Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thoughts on Alpaca

Kristie asked . . .
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.

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