Yarn Profile: Schoppel Wolle Baby Alpaka Naturbelassen
The yarn is made from 50% wool and 50% baby alpaca. Under the right conditions, both fibers have a natural tendency to felt, though alpaca takes a little longer.
A lot of yarn companies go to great lengths to cosset their fibers and keep them from felting. But here the fibers have been drafted and then intentionally abraded to make the fibers adhere to one another without ever needing to be twisted.
But felted yarn is more unusual. Naturbelassen is German for "natural," which is how this yarn comes. No bright pinks or blues here, you choose from seven colors total, each of which is a heathered blend of natural colors. Picture a slightly finer, smoother version of Reynolds Lite Lopi, but with the added softness of 50% baby alpaca.
Unspun yarn also tends to split on the needles more readily than a conventionally spun and plied yarn. Here, again, Baby Alpaka Naturbelassen veers from convention. The fibers adhere to one another so well that the yarn never split, not on knit rows or purl rows, beginning stitches or end stitches, in ribbing or seed stitch or even cables. It's an easy, easy knit.
One thing Baby Alpaka Naturbelassen isn't, however, is elastic. On the skein and as it's being worked, the yarn lies flat and feels almost listless. The occasional wonky stitch was quite evident in the unwashed swatch.
Also, probably because alpaca tends to take longer to felt than wool, I frequently encountered long alpaca fiber ends trying to break free from the yarn. They gave a slight hairiness to the fabric surface, though the loose fibers are far finer than actual hair.
Blocking / Washing
Everyone's gauge is different, but mine fell on the tight side, at 4.25 stitches per inch on US 8 (5mm) needles. The difference in gauge between unwashed and washed was barely 1/4 of a stitch per 4 inches.
Well, not quite. As anybody will attest after inadvertently machine-washing a wool sweater and trying to undo the damage, felting is a pretty strong energy. Combine semi-felted fibers and a generous staple length (the longer the fiber, the deeper it's anchored in your fabric) and you have, even on the skein, a surprisingly strong yarn.
With friction my swatches softened and their surface blurred. As I increased the intensity of the abrasion, the fabric surface began to loosen and gather in vague clouds that were only visible up close. Gradually those clouds became the beginnings of pills that were deeply anchored in the fabric and better snipped or shaved than plucked.
The yarn's unique unspun-but-felted composition makes substituting a little more challenging, but not by much. Just know that without a ply structure your stitches will appear relatively bright and smooth.
The 50% baby alpaca gives just a touch of luster that you'll notice when knitting in bright sunlight. Without the added weight and body of multiple plies twisted together, you'll be able to work more textured stitches and enjoy clean, sculptural definition without the traditional heft and bulk.
The price of $22.50 per 217-yard skein falls slightly on the high side, but you can still do plenty with just a few skeins. For example, you could create a splendid Brambles beret with one skein, or Annie Modesitt's Backyard Leaves scarf with two skeins.
On the sweater end, you could go bulky/abstract, holding two strands together to make Mona's Jacket by Mags Kandis (a medium would require approximately 7 skeins, or $158) or go for Rosemary Hill's more form-fitting Leyfi, the medium size of which would set you back about 6 skeins or $135.
Baby Alpaka Naturbelassen
50% baby alpaca
15 stitches and 20 rows per 4 inch (10cm) square on US 8-10 (5-6mm) needles
Average retail price
Where to buy online
Weight/yardage per skein
100g / 219 yards (200m)
Country of origin
Manufacturer's suggested wash method
Machine wash gentle or delicate (if I translated the care symbols correctly), bleach when needed, low iron, dry clean with any solvent except Trichloroethylene
Color used in review
Skacel Collection, Inc. in U.S.
Source of review yarn
Skacel Collection, Inc.