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Thread: Alpaca Fibre

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobus View Post
    Actually, I'd be interested in your thoughts on that.
    Well, hoping this doesn't turn into too much of a thread drift.

    Knitting yarns used to be toothy and substancial. People expected them to be a bit scratchy - they were wool, after all. I am 54. I remember those sweaters and yarns as a kid, and I paid for a lady to make me a fisherman cable sweater in my early twenties (? ...don't remember the exact date, but the Lillihammer Olympic games were on at the time). I still have that sweater, and wanted the challenge of re-creating it myself a few years ago. Couldn't find any similar yarn for it!

    The Norwegian Strikkgarns are closer to what I was looking for, but they are less dense, and less robust. There was a guy in Romania, or Bulgaria (can't remember) trying to market some local yarns via Instagram, and I loved the look of his rustic yarns, but Instagram's format completely baffles me, and I could never get him to reply to me. There is a gal out of Maine (?) who produces gansey yarns from wool local to her, but her prices are out of my budget, and the runs are very small.

    What happened to the easy to find basic wool yarns of my youth? I knitted with them in my twenties. The market seems devoted to soft merinos, or bamboo blends.... gah! Bamboo stretches and gets longer the longer it is hung - knitwear in bamboo can't keep it's shape. This stuff in pushed even in books for ganseys! The gansey is a traditional sweater with a traditional sort of 5-ply yarn (Frangipani yarn is suitable for it, but that is in no way a rustic yarn, or even a typical sweater wool from 30+ years ago). The gansey is supposed to be an iron tough knit, not a squishy soft to the cheek merino.

    Everything is about novelty fiber and blends with silk and angora, and mohair, and a fancy boucle twist to it, AND some special indie dye lot with a supposedly clever catchy name.

    Yes, I am a bit of a curmudgeon.

    Back to alpaca, I would be concerned that this fiber might not hold pleats as well as sheep's wool. Just a suspician, based on what little I've handled of it. Should be easy enough to get a length of regular cloth (even if in tabby, not twill) and see what it wants to do when pressed. It also might sag under its own weight, even when woven - like bamboo, it is known to do that (badly) when knitted.

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  3. #12
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    Distaff, I get your frustration. Though I've only been knitting a short time, and am a few years younger than you (I'll be 49 in a couple of weeks), I've had a bit of the same issue in finding good traditional woollen yarns like the good old days. I too have been sort of pining for a nice thick scratchy sweater. For that matter, I have the same frustration with tweeds; they used to be known for being fairly coarse and scratchy with some wild fibers sticking out, but all the modern stuff seems to be smoother and softer and lacking in the sort of textural character I'm looking for. That's one of the reasons I stick with vintage kilt jackets: they just feel and look more genuine to me. Modern tartan fabric for kilts also seems to be lacking in thickness, coarseness, and texture compared to, say, some of my older military kilts. Peter MacDonald has been working on some more traditional cloth that's closer to the old "hard tartan" using British wool, and I see a lot of potential there. The sample I received was more like what I'm after.

    Of course, it really just comes down to modern fashion and preferences. Everything is about comfort and aesthetics now, with other qualities taking a back seat, like ruggedness, wind and water resistance, and even warmth. Folks aren't braving the elements in their woollens like they used to, and don't care as much about the performance of their outerwear. They just want it to be soft and comfortable and, most of all, inexpensive. The older breeds of sheep are gone, and we're getting most of the wool from Australia or other places where they breed sheep for the fineness and softness of their wool.

    Now, I do like the variety available today. For things like socks, I prefer to knit in a 75%/25% blend of merino/nylon. It's a great balance between warmth, breathability, softness, stretch, and durability against wear. I've knitted a few watch caps as well, and prefer a thicker/coarser yarn for warmth and protection. Rowan felted tweed (aran weight) has a nice feel, while being thick and fairly coarse, despite being a 50%/25%/25% blend of merino/alpaca/rayon. It is somewhat pre-felted and has wild fibers that give it a fuzzy look (and they shed quite a bit whilst knitting). I actually started to get a "hot spot", nearly becoming a blister, on my finger when knitting with this yarn because it's so rough. I like it. I'm no expert on fibre, but I believe I've read that alpaca (at least the blend used by Rowan) has more "guard hair" content which gives it that coarser look and feel.

    I did some socks and another hat in Lion Brand "fisherman's wool" which is an aran weight yarn of undyed pure virgin wool. I'd have to go look again at my stock, but as I recall it's a 4-ply yarn. While not as scratchy as more traditional older wool, it's a decent facsimile.

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  5. #13
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    Alpaca - I strongly suspect - would not hold a pleat.
    I tried knitting with it once and although it seemed alright when first made, when worn it sagged, bagged and stretched dreadfully.
    My husband rebelled and would not wear the garment I made, and he is normally really pleased to get to the top of my 'to make' list.

    Here in the UK farmers cannot sell fleeces for anything like the cost to have them sheered, even for lambswool.

    These days I only buy yarn on cone intended for industry and create the thickness I want by combining multiple strands and sometimes colours as well, but I have enough yarn for several lifetimes, plus a large sack of fleece to spin.
    The yarn used for ganseys was a worsted spun, i.e. smooth as it was combed to get the fibres aligned before spinning. The navy blue was called seamen's irons for its hardwearing properties, but I think it was available in green, brown, grey and a lighter blue as similar garments for working men were made all over the country.

    Anne the Pleater
    I presume to dictate to no man what he shall eat or drink or wherewithal he shall be clothed."
    -- The Hon. Stuart Ruaidri Erskine, The Kilt & How to Wear It, 1901.

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