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Adventures in Fiber: Visiting an Alpaca Farm

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Alpaca1 [3]As a Michigan girl, I’ve been around farms and farm animals my entire life.  When my mom suggested that we pay a visit to Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm [4], I was absolutely elated.  As an adventurous knitter [5], I love experimenting with different types of fiber, so I was excited to get a chance to see an alpaca farm up close and personal.  I’m happy to spend time with fiber, even if it’s still on the animal.  Visiting the alpacas was a ton of fun.  They’re strange looking creatures, with long wobbly looking necks.  They look both hilarious and cuddly, like many of the fiber animals in the world.  When a farm worker put out some hay for the animals near the fence where my family and I stood, the alpacas came running over in a funny, uneven gait, excited for the chance at an extra snack.

Alpaca2 [6]Watching the alpacas in their pen was surprisingly enjoyable.  I loved seeing the variety of natural colors of fiber on the animals.  Resisting the temptation to reach out and cuddle with one of the animals was a bit difficult at times, but there was a sturdy fence and a guard dog to ensure that no harm–or over enthusiastic human–disturbed the alpacas. The Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm [7] has an Alpaca boutique [8] attached to it, so I even got to go check out clothes, knit goods, and yarn all made with alpaca fibers.

Being the person I am, I took this opportunity to learn more about the difference between alpaca fiber and wool.  What, exactly, is the difference between an alpaca yarn and a wool yarn? The big selling point with alpaca is its marvelous feel; it’s a smooth, supple yarn that can make absolutely gorgeous finished products when used correctly.  Alpaca is much softer than some of the rougher wools on the market.  If you really want to get down to it, alpaca fiber technically isn’t wool; it is a type of hair.  On a structural level, alpaca fiber differs from wool because it is hollow; it is incredibly light and has the ability to act as an insulator, meaning that it has huge warmth potential.

Alpaca3 [9]For knitters, alpaca yarns can be used with any pattern [5], though careful planning is needed.  Alpaca yarns are not as elastic as wool, so your garment won’t bounce back into shape as quickly as a wool project will.  Alpaca yarns are one instance where getting the right gauge for your project should be a high priority; it could be the difference between your project looking okay or fantastic.  Once you’ve taken the time to properly plan your project, alpaca yarns will be a joy to work with.  I know I’m eagerly looking forward to Christmas, when I’ll get to knit with some skeins of 100% alpaca yarn from Santa.

Have you ever knit with alpaca yarn?

[10]In the mood to knit something right now?  Don’t forget to enter our Lion Brand Yarn Medley Giveaway [10]!  You’ll win a fabulous prize, packed with new yarns to try out.   You have until December 31, 2013, at 11:59:59 to enter for your chance to win [11]!