What was once considered an exotic fiber among hand crafters, alpaca has become commonplace, even showing up in the yarn aisle at big box stores! There is a reason alpaca has become so popular; the yarns are soft and warm, making them ideal for crocheted hats, scarves, cowls, sweaters, throws and more! Let’s take a moment to clear up some misconceptions about the fiber and its source. Alpacas are part of the South American Camelid family along with llamas and their lesser known cousins, vicunas and guanacos. Alpacas, raised mainly for their soft, fine fiber, are smaller than llamas, which are used mostly as pack animals. Alpaca fiber is extremely fine with little guard hair. Llamas, on the other hand, have a very distinctive double coat of guard hairs and softer downy fibers. Alpaca fibers are often finer than cashmere with the suri breed having a micron count of 10–15 (1 micron = 1/1000 millimeter). More hair- like in quality than sheep wool, the fiber has a silky sheen and lustrous feel. Warmer than wool, alpaca fibers have excellent insulative qualities due to the hollow core of the fiber.
Alpaca yarns might be best known for all the wonderful natural colors available, ranging from creamy whites to tans, browns, grays and black. There are over 25 natural standardized colors of alpaca fiber recognized by breeders and the alpaca industry, but the fiber also takes commercial dyes well, producing a range of colors from soft pastels to deeply saturated hues. Alpaca fibers are stronger and more resistant to abrasion than merino wools and contain no grease or lanolin, making them a possible option for people with wool allergies. Many of these characteristics make alpaca comfortable when worn next to the skin, providing luxurious warmth.
Although raising alpacas has become very popular among hobby farmers and hand spinners in the United States, Peru still produces about 90% of the world’s alpaca, including the production of yarns for the craft yarn market today.
Years ago alpaca yarns were more expensive and harder to find, but now the market boasts enough choices to keep our crochet hooks flying as we explore all the different options from gossamer lace weight to soft cloud- like chunky yarns.
Choosing from all the wonderful alpaca yarns available for our article was difficult, but we finally decided to share just a small sampling of what is currently available in beautiful shades of creams, grays and winter blues.
El Cielo from Cascade yarns is classified as a DK- weight yarn due to its soft, fuzzy texture, but you’ll find almost 580 yards of brushed alpaca loveliness in each 100- gram skein! To really enjoy the beauty of this alpaca/nylon blend yarn, try working with an H/8/5mm hook or larger. We envision a lacy shawl using an M/ N-13/9mm, N/ P-15/10mm or P/Q/15mm hook!
New this fall from Tahki Yarns, Alden Print adds alpaca fibers for a touch of extra softness to this merino wool/acrylic blend. With its subdued color variation, this yarn will make gorgeous fashion accessories. Crocheted with a smaller hook, the color variations in this yarn will be more predominant. Or, try crocheting an open lacy stitch with a larger hook; the openness will create a gentle progression, blending the colors for a softly muted overall effect.
Classic Elite Yarns brings us an unusual blend, combining the softness of alpaca with linen and Donegal tweed wool for added texture and color. From a tailored jacket to a waterfall front cardigan, a lacy shawl or cowl to a pair of mitts with cables, Telluride is the kind of yarn that works well for so many different projects.
Light as a cloud, Berroco Andean Mist is a brushed alpaca/ silk blend with 164 yards per 25- gram ball. This incredibly soft, lightweight yarn is perfect for shawls, scarves, cowls and lacy sweaters sure to warm you on the chilliest of winter days.
At first glance, Amphora from Universal Yarn might appear to be just another brushed alpaca yarn. But make sure you give this affordable yarn another look! The brushed surface adds just a slight bit of texture to this evenly spun yarn, which boasts 306 yards per skein. With 10 colors to choose from, I am envisioning a cozy cabled afghan for this winter! But of course it would be lovely for garments too.
For alpaca purists, there is nothing like Blue Sky Alpacas yarns. With over a dozen alpaca and alpaca- blend yarns, each with its own incredible color range, making a decision of which yarn to use for your next project will be an indecisively blissful experience! Our sample is a tried-and- true favorite; Sport Weight, a 100% alpaca yarn with a soft luster and springy softness, comes in over 30 colors, both natural and dyed. The possibilities are endless!
Add a touch of silk and a pinch of wool and you have Cosma, a stunning blended yarn from Berroco, which exudes elegance and sophistication. This multi- plied and refined twisted yarn is perfect for heirloom projects. Wouldn’t a lacy blanket be the perfect way to welcome a new baby? Or how about a beaded shrug to complement the perfect wedding dress?
With an astounding range of over 35 natural and dyed colors, Herriot from Juniper Moon Farm is 100% baby alpaca loveliness! (Remember: Alpacas are given a haircut to harvest their fibers, so the animals are not harmed!) Because alpaca is so warm and each hank is 219 yards, you can’t go wrong crocheting up a quick and lacy cowl, or get 2 hanks and make a nice shawl. What better way to cozy up to the fire this winter!
