Posted on Leave a comment

fun and easy knit for the new year

shawl for alpaca wool blend yarn
Camau Shawl

This is a really fun and easy knit shawl. It is a flat triangle shawl that can be worn in a variety of ways. It is primarily a garter stitch shawl with intermittent short rows of eyelet (k2tog, yo). The yarn is a 3 ply farm yarn that is a sport weight. There are 2 plies of wool and one of alpaca. So you have a slightly heathery look to the yarn. The yarn will keep its shape because of the wool but add some lovely softness from the alpaca.

Each kit is one of a kind and they are on sale to!!! So be sure to grab one here while they are still in stock.

Posted on Leave a comment

thought provoking book

I’ve known about the California Fibershed movement for quite some time. I long to have a movement like that here in the Mid Atlantic. Have you heard of it before? It started as a local indigo project and grew to a movement to source one’s clothes responsibly and preferably with 100 miles of your home. This can be really hard to do.

The first part of this book details how Fibershed got started and also the really alarming cost of our clothes to our health and the health of the environment. The fashion industry has brought us fast fashion. Clothes that are popular right now for a very short period of time. The 2 biggest manufacturers of fast fashion produce one billion items per year. Most of which are worn a few times and thrown away. Most of these clothes end up in our landfills, becoming more than 5% of all of the municipal waste each year. Over 80 billion garments were sold in 2017 which equals a $1.3 trillion industry employing 300 million people from nearly every country. The majority of those jobs pay a very low wage.

I didn’t realize just how damaging washing your clothes could be. Of course the detergents an be unhealthy for many people. And these synthetic clothes shed microfibers in each and every washing. These microfibers make their way into our water, where up to 40% end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. We know what these plastics are doing in our environment.

5 mini skein gradient

What can you do? Well, you buy clothes that will last for a long time, those made from natural fibers and not made from petroleum by-products. You can recycle your clothes by mending them or repurposing them into quilts or other textile items in your home. You can wash your clothes when they are soiled but probably not every time your wear them. And as knitters, crocheters, sewers and makers, you can be part of the fibershed movement. Consider making a wardrobe for yourself or others. Of course wool, alpaca, mohair and cashmere grown locally is sustainable and renewable. We fiber farmers are happy to help you build a wonderful, colorful wardrobe.

knitting in the wild

I encourage you to read this book and consider the impact of choices we all make in clothing ourselves and our families.

Posted on Leave a comment

new pattern and kit for Zephyrette

This cowl is knit in the round using the Linen Stitch. Using this stitch has been on my wish list for years. Why? Because I started out as a weaver and this stitch not only appears to be woven but it is also knit as an “over/under” pattern.  By knitting in the round, you never have to purl. It is merely a knit stitch and a slipped stitch, over and over again. Because an odd number of stitches is cast on, you can continue to go round and round. I really got into a rhythm and it became a meditative kind of process. Kit includes yarn and pattern, just add needles and get ready to have fun relaxing.

Posted on Leave a comment

color combos for making the Camau Shawl

kits to knit a shawl
shawl for alpaca wool blend yarn

I have some beautiful color combos to make this fun shawl. It is a crescent shaped shawl with short rows of eyelet in a contrasting color. The main color is all garter stitch and it easy vacation knitting. It makes a nice light shawl for summer nights. The kits include 4 skeins of Cirrus yarn and the pattern. Just add needles and you are ready to get knitting. Grab one or two kits in my online store. It’s currently on sale for $45 per kit.

Posted on Leave a comment

4 skeins + a pattern = a kit

yarn pattern kit for shawl
4 skeins of Zephyrette luxury yarn blend of alpaca, cashmere and silk

I love this combo of Zephyrette skeins. Our Zephyrette is a blend of baby alpaca, silk and cashmere and is heavenly to knit with. This Strisce pattern is really car or TV knitting. It is mostly a garter stitch shawl with some lace at the bottom edge. It is an asymmetrical triangle shawl and can be worn is a variety of ways. This kit comes with the pattern and 4 skeins of yarn, all you need to do is add needles. You can get the kit here.

