Thursday, January 31, 2013

Enchanted by Alpaca

Today's post starts with a confession.

I've never really liked alpaca.

Even typing out the words feels almost shameful: how could I, lover of fiber, spinner and knitter of soft and woolly things, not like one of the spinning world's most beloved fibers?

I blame my long-held dislike of all things alpaca on my extreme sensitivity to guard hairs, which some (but certainly not all) alpaca fiber possesses. And though I'd only ever spun it twice - and both times were tiny samples - and knit with it once, I found myself closing my heart to it. Though it saddened me, I'd accepted that maybe alpaca just wasn't for me.

Then, something magical happened last year at Rhinebeck.

While I was wandering through the vendors, a lone braid of glowing, shimmering red fiber called out to me across the crowded barn, and I made my way through the masses of shoppers, totally focused and utterly entranced. What was this mystery fiber?

When I reached the braid, displayed so lovingly in the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth, I stared at it and sighed. I touched it and marveled at its incredible softness and silkiness. And then I looked at the label, and nearly gasped in disbelief.

Yep. It was alpaca. (Ok, technically it was 70% alpaca, and 30% silk. But I digress.) :)

Despite my prejudice, the fiber came home with me. For several long months, it languished in my stash,  tempting (and terrifying) me with the possibilities. Could I finally face my fear of working with alpaca?

Two days ago, I held the braid in my hands, thinking deeply. The fiber was shimmery and smooth, incredibly soft, and a little slippery. When I tugged on it, I found the staple length was quite short, and drafted easily and smoothly. Smiling to myself, I separated the braid in two, sat down at my wheel, and held one of the ends to the leader yarn on my bobbin. Setting my wheel to its fastest whorl, I took a deep breath and set the wheel to whirring, then started spinning a fine, silky singles.

Accompanied by an audiobook of Jane Eyre, I've been spinning this gorgeous fiber in the early morning before going to work, and first thing when I get home in the evening. Even spinning it on the fine side, intending to make a smooth and lustrous 2-ply lace yarn, the bobbin has been filling up with alarming speed!

I've never been so enchanted by a fiber before, and I can't wait to keep spinning this yarn. I'm so excited to see how it turns out!

Have you ever been surprised by yarn or fiber before, for good or bad? I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks so much for reading! Have a great night, and talk to you soon!


  1. Audiobooks + spinning = amazing idea, I need to try to find a way to visit the library in another city and get some! I had forgotten that you dislike alpaca, I can definitely understand how irritation would make you want to avoid it. But I love how this fiber called out to you, the sheen is wonderful!

  2. I totally understand why you dislike alpaca, it has it's issues. The first time I spun it I was surprised how easily it went. So alpaca is one of my favorites. I wish I could say I have tried some fun fibers, but I seem to always end up with Merino wools :/

  3. I always think I like alpaca, until I knit with it. Then, I'm underwhelmed by its crazy shapeless drape and propensity for shedding... but, it is soft. I'm a rugged, wool girl through and through. But, even I am persuaded by silk.

  4. I have never thought of listening to an audiobook while spinning! I am the total opposites from day one I have just been obsessed with alpaca. I am not sure why but I just have a weak spot for it. I love how that yarn just called to you like that. I can't wait to see it all finished up!

  5. I find alpaca is very hit or miss as far as yarns go. Also, in my experience, alpaca yarn bought straight from an alpaca farm is usually the nicest (I hate guard hairs, too!) and I agree it's at its best when blended with silk. Can't wait to see the finished skein!

  6. I'm a big fan of spinning with llama and alpaca fibers as I live by several farms and have easy access to the the fiber. It works up beautifully and there's no lanolin or grease to deal with when cleaning the fiber. It's warmer than wool too,so is nice for sweaters and mittens. It will make beautiful lace weight yarn... I think you will be very pleased with your end result.

  7. I listen to Jane Austen audio books whilst I spin :)