One word describes this Baby Alpaca DK yarn from King Cole— yum! This range of gently muted heathered colors is enough to tempt any fiber lover! Extremely soft, anything you make from this yarn is sure to become a favorite accessory. Try crocheting it with an H/8/5mm hook for an open look that is not too lacy but still lets this incredible fiber shine through.
Can you spin a cloud? Berroco seems to have captured the essence of cloudlike softness in their alpaca boucle yarn, North Star. Alpaca fibers can produce very dense yarns when spun tightly, but this yarn incorporates an airiness in its construction that will produce light-as-air garments and fashion accessories. Available in natural colors only, this yarn, if crocheted with an L/11/8mm hook, will work up quickly, just in time for winter!
Baby Alpaca Grande from Plymouth Yarn offers even more temptation for quick- to- make projects. With almost 72 natural, solid and heathered colors, this is an alpaca lover’s paradise! The softly spun 2- ply construction creates a squishy, huggable yarn— all the best alpaca has to offer!
Cascade Yarns Eco Cloud offers another solution to creating a lightweight bulky yarn. The unique, lofty chainette construction of this merino wool/alpaca blend will give your crochet projects a unique texture. Since chunky alpaca yarns can be heavy, the addition of wool offers structural support to bulkier garments such as long cardigans or sweater coats.
Color Duo is a unique single- ply, color- twisted yarn from Cascade Yarns that is sure to get your crochet hook moving! The subtle sheen of the alpaca coupled with luscious colors means anything you crochet with this worsted- weight yarn will become coveted by all your friends and family! How about a long scarf with a matching slouchy hat?
If you have never crocheted with alpaca yarns before, I hope I have tempted you to try a new fiber and experience for yourself the softness that only alpaca yarns can deliver! Winter is coming— give alpaca a try and stay warm this winter!
Though I’ve never been to Oklahoma, I was able to take a virtual tour of the Gourmet Yarn Company in Oklahoma City! Here’s what I learned in my interview with owner Margaret A. Schroeder. C!: Where is your store? Margaret of Gourmet Yarn (GY): 2915 W. Britton Road, Oklahoma City, OK 73120
C!: Do you have a Facebook page or website?
GY: We have both! www.gourmetyarnco.com
C!: What percentage of your customers are primarily crocheters? GY: Approximately 20%. C!: Do you have crochet classes or staff members who crochet?
GY: Yes, to both questions. Crochet was actually my first love, and I still love it. C!: Do you sell crochet books and magazines, tools and notions?
GY: Yes, and we have crocheted swatches on display in addition to the knit ones.
C!: Do you have any special events at your store?
GY: We have a yearly fall retreat and we have a social potluck the second Saturday of every month. We also have a lounge where everyone is welcome to sit and stitch.
C!: Anything else you’d like to share?
GY: We strive for excellence by making sure we are qualified teachers in the field. We have a person whose only job is to teach and promote crochet. She is also a designer.
The Gourmet Yarn Co. has been Oklahoma City’s full- service yarn store since 2004. The shop was founded by proprietor Margaret Schroeder, TKGA Master Hand Knitter, in September 2004. Since then it has served an evergrowing community of customers with quality supplies and an innovative calendar of classes. Our events, such as the monthly yarn- in, are popular with knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers and anyone interested in fiber arts. Our staff is committed to providing the best service, yarns and accessories available to the novice as well as the most experienced knitter and crocheter. We look forward to serving your fiber needs and satisfying your creative appetite!
The Gourmet Yarn Co. 2915 W. Britton Road Oklahoma City, OK 73120 (405) 286-3737 Web: www.gourmetyarnco.com Facebook: Gourmet Yarn Company
• King Cole Drifter DK light ( DK) weight acrylic/ cotton/ wool yarn ( 31/2 oz/ 328 yds/ 100g per ball):
2 balls # 1355 Florida • Size G/ 6/ 4mm crochet hook or size needed to obtain gauge • Tapestry needle
17 dc = 4 inches; 10 dc rows = 3 inches
Weave in loose ends as work progresses. Join with slip stitch as indicated unless otherwise stated. Chain-3 at beginning of row counts as first double crochet unless otherwise stated.
Popcorn (pc): 5 dc in indicated sp, drop lp from hook, insert hook from front to back in top of first dc, pick up dropped lp, draw through st on hook. Single crochet join (sc join): Place slip knot on hook, insert hook in indicated st, yo, pull up a lp, yo and draw through both lps on hook.
Rnd 1 ( WS): Ch 220, taking care not to twist, join (see Pattern Notes) in first ch to form a ring, ch 1, sc in each ch around, join in beg sc, turn. (220 sc)
Rnd 2 (RS): Ch 3 (see Pattern Notes), dc in each sc around, join in top of beg ch-3, turn. (220 dc)
Rnds 3–12: Ch 3, [ fpdc (see Stitch Guide) around next dc, bpdc (see Stitch Guide) around next dc] around, to last dc, fpdc around last dc, join in top of beg ch-3, do not turn.