Posted on Leave a comment

Correcting Mistakes

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again,

this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford

It was brought to my attention that one of our patterns had a couple of flaws in it. Thanks Anja! That pattern has been out in the world for a couple of years. I wonder why I’m only hearing about it now. I hope people have it in the knitting queue, rather than in their trash heap.  I’m so glad that I was able to find out about the error and fix it.

I left out a stitch in 2 rows. An incorrect number of stitches is a fatal error. The cowl would get smaller and smaller. Not a great design for a cowl, right? Now it has been fixed.   And it is ready to be released out into the world.  

Click here for revised pattern for Rivulet Cowl. Yes, even if you don’t already own that pattern, you can click too and get a fun cowl pattern to knit. Think of it as a great Valentine’s gift!

  Click here to buy Zephyrette, our exclusive luscious blend of alpaca, silk and cashmere, for this pattern. 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Stash Appreciation–Spinning with Alpaca Fiber

Spinning Alpaca

How do I get alpaca fiber? Alpaca is available as a commercial top for spinning or you can go to your local alpaca farm and buy fleeces. Fleeces are sheared from the animals once a year. They are usually graded at the time of shearing into 3 to 7 grades. The prized fleece is called the “blanket”. This is the fleece that is on the body of the animal. In the best animals, this blanket fleece is even with very little medulated fiber. The seconds and even the thirds come from the neck, legs and bellies of the animal. This fleece has more medulated* fiber and it  is also of more variable lengths. This fiber can be harder to spin, but it can be blended with wool to make a lovely, more elastic yarn. Be sure to ask the fiber farmer about their grading practices and know what you are getting. If you are buying at a festival fleece sale, you cannot usually lay out the fleeces to look at it. In that case, put your hand in a different parts of the fleece and feel. You can take a small pinch of the fleece to see what the staple length is. Do this sparingly, no one wants a fleece that is all torn apart. There is an etiquette to this at a fiber show. You can ask the fleece show volunteers to help you determine a good fleece if you are new to alpaca fleece buying.

Handspun Alpaca--one ply is solid blue and the other is hand dyed blues and golds. This really makes the golds pop!
Handspun Alpaca–one ply is solid blue and the other is hand dyed blues and golds. This really makes the golds pop!

How do you clean and prepare an alpaca fleece? Alpaca does not have any lanolin or grease in their fleeces. But the animals do like to give themselves dust baths. So there is dirt and dust in the fleeces, generally. You can wash the fiber before or after you make it into yarn. I would test a small amount of the fleece to find out the level of dirt. If it is very dirty, then wash it before you spin it. If it isn’t very dirty, then you can spin it first and then wash the yarn. Care must be taken to wash the fleece carefully so that you don’t felt or just knot up the fleece. Fill a basin with moderately hot water (180 degrees) with some mild detergent like Orvis paste or Synthropol. Leave undisturbed for about 45 minutes to an hour in a place that will keep the fiber relatively warm. Gently lift the fleece out of the water and dispose of the dirty water. Refill the basin with warm water for a rinse. Leave again for 30-45 minutes. Lift out. Look at the water, is it dirty? Feel the fleece does it feel soapy? If yes to one or both of these questions, then repeat the rinsing step until the fleece is clean and does not feel soapy. Depending on the amount of the fleece you are washing, you can spin out the water in a washing machine or a salad spinner. Leave to dry. When it is dry you can prepare the fleece for spinning. For Huacaya you can card the fiber into rolags or batts and then spin. For suri, you may need to flick the locks to open the fibers. Then you can card the fiber or you can comb the fiber to prepare it.

Raw Cria Fleece--you can see the dusty line in the middle of the staple. This can be spun without washing first.
Raw Cria Fleece–you can see the dusty line in the middle of the staple. This can be spun without washing first.

