I have a question about alpaca. How do you find it washes? The only thing I ever knit out of alpaca, a hat for my son, grew to almost twice the original size after I washed it! And that was a handwash in Soak wool wash. It has scared me off alpaca. It was not a huge issue since it was just a hat, but would have been a disaster if it had been a sweater.
Alpaca is a soft soft yarn, a joy to knit and a pleasure to wear next to the skin. It does not have the same characteristics as wool and can be a big disappointment if a knitter thinks "wool" while selecting a pattern.
In general, alpaca has mediocre to poor stitch definition and is not suitable for Arans and ganseys.
Janet Szabo's Set-in Sleeve Aran is an exception - at least I hope so because I'm knitting it in alpaca.
I believe I can get away with using alpaca for this Aran because:
- There is no ribbing. Alpaca ribbing does not hold it's shape when washed - or even before it's washed. When wet, the ribbing flattens out, expands, and stays that way.
- It's not heavily cabled. I know my cables aren't going to "pop" with alpaca, and I don't care.
- I will be knitting worsted weight alpaca on #5 needles, not too tight but tight enough to give the fabric some body so the cables will have some stitch definition.
- I knit a large swatch, half the width of the sweater plus the entire center panel. Then I washed it, blocked it, and carefully measured it. The sweater will be knit using the measurements from the washed swatch so I don't need to worry about what the alpaca is going to do when it's washed. I do this wilh all my sweaters, but it's more important than usual when knitting a soft yarn such as alpaca.
Painful Pearl is done except for weaving in the ends and blocking. This is a busy week, but I plan to cast on this Aran no later than this coming Saturday. Next week is also a busy week, so it will be a while before I catch up with Dorothy.
Dorothy is knitting her Aran with a worsted weight 100% wool. Pop over to her blog and take a look.