Maybe it’s just January talking, but as soon as I spotted this yarn I thought “cowl.” In fact, I could almost imagine a line of women at the Portland International Jetport greeting new arrivals and ceremoniously placing a skein of Baby Alpaca Magna around their necks, like a puffy Arctic lei.
A super-chunky chainette made entirely of baby alpaca, this gargantuan yarn comes in 10 colors ranging from earthy naturals to gemstone blues and reds—perfect colors to help people identify you in a snowstorm.
Alpaca is a pretty slippery fiber, and this skein had a glorious halo to it. I had no problem pinching the loose ends of the halo and slipping those fibers right out of the yarn. The “pluck” test is a good way to figure out how much structure is in a yarn. The more fibers you can pluck, the greater the likelihood that you’ll need to add structure with your stitches. The easiest way? Go down a needle size, or even two if you’re adventurous. So I ditched the recommended US 17 needles and went for US 15s.
With any poofy knitted tube yarn, the first thing you’ll need to worry about is snagging. The sharper the tips on your needles, the more easily a stray loop can get caught.
To complicate matters, alpaca isn’t renowned for its exceptional elasticity. Snag one of the stitches in the tube and it can easily pull out and create a boucle effect in your fabric. The good news: This only happened to me a few times, and by the time I went back to photograph the loops I couldn’t really see them.
This was an incredibly fast, doughy, pleasant knit. Blink and the skein will be gone. I found myself exaggerating my stitch movements to make sure I didn’t snag any of the stray fuzz unintentionally.
My stitches were plush, doughy, and perfectly even. I played with ribbing and seed stitch and the results were equally delicious.
Blocking / Washing
My swatch released a vague poof of brown before relaxing into the wash water. I was reminded of the innate languid properties of alpaca: When I rinsed and squeezed my swatch and set it out to dry on a towel, all of its poof and vigor were gone. It looked flat and small and a little humiliated, like a wet cat. It smelled like one too, something not uncommon when washing alpaca.
Once my swatch dried, however, its pride had puffed right back up as if nothing had happened. There was no change in stitch or row gauge or overall fabric constitution.
Unless you tend to live a far more exciting life than I do, chances are most of your cowls won’t see an incredible amount of wear and tear. We don’t walk on them or rub against them, we wrap them around our necks and bury our faces inside. But I’d still go down a needle size when knitting a cowl out of this yarn for the simple reason that baby alpaca fuzz, if not tamed by twist or stitch, loves to stray from its fabric and tickle your nose. Which is the last thing you need when it’s 14 degrees outside.
From a touch perspective, this yarn is pure, spongy, decadent softness.
Baby Alpaca Magna’s generous girth does have one minor drawback: Even in a 100g skein, you’re still only getting 54 yards of yarn. Doesn’t seem like much, if sweaters and blankets are your thing. But one skein will still get you a lovely headband or even a small cowlette. Stock up on a few more and you’ll be able to build an impenetrable snow-fort of fiber around your face.
Each skein retails for $18.99, making that single-skein cowlette pretty economical. Even with three or four skeins for a mega-cowl, that’s still cheaper than what you’d pay for a store-bought cowl of similar materials and craftsmanship. Plus there’s the added satisfaction of being able to whip up something new and pretty, mid-winter, to carry you through until the first crocuses appear.