he days are getting shorter and the nights are gathering, and I am so happy. It’s sweater season!!! I have been poking around on my favorite social media sites this past month trying to get inspiration for a new knitting project. After looking at some amazing designs out of Europe, I instead decided to go plain and simple and make a very usable alpaca yarn cardigan.
I splurged and bought a 2 kilo cone of 100% baby alpaca yarn in a light sage green color. It is a fine double-ply, fingerling weight. I don’t have a scale to figure the exact weight of yarn used, but it was approximately half of the cone. The size is a 46” chest, done in an all over stockinette stitch. Alpaca yarn is wonderful to use in sweaters and cardigans as it is light weight, yet warm. It has many of the same characteristic of wool that I like, namely it can be steam pressed to give the garment a smooth, finished effect.
For a light weight sweater, I love the look of the stockinette stitch. While I enjoy hand knitting, for this weight of yarn, I much prefer to use the knitting machine. I drafted the pattern in DAK8 and then knitted it out on a Studio SK 580 electronic machine. DAK8 makes knitting a pleasure as it tells you when to make increases, decreases, color changes and all the information needed to make a piece.
Once the pieces were knitted and blocked, I used a linker to put it together. On the collar band, I used the chain stitch on the linker on the outside for a decorative effect. The buttons were the score of the garment. I went into an upholstery outlet store and they had the perfect buttons for $.05 each – and they match perfectly!
So happy with this sweater. It is soft, warm and completely wearable. As much as I hate cold weather, looking forward to a little fall chill so I can cuddle into this one!
We all have that wool sweater in the closet, that while great looking, is scratchy, itchy and just no fun to wear. Most knitters want to knit with cashmere to create that drapey, soft garment that feels great against the skin. But when compared to other yarns, cashmere is still quite expensive and is often approached as an investment not suitable for the casual knitter. Along with the cost, cashmere, made from Kashmir goats, is no longer sustainable. The high demand for low cost cashmere has led to overgrazing of western areas of China, leading to the loss of large portions of the necessary pasture lands.
A great alternative to cashmere is alpaca yarn. Alpaca fiber can be as soft as cashmere, several times warmer and much stronger than wool. The cuticle, or outer layer of the alpaca fiber, is smoother than either wool or cashmere fibers which allows it to feel smoother against your skin. The interior cells of the alpaca fiber have more air space in them than wool, thus trapping more air and making the resulting garment warmer.
The softest of all alpaca fiber is baby alpaca. Initially, alpaca fiber spun into yarn was graded as baby alpaca if it was shorn on the first shearing when the animal was about 6 – 9 months old. But the current standard of grading is no longer determined by the age of the animal, and rather by diameter of the fiber. The following chart represents the current grading standards:
Grade 1 Ultra Fine (Royal baby) < 20 microns
Grade 2 Superfine (Baby) 20-22.9 microns
Grade 3 Fine 23-25.9 microns
Grade 4 Medium 26-28.9 microns
Grade 5 Intermediate ( Adult) 29-32 microns
Grade 6 Robust 32.1-35 microns
Most baby alpaca grade fiber comes from the belly of the animal. As can be expected, only a small portion of the fibers from an alpaca animal are suitable to be graded as baby alpaca. We at pickoftheknitter.com have direct contact with the alpaca growers of Peru to provide you with baby alpaca yarn at the best price. Make your next project from baby alpaca and see for yourself how comfortable it will be.
I’ve finally come to write this blog and at least touch on how a young male engineer decided to enter the cutthroat (haha) world of yarn sales.
Years ago in 2014 I decided to make the trek down to Peru and visit the most important ancient ruins in the Americas and arguably the world. I had just received news my work assignment was ending in Mexico and I had to use my remaining vacation. I booked my plane tickets, train tickets and Machu Picchu ticket and made my way down to Lima. After venturing to Cuzco, Aguas Calientes and ultimately Machu Picchu and enjoying the splendor very few are able to witness I made my way back to Lima to complete a task for my mother. What I found was a massive untapped market of exceptionally inexpensive alpaca yarn that was high quality and well developed.
After I returned to the US, my mother was thrilled but lamented that she wished she could go down and feel, look at, gauge and maybe sample the yarns. I decided one of the main issues people have with buying yarn online is they just cant seem to get comfortable with a new yarn without feeling it first. While samplers seem fairly prevalent, I wanted to create a gateway for people to sample exactly what they want before purchasing it. While online yarn sales, especially alpaca, is competitive I believe that I can carve a niche in the market through direct-to-consumer pricing and the unique sample idea.