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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

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A Year of Stash Appreciation–Mohair

relaxed goat

Mohair is such a favorite of mine. Of course, I would love it since I have a fiber flock of angora goats with lots of mohair on the hoof, so to speak.  According to Clara Parkes’ book, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, “Goats with silken hair” were referenced in the 14th century BC, but the angora goats that we know of today were domesticated near Ankara, Turkey in the 13th century AD. She writes that the word “mohair” is a variation of the Arabic word mukhayar, which means “to choose”. Perhaps because the European buyers were always “choosing” it.

carmela

Mohair grows very quickly, approximately 1 inch per month. Therefore the goats need to be sheared every 6 months or so.  The staple length is long compared to many wool staples.  The fibers themselves are long and hairlike, with large flat scales. This means that the fibers become highly reflective and full of luster.

microscopic mohair

Because of these characteristics, mohair takes dye beautifully. As a dyer I can achieve clear, saturated color that is very shiny.  Like wool, mohair puts itself out if it is set on fire. It is very warm and insulating as well.  It is very strong so it is used for textiles that get a lot of wear, like upholstery.

Kid mohair is the softest mohair.  As the animal ages, the fibers grow thicker and stronger. Mohair can be classified as kid for 2-3 shearings usually.  In some very good breeding lines, kid mohair classification can go on many years.

 FGF mohair

I use my mohair in various ways.  I love to blend it with my wools. I have a sock yarn that uses adult mohair for strength and luster instead of nylon.psock

I have also used soft kid mohair with my squishy cormo or my lustrous BFL to make a worsted weight yarn to be used in warm sweaters, hats, mittens, etc.  fingal sweater front

I have also had 100% mohair made into yarns. A single ply that can be used for tapestry weaving although recently many knitters have been buying these mini skeins for doll clothes or to create gradient cowls or scarves.tapestry2blog

 A 2 ply that is sport weight that can be used for outerwear garments or nice strong warps for woolen blankets.  I also love using 100% mohair roving with my new spinning students, since it is very easy to draft and makes a nice yarn for a beginner spinner.

During this month, I’ll be sharing what I know about mohair, its blends, fancy yarns and patterns in which mohair can shine.  Have you used mohair in your knitting, crocheting, weaving or spinning? Please share in the comments.