Knitting with alpaca yarn is a real treat. The wool is beautifully soft to the touch but also remarkably durable . It has been used for thousands of years – the Incas prized it so highly that it was only worn by the noble classes – but was virtually unknown outside the Andes until it was brought to Europe by Sir Titus Salt in the mid-nineteenth century.
The softness of the fibre means that it appeals to people who find wool ‘too scratchy’ and, as it does not contain lanolin, people who can’t wear wool, can wear alpaca. Drops Alpaca is a 4ply (fingering) weight yarn which is 100% alpaca and comes in a stunning range of colours.
Interweave Knits (Fall, 2000: 24-25) suggest some useful guidelines for knitting with alpaca:
- Knit a project that makes the most of the features of alpaca. Scarves, shawls and blankets all benefit from alpaca’s softness, warmth, durability, drape and resistance to pilling. Baby alpaca is especially good for garments worn next to the skin.
- Use 4ply or DK weight alpaca yarns for garments you are going to wear indoors and save heavier weights for outdoor garments (unless you tend to be very cold or keep the heat in your home low)
- For a lightweight but warm garment use open stitches, e.g. lace. eyelet and drop-stitch patterns. Highly textured stitches will not stand out in the way that they do with wool.
- Alpaca lacks the elasticity of wool so try working edgings especially tight, twisting the stitches to lock them, or used non-ribbed edgings.
- To hide ends of yarn, weave them into the back of the knitted fabric in a zigzag fashion. Alpaca is more slippery than wool and the ends will try to work their way out!
Alpaca is often blended with other fibres, especially wool to increase the elasticity whilst maintaining the softness and warmth. Drops Lima is a DK (sport) yarn that is 65% wool and 35% alpaca. Drops Nepal is the same blend but in an aran weight and Drops Andes is a super-chunky blend. Alpaca also blends nicely with silk as in the Baby Alpaca Silk 4ply.
One of our knitting group members (we meet every Wednesday evening in the Wheatsheaf in Oakham) is knitting this Queen of Diamonds blanket with two strands of Alpaca and we drool over it every week!
So there you have it -why not treat yourself to some ancient luxury today?