Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Decisions Decisions....

Ok, I'm getting confused. So I got home from work and read the pattern for the legwarmers. Here is what she said about the yarn choices:

"YARN: Use any worsted wool you want, but I am totally sold on Berroco Ultra Alpaca for these. (No association or connection with the company). My reasons -- it has such great bounce-back when knitted up. I also find this yarn to be warm but not hot when inside. I'm somewhat wool sensitive, and it's not one bit itchy, though I definitely thought it would be when I felt it in the skein and when I just had a couple of rows knitted. In fabric form it's sooo soft and squishy and yummy. It's a joy to work with, not at all splitty. It comes in 38 colors and Berroco uses very good quality fibers. Finally, dollarwise it's a great value in terms of quality and amount for the price. So those are all my reasons for such a plug on using this particular yarn for these. As a bonus, with 215 yards per skein and only approx. 120 yds. per color needed for the legwarmers, that leaves me enough yarn left over for a pair of Maine Morning Mitts (free pattern on Ravelry) in each color, or for another item. I bought mine at Yarn and Fiber Company in Derry, NH which has a ton of colors in stock, reasonable pricing and as far as I know, they often don't even charge shipping (but do check if you call them or order from their website). Though Cascade Lana d'Oro worsted has the same 50/50 alpaca/wool content and appears interchangeable, having knitted a pair of mitts out of it, it's no substitute IMHO for a ribbed project that needs bounce back. It's a looser ply, somewhat splitty to work with and it just does not knit up with anywhere near the same heft or memory."

Now, here is an Alpaca site that contradicts what the above says:

1.Alpaca fiber is harder to spin than sheep's wool. TRUE or FALSE?
2.Alpaca fiber has no "memory" so it has to be blended with sheep's wool to make a woolen yarn. TRUE or FALSE?
3.Alpaca fiber needs to be washed before it can be spun. TRUE or FALSE?
4.Alpaca fiber has no crimp. TRUE or FALSE?
5.Alpaca fiber and Llama fiber are very similar or the same. TRUE or FALSE?
6.Alpaca fiber is 3 to 5 times warmer by weight than sheep's wool. TRUE or FALSE?

All of the above statements are false except for the last one. Number 6 is true. There are an awful lot of mis-conceptions out there about alpaca fiber. I often hear other hand spinners say in a knowing voice, "Alpaca fiber has no crimp. You HAVE to mix it with sheep's wool if you want the garment to have memory or bounce." Memory and bounce are two knitter's expressions that both mean that the knitted garment is able to retain its shape after it is worn and washed. If a fiber or wool has no crimp, or very little crimp, it also will not have good bounce or memory.
Let's first be clear on the fact that I am talking about Huacaya alpaca. Many spinners and most of the general public in this country are unaware of the rarer type of Suri alpaca and the specifics of Suri fiber, which I do not plan to discuss in this article. The Huacaya alpaca fiber is the more common variety. But why do so many spinners think that alpaca does not have crimp? Because they buy alpaca fiber from Peru where it is over-processed and often not top quality to begin with. How do I know this? I have bought alpaca fiber in roving form from a spinning store here in the US and spun up this roving. The owner of the store told me it was "1st quality" alpaca. The fiber in the roving was flat. It had no shine, no bounce, and was also coarse. I spun it up into a yarn, which, not surprisingly, turned out coarse with no bounce or shine.

You have taken the True or False quiz and, hopefully, read the article. Don't take my word for any of this! Try some USA-grown, 100% natural colored, chemically-free alpaca fiber from a farm near you. Spin it, knit it, and/or wear it and see if you don't give up your belief in the 5 alpaca myths.

I called the 3 yarn shops in my area and none had The Berroco Ultra Alpaca. One had the Cascade Lana D'Oro. But then I thought about the alpaca I have in my stash. It's not black like I want, it's gray. I do not think it's heavily processed either. I do not know how much bounce it has. But...it will save me a trip and I was thinking of buying the Cascade one that she said was inferior. But then, maybe I could try using my alpaca. I did pay $26.00 for it. The alpaca were born and sheared in Wisconsin the tag says. The pattern calls for 240 yards and I have 250 yards! I want to use it on something. What do you think I should do? Help! I'm turning into Hannah, I can't make a decision!

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