Know your yarns: Alpaca

Continuing with our occasional look at the different yarns and fibres we can use in our knitting and crochet, we turn to alpaca which is soft, cosy and drapes beautifully.

Where does the yarn come from?

Alpaca yarn comes from the fleeces of alpacas, a South American camelid related to Llamas. The animals originate in the Andes but are increasingly bred and farmed in Europe.

Although, due to selective breeding, the most common colour is white, fleeces come in 22 natural colours including black, browns, fawns, silver-greys, and rose-greys.

huacaya alpaca

There are two types of alpaca – huacaya (pictured) and suri. The huacaya’s fibre grows vertically out of its skin in crimped bundles with what is described as a “teddy bear” look. Suri fibre grows in bundles that twist and hang down on the animal.

The huacaya fibre is more akin to wool and produced in a similar way through carding and spinning. Suri fibre is silkier and is the more likely to be used in woven fabric.

Properties

  • Alpaca is softer than sheep’s wool because the fibre has fewer scales.
  • Alpaca has no lanolin which means it is suitable for people who have allergies to sheep’s wool
  • Durable, strong fibre that is very lightweight
  • Huacaya yarn has a natural elasticity making it very suitable for knitting and crochet.
Alpaca yarn

Clockwise from top left: King Cole Baby Alpaca DK (100% alpaca); Juniper Moon Farm Herriot Fine (75% alpaca, 25% polyamide); Subline Fine Alpaca DK (100% alpaca); Stylecraft Alpaca Tweed DK (20% alpaca, 77% acrylic, 3% viscose); Wendy Aspire Chunky ( 80% wool, 20% alpaca); Rico Essentials Alpaca Blend Chunky (50% acrylic, 30% wool, 20% alpaca); James C Brett Aztec Aran ( 90% acrylic, 10% alpaca)

 Tips for working with alpaca yarn

Alpaca will stretch or drop so you may want to work to a tighter tension than you would for wool of the same yarn weight. Alpaca/wool blends will have more memory and keep their shape more.

Choose patterns for items with lots of drape.

Because alpaca is warmer than wool, you can choose a lighter weight yarn and still have a very warm garment.

What is your favourite pattern for alpaca yarn – please tell us in the comments below.

 

 

 

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