Socks aren't my only summer project. About a month or two ago, I made a trade with an alpaca breeder. I was given a very generous supply of Alpaca fiber in exchange for some finished items to show their farm visitors. This little guy is the first of those items; a little stuffed alpaca from a Fiber Trends pattern. I had to look around a bit to find this pattern, but finally found it at Mielke's Fiber Arts, LLC. My little alpaca measures 11.5 inches tall and was a lot of fun to make.
Although I've dabbled with raw alpaca before, I decided to do a little research before I started spinning, especially since the final product wasn't for me. In the Spring 1994 issue of Spin-Off Magazine, I found an article by Jane Fournier, which provided all the information I needed.
This is Huacaya alpaca, and the fiber is luxuriously soft and silky. Even though it has some crimp to it (about 4 - 5 per inch) it requires plenty of twist to hold it together.
This fiber is a little too long for handcarding, so I drum carded the fiber. Drum carding is also quicker, which was fine with me. It is a lovely chocolate brown color with sunbleached tips. The tips were sound, as was the rest of the staple. It did contain a lot of VM (vegetable matter), nor was it a spinner's shear, which meant there was a lot of unevenness of length and long second cuts.
The pattern called for a worsted weight to bulky weight yarn. My singles were about 18 wraps per inch. The fiber was slippery to spin, so I started with my largest whorl and treadled slowly. I used the short draw (worsted) technique to better control the evenness of my singles. Once I felt comfortable with the fiber, I switched to a whorl one size smaller.
Plied, the yarn measures 10 wraps per inch. Jane Fournier's article recommended that for knitting, the yarn needs to be balanced, as otherwise it tends to produce a bias in the knitted fabric. Even firmly spun and plied, the yarn has a lovely hand.
I knitted my little alpaca on US10.5 needles. It is all in garter stitch with short row shaping. An opening was left between its back legs, to enable stuffing it later. He was then fulled in the washing machine. Fulling is the term used for felting an item after it has been knitted or woven. It only took five minutes of agitation in a washing machine filled with hot soapy water to get the results I wanted.
I stuffed him with shredded plastic shopping bags to shape him for drying, and later used polyfil for the permanent stuffing. I stitched up his back opening and added some embroidered eyes. He looked cute, but taking a stiff bristle brush to him really gave him some personality. He looks more like the fluffy Huacaya alpaca that he was created from.
Of course, these alpaca projects will put a dent in my Shetland spinning time. And then there's that bag of Merino. And the Polwarth which remains lonely and untouched. *sigh* At least I'll never have an excuse to be bored.
Posted 25 July 2007 at http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com
Alpaca Project #2
Alpaca Tri-loom Teddy Bear Shawl
Last of the Alpaca Projects