How do you design a yarn to take advantage of the best characteristics of alpaca while minimizing it’s foibles? As I wrote in a previous post here, alpaca fiber is very warm and insulating. This is because of the way that it is formed in the folicles. The medulla or inner portion of the fiber has small air sacs. Judith Mackenzie in her book, The Intentional Spinner, says these are a little like bubble wrap. The sacs hold in the warmth of the wearer. This hollowness contributes to its tendency to static electricity and clinginess of the fiber. Alpaca itself is also more slippery than wool is, so you will need to adjust your tension on you wheel to achieve a good twist and take-up. When spinning the fiber, you need to add more twist than when using wool to make the same yarn. But you also need to take care that the yarn is not overspun and therefore stiff and dense. Yarn made from Huacaya will bloom when you wash it and it will give you a halo effect. Most of the alpaca top or roving that you will find commercially are made from Huacaya, since it is more prevalent than Suri. Suri fiber has no crimp and no elasticity. It does have great sheen though and you can find fleeces from local alpaca farms to use for yarn. Suri is much more difficult to spin according to Deb Robson in her book The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Yarn spun from Suri may look even and balanced while you are spinning it. However when it hits water, any imperfections will become evident. This is because it tends to resist being adequately spun. When this yarn is knit or woven you will see the imperfections and you may see some curling. You will need to practice with this fiber to get the results that you want in your final fabric.

isla alpaca1

Flying Goat Farm Superfine Alpaca top is made in Peru from 100% Huacaya. It has a micron range of 24-26 microns . I hand dye the top to make colors that will inspire and thrill you. You can see some of them here.

Natural cinnamon brown alpaca fleece plied with a hand dyed brown and purple roving.
Natural cinnamon brown alpaca fleece plied with a hand dyed brown and purple roving.

*Medulated fibers are ones that are a little more coarse. They tend to not take dye well and can feel prickly.



photo of handspun

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Stash Appreciation–Alpaca Part 2

What about alpaca yarn?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Doc from Grindstone Ridge Farm

Remember I said it was really warm. When you consider making a garment with alpaca, consider the warmth requirements of the wearer. Don’t make a sweater for someone with hot flashes, just sayin’. But that same lovely person, may have cold feet, perhaps a nice pair of alpaca socks would be a better choice.

Alpaca yarn, when knitted, produces a drapey, dense, relaxed fabric. This is amazing with the right garment, but this characteristic can be challenging as well. Drapey and relaxed fabric can also stretch out of shape and a dense fabric can be too warm or too heavy.

nimbus group

What kind of stitches work with 100% alpaca yarn? In stockinette, it will show off any variability in your knitting. So if you are not a consistent knitter (I can be very inconsistent), you should consider paring this yarn up with textured stitches like moss or seed stitch. Because the fiber tends to be very heavy and dense, a pattern with cables is going to be too heavy and the garment may pull out of shape from the shear weight of itself. A lace pattern might be a better choice. Still because alpaca is not elastic and is not resilient, a garment made with 100% alpaca should have enough stitch structure to hold the fiber in shape. You are probably saying to yourself, I’ve seen lovely alpaca sweaters. Yes it can be done. You just might want to consider a yarn that is a blend of alpaca and loftier, more elastic wool. A blend like that will allow you to make your cables and reduce the density of the sweater in the end. And an alpaca wool blend yarn can help your lace stay in it’s original size and shape.

Finally washing, when you wash an alpaca garment, take care not to pull it out of shape. Support the weight of the wet garment, so that it doesn’t stretch. And block carefully. The fiber itself won’t spring back like wool will.

Nimbus in Deep Ocean Colorway
Nimbus in Deep Ocean Colorway

Flying Goat Farm has a 100% alpaca yarn called Nimbus. It is  2-ply, sport weight yarn. We sell skeins of 200 yards. It is made with superfine alpaca fiber grown and milled in Peru. This yarn is next to the skin soft. It has a slight halo to the yarn. It is perfect for a cowl, shawl or scarf yet strong enough for hand warmers, socks or a hat. It would look great as a luxurious shawl to wear to the symphony. It is light weight enough to provide just enough warmth on a chilly spring or summer evening outing. It is perfect for a complicated lace pattern, yet will look fabulous in a seed stitch cowl that you can wear on the ski slope. It is soft enough for a newborn baby sweater too.

nimbus baby sweater