Rnd 13: Ch 1, sc in each dc around, join in beg sc, turn. (220 sc)
Rnd 14 (RS): Ch 1, sc in first sc, [ch 5, sk next sc, pc (see Special Stitches) in next sc, ch 5, sk next sc*, sc in next sc] around, ending last rep at *, join in beg sc, do not turn. (55 pc, 55 sc, 110 ch-5 sps)
Rnd 15: Ch 1, 5 sc in each ch-5 sp around, join in beg sc. Fasten off.
Rnd 1 (RS): With RS facing, sc join (see Special Stitches) in any sc, [ch 5, sk next sc, pc in next sc, ch 5, sk next sc*, sc in next sc] around, ending last rep at *, join in beg sc, do not turn. (55 pc, 55 sc, 110 ch-5 sps)
Rnd 2: Rep rnd 15 of Top Edging.
8 inches wide x 44 inches long, before twisting
• Universal Yarn Uptown Worsted medium ( worsted) weight acrylic yarn ( 31/2 oz/ 180 yds/ 100g per skein): 1 skein each # 320 eggplant
and # 322 silver grey • Size G/ 6/ 4mm crochet hook or size needed to obtain gauge • Tapestry needle
Mesh Scarf: 17 dc = 4 inches; 12 rows = 4 inches Fan Scarf: 4 sm fans = 5 inches; 8 rows = 4 inches
Refer to Stitch Diagrams on page 77 as needed. Weave in loose ends as work progresses. Chain-3 at beginning of row counts as first double crochet unless otherwise stated.
Double the layers but endless styling possibilities with this twisting and versatile cowl.
Long single crochet ( long sc): Sc in base of indicated st 1 row below. Single crochet join (sc join): Place slip knot on hook, insert hook in indicated st, yo, pull up a lp, yo and draw through both lps on hook. Beginning treble crochet (beg tr): Ch 3, insert hook in back bar (see illustration) of 2nd ch from hook, yo and draw up a lp, insert hook in back bar of 3rd ch from hook, yo and draw up a lp, insert hook in first st of row, yo and draw up a lp, [yo, pull through 2 lps on hook] 3 times. Small fan (sm fan): ( Tr, [ch 1, tr] 3 times) in same sp. Large fan ( lg fan): ( Tr, ch 1, 3 tr, ch 1, tr) in same place.
COWL Mesh Scarf
Row 1 (RS): With grey, ch 33, dc in 4th ch from hook (beg 3 sk chs count as first dc) and in each ch across, turn. (31 dc)
Row 2: Ch 1, sc in each st across, turn. (31 sc)
Row 3: Ch 1, sc in first st, [ long sc (see Special Stitches) in next st, sc in next st] across, turn. (15 long sc, 16 sc)
Row 4: Rep row 2. (31 sc)
Row 5: Ch 3 (see Pattern Notes), dc in each st across, turn. (31 dc)
Row 6: Ch 1, hdc in first st, [ch 1, sk next st, hdc in next st] across, turn. (16 hdc, 15 ch-1 sps)
Row 7: Ch 3, dc in each st and ch-1 sp across, turn. (31 dc)
Rows 8–115: [Rep rows 2–7 consecutively] 18 times.
Rows 116–120: Rep rows 2– 6. Fasten off.
With RS facing and working in ends of rows, sc join (see Special Stitches) grey in first row, 2 tr in next row, [sc in next row, 2 tr in next row] across, sk rows as needed to prevent ruffling. Fasten off. Rep across other edge.
Note: Pairs of tr are intended to pucker. Gently push pucker to RS of Scarf.
Row 1 ( WS): With eggplant, ch 29, sc in 2nd ch from hook, [ch 3, sk next 2 chs, sc in next ch] across, turn. (10 sc, 9 ch-3 sps)
Row 2 (RS): Beg tr (see Special Stitches) in first sc, sk next ch-3 sp, [ sm fan (see Special Stitches) in next ch-3 sp, tr in next ch-3 sp] 3 times, sm fan in next ch-3 sp, sk last ch-3 sp, tr in last sc, turn. (4 sm fans, 5 tr) Row 3: Ch 1, sc in first tr, (ch 3, sc in first ch-1 sp, ch 3, sk next ch-1 sp, sc in last ch-1 sp) of each sm fan across, ch 3, sc in last tr, turn. (9 ch-3 sps)
Rows 4– 81: [Rep rows 2 and 3 alternately] 39 times. Fasten off.
With RS facing and working in ends of sc (oddnumbered) rows, sc join grey in first row, [ lg fan (see Special Stitches) in next sc row, sc in next sc row] across, fasten off. Rep across other edge.