Alpacas at Windy Hill

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Knitting -- Old Practice with New Twists!

KNITTING has experienced a revival in the last several years. In this day of electronics, many people are choosing to get in touch with some of the more tactile and traditional skills of human history. The Knitting Circle has become popular again. It might, at first glance, look like a group of Millenials texting on their phones, but it’s really a group of people (men too!) getting in touch with their fuzzier, warmer side by actually talking in person while they create something useful and satisfying with knitting needles and yarn.

The really determined among us are also contributing to the growing and milling of natural fibers rather than acrylic, nylon and polyester by buying and using locally-grown and milled natural fibers (see the Gold Coast Fibershed). In our case here at Windy Hill, that is ALPACA.

Alpaca is growing in popularity as it gains notoriety due to a growing number of alpaca farms in the U.S. Huacaya fiber is crimpy and fuzzy, similar in style to sheep’s wool. Suri fiber is slick, shiny, and equally soft, similar to silk.

We raise primarily suri alpaca at Alpacas at Windy Hill, although we usually have huacayas here as well. Suri, however, being a bit different from wool and even huacaya fiber, needs some special attention to make knitting projects successful. Once the knitter embraces the differences, suri is often preferred due to it’s superior drape. Suri also lends itself well to lace-weight yarn and projects, and always looks elegant.

Sue Simonton, owner of Little Gidding Farm Suri Alpacas, has written a guide for knitting with suri alpaca that I thought might interest some of you, our blog readers. Sue is a member of the Suri Network Product Development Committee, and contributes to the Facebook page by the same title. Read and enjoy!

We invite you to come out to Alpacas at Windy Hill (Like us on Facebook!) and get some suri yarn to try for your next knitting (or crocheting) project!


Why knit with suri? What can I expect?

• Fine suri yarn is a beautiful lustrous yarn,
• Like cashmere in its softness and silk in its drape and luster.
• It takes color as beautifully as silk or kid mohair.

What are the properties of suri yarn?
• Its drape and weight make it perfect for garments that drape rather than cling.
• Fine and open work garments are warm.
• Not as elastic as wool but more elastic than silk, cotton or bamboo.
• Suri blocks and holds its shape. That is, it is resilient if it is not made of heavy yarn and not knit loosely.

What does fine mean?
• Fibers are classed by micron. British cashmere is < 19 microns. Vicuna
• Alpaca, including suri, includes a wide range of fineness and the fleece is classed accordingly.
The Suri Network, along with the Australians, the Canadians, and Peruvians class fibers as follows:
Grade #1, Suri Ultimate,
Grade #2, Suri Superfine, 20 -22.9 µm,
Grade #3, Suri Classic, 23-25.9µm,
Grade # 4, 26-28.9µm.
Grade #5, 29-31.9µm,
Grade #6, 6 32-35µm.
Classing provides guidelines for sorting fiber into micron, color and staple length.
The fibers’ micron grade will determine how the yarn is used as well as its price.
• Fine suri, Grades #1 or #2 can be worn next to the skin, a Grade #3, if it is carefully sorted with few
fibers over 30 can make a comfortable garment— coarser fiber is best used for rugs or felting.

How do I use my fine suri yarn? How do I find patterns?
• Suri — fine, lustrous, sound, consistent in handle and staple length is a luxury fiber.
• This yarn is ideally suited to shawls and scarves but also lace sweaters, christening bonnets and
dresses, and wedding veils.
• Whether spun in a fine lace weight (250 yds/oz) or a light fingering (75 – 100 yds.oz) it should adapt
easily to patterns for such garments. Attention to needle size is important.
• Go down a needle size or two from a pattern created for wool. Always check gauge!
• Patterns for silk and fine cotton should behave much the same as suri as these yarns do not have the
elasticity of wool. Patterns for huacaya fall somewhere in between — not as elastic as wool, not as
silky as suri or silk. So again, check the gauge.

What do I do with my stronger (coarser) yarns?
• Heavier garments of stronger (coarser) fiber do not work well when made of pure suri.
• Lovely drape in a finer yarn is a weighty drag unless care is taken to knit very firmly.
• Pure suri in the heavier weights of yarn, worsted and bulky, becomes rather like string.
• Suri can be blended with wool, preferably a wool of similar staple length and micron count and one
with some luster. This makes the yarn lighter, more resilient, suitable for outerwear.
• Patterns for this weight are most likely to be for wool so checking gauge and needle size is important.

What needles should I choose?
• For knitting suri yarn smooth wooden or bamboo needles are good; for lace projects addi lace needles
are wonderful. As suri is a slippery yarn, the addi lace needles have just enough drag to hold the yarn
on the needle and are still fast and addi lace needles now come in a full range of sizes.
• The size needle can very according to the project. The finer the needle the more stable the finished

Sue Simonton, Little Gidding Farm Suri Alpacas
Cindy Harris & Doug Fieg ~ Alpacas at Windy Hill ~
(805) 907-5162 ~ [email protected] ~ 7660 Bradley Rd. Somis CA 93066