Alpaca yarn

Some of the 22 natural shades of alpaca

Alpaca.  An extremely pleasurable alternative to knitting with wool.  In fine grades, its softness rivals merino.  It has extremely effective thermal qualities.  Not surprising given the alpaca’s natural habitat is up in the snowy Andean mountains!  It is cool to touch, but very warm to wear.  If you haven’t knitted with alpaca yet, you should consider trying it out!

I love the sensation of the alpaca as it threads through my fingers when knitting.  When I knit with it, I can’t help but stop and stroke the project every now and again – it’s soooo soft!  It doesn’t have the springiness and memory of wool, but it has a lovely silky tumbling drape about it. It’s also much denser than wool (in 100% form), which in turn makes the project feel heavier.

Alpaca will stretch (or drop) after a period of wear.  One way to get around this, if practical for your project, is to knit to a tighter-than-usual tension for that weight of yarn.  For example, I recently knitted a project using 3.25mm needles, even thought the yarn is a DK weight.  Because alpaca is so soft, and drapes so well, this has not negatively affected the resulting fabric.  But it has prevented it from stretching.

New Zealand’s alpaca industry is still relatively small but developing fast.  A number of up-and-coming breeders have taken the trouble to produce yarn from their animals’ beautiful fleeces and sell it.  Knitters need to be aware that alpaca herds here are still small, which means that supply is not unlimited.

If you see some alpaca you like, you should buy it, as the next time you come back, it might be all gone.  In some cases, not all natural colours are available every year – sometimes the breeder has to wait a couple of shearing seasons (done only once a year) to have enough fibre to make it economically viable to turn it into yarn.  In other cases, the producer might make yarn one year, but then decide not to bother and send it to a pool in future years.  Again, if you see it, and you like it, buy it, then and there.

Alpaca producers from whom I have purchased reasonable quality yarn and who have made a commitment to providing yarn on a commercial-scale (as part of their stud operations) are:

Outlaw Yarn –  New Zealand’s newest yarn brand, this company specialises (so far) in yarns with a heavy alpaca component.  Commercially spun, these are good quality yarns.

Flagstaff Alpacas – offering a substantially reduced offering compared to previous years, some yarn can still be purchased here (a DK and 4 ply spin was done in late 2015).

Sherlin Alpaca – stocking 100% alpaca DK (8 ply) weight yarn in a range of beautiful colours.

Southern Alpacas  – beautifully soft 100% alpaca, and 80% alpaca, 20% merino blend in a good selection of natural coloured fleece yarns, including jet black.  They also sell dyed and carded fleece for the spinner, and a range of alpaca clothing.

Brenel Alpacas – 4 ply and 8 ply yarns in a range of delicious colours, both natural and dyed available. Fleece is also available.

Honeyfields –  Alpaca yarn from their own animals is sold in 4 ply (fingering) and 8 ply (DK) in a range of tempting shades.

Rare Yarns – featuring a wide range of alpaca yarn – brushed, boucle, 4 ply and 8 ply, this New Zealand business is based in Nelson.   Their yarns can be found in selected yarn stores throughout the country.  Cruellas is their flagship store.

Awatere Alpacas – a range of yarn, both natural, dyed and hand-dyed from their own animals.  In 4 ply, 8 ply and boucle (10 ply).

I’m sure there are others.  I will update this page as I come across them.

10 thoughts on “Alpaca yarn

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  1. Hi,

    Thanks for your website and the ideas about knitting with alpaca. I have seen a lovely coffee-coloured 8 ply alpaca that I would like to knit a basic jumper for my grandson who will be 1 year old in July. The fact it would probably stretch is all to the good. Do you know where there might be a very basic jumper pattern in 8 ply alpaca for a 1 year – 18 months baby?

    Meanwhile I hope to try out the cable shoulders warmer for myself – ideal for someone with arthritis in shoulders!!!

    Many thanks!!


    1. Hi Kath

      I personally don’t have a pattern for a baby, but there are loads of free patterns on places like Ravelry and the websites of companies like Drops and Lion Brand, as an example. In terms of alpaca for your grandson, I think my only caution would be that alpaca does shrink very easily. Being a baby, mum will have to hand-wash the jumper in cool water to avoid damaging it… not sure if she will be bothered to do that? It would be awful for you to go to the bother of knitting him a beautiful sweater only for it to shrink the first time it was washed. My suggestion would be a lovely warm hat in the yarn for your grandson – hats don’t need to be washed too much. 🙂

      1. Thank you for your honest response to Kath; I was seriously considering making a baby something from Alpaca yarn for my expected twin grand-daughters – I think I will change my plans as there won’t be time for handwashing etc etc when those babies come!! Aside from a baby hat, what other items do you recommend? Would a blanket be a better idea where the stretching and/or shrinking won’t matter so much? Many thanks.

  2. I bought my first skein of 100% black alpaca yarn from a Alpaca farmer.
    Its so soft I love it,one problem I had was how they spun it,it broke often and was not a consistent thickness.So I ended up making finger less gloves and ,they came out gorgeous. I want more,I now know what to expect .

    1. Sounds like you got handspun alpaca (and they weren’t very expert spinners). The commercially spun alpaca isn’t like that of course. But it is still lovely yarn!

  3. Hi. We do have two alpaca yarn blends currently available – sorry so busy at markets and shows until Easter 2016 with the variegated alpaca yarns that few appear on our website. We have plenty of stock in natural DK and 4-ply (200 gram hanks) from our December 2015 batch and Trish, a visiting knitter and helping hand from Germany, has taken to dyeing some wonderful colours over the last 4 weeks. Watch out for us at south South Island events such as the Wanaka Show in mid-March … or various markets around home Dunedin.

  4. Kia ora, I am a beginner knitter and would appreciate knowing the following. What yarn is suitable for US 5 knitting needles/3.75mm. I have a pattern that is for knitting with alpaca wool, but can’t figure out which wool I am needing. On the conversion charts they are stating worsted.

    1. Kia Ora Naumai. Without knowing which pattern it is, my guess is that they are asking you to knit an 8ply alpaca yarn. Worsted yarn from the states can easily be replaced by what we call DK or 8 ply. You can comfortably knit this weight with 3.75mm needles. I would not go to a 10ply (often called worsted) with 3.75mm. You will injure yourself!

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