing and blocking will expedite this process. Practice special care when blocking items knit from lace weight alpaca; If you stretch the finely-spun fibres too much, especially while they are wet, you will risk abrading them.
Tips and warnings
- Alpaca's warmth makes it a poor choice for fair isle knitting, which produces a double-thick fabric, unless you live in an extremely cold climate. Also avoid cable and other dense overall stitch patterns, as this may yield uncomfortably warm garments.
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