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A skein of Alpaca Silk
Alpaca Silk knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk

First Impressions
Debbie Bliss first made her mark in the knitting world with delicate, fine-gauged children's garments using Rowan yarns. She later released her own line of yarns, many of which reflected the same delicate, fine-gauged sensibility.

More recently, however, this British knitwear designer has ventured into bulkier and more exotic territories. This succulent blend of alpaca and silk from Peru is a prime example of Bliss' creative exploration.

Alpaca Silk is a thick and relaxed two-ply yarn that combines 80% alpaca with 20% silk. The result is a fluid, soft, and warm yarn with the sheen of a fine lipstick. For this review, I used the color Coral.

Knitting Up
Alpaca Silk slid effortlessly through my fingers, knitting a lovely and even swatch in almost no time. My sharp-tipped needles kept snagging the yarn producing loops of loose fiber wisps, so I switched to duller-tipped needles and the snagging all but went away.

My stitches appeared perfect and even. I occasionally spotted faint clumps of silk that hadn't fully blended during the carding process, but they caused no problems in the finished swatches.

Blocking / Washing
The swatches were slow to relax in their warm-water bath. With several squeezings, however, they finally let go and absorbed the water. They did not bleed or fade.

After they were rinsed, I blotted my swatches on a towel to dry and experienced a momentary distress. The previously thick and plush swatches looked like sad, wet sheets of paper.

Alpaca and silk fibers behave differently than sheep-based fibers during wash. Because these fibers aren't as elastic as wool, they require more blocking to get back into shape. They also look very different when wet, meaning you can't pass judgment until they're fully dry.

When the swatches finally did dry (which took a long time—this is a deceptively thick yarn), they had regained all the luster and beauty of the pre-washed swatches.

I noticed only a faint expansion in gauge from approximately 4.3 stitches per inch to 4.6 (I used 5mm needles).

Wearing
Alpaca Silk is an extremely soft yarn with a subtle drape that will flatter almost any figure. Its fluid and plush texture makes it well-suited for any next-to-the-skin wear.

As with many such super-soft, relatively relaxed yarns, Alpaca Silk began to age after just a moderate amount of wear. The surface of my swatches became blurrier with friction, and small pills emerged.

The long fiber length made these pills difficult to remove without disturbing the yarn around them. On a positive note, the swatches became softer and softer with wear—but at the expense of crisp stitch definition.

"Crisp" doesn't really belong in the Alpaca Silk vocabulary anyway, but the blurring is still something to know as you plan your project. I can see an oversized Alpaca Silk sweater (perhaps with cables?) becoming that special garment you don for comfort on rainy days.

Conclusion
Alpaca Silk is a beautiful, and in many ways "mature" yarn. By this I mean it is a sensual delight both in drape and softness. Much of its allure might be wasted on a children's garment, especially considering its delicate wearability and high price tag.

Depending on the complexity of your pattern, a basic medium-sized women's garment will require 16 to 20 skeins, which translates into $128 to $160. (The medium-sized ribbed jacket pattern in Bliss' beautiful Alpaca Silk pattern booklet will run you upwards of $200—but it's quite a jacket!)

This yarn will have a particularly strong appeal for any knitters who are sensitive to wool. Alpaca Silk offers much of the same splendid succulence of a fine wool without any of the grease, oil, or lanolin that can cause wool allergies.

For everyone else, if shimmer, softness, and relaxed cuddly drape appeal, this yarn is definitely worth a second look.

 
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