On the way to the Andes, to meet the Alpacas!A few years ago, I went to Peru to "prospect" for new "Maison Tricotée" yarns.
I invite you to accompany me on this journey. Let's go to the Andes Cordilleras to meet the alpacas.
Ready? So, we're landing in Arequipa, ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat belts!
Our journey has only just begun, we are now taking the car. It is a 6 hour journey through the Altiplano that will take us to Ranch Pacomarca . Of course, we will take a short break halfway to drink the infusion of Coca leaves, reputed to be effective against altitude sickness.
Around the neck, the London Calling shawl (free pattern in French from Maison Tricotée)
We arrive at the ranch. The scenery is breathtaking (literally because we are 4600 meters above sea level. Jogging not recommended).
Wildflower-covered mountains crown a sweeping valley of tall grass. Their bare sides and the little human presence (apart from the ranch), gives a somewhat lunar impression.
The alpacas graze quietly here and there while waiting for the return to the fold. They watch me nonchalantly but back away when I approach. Around 5:00 p.m., it's the end of the day, guided by their shepherds, they rush to the farm to spend the night: the rush of alpacas.
The person in charge of the Ranch introduces me in the enclosures in order to flatter some specimens. What an experience! I thus meet a black Suri alpaca (this breed represents only 7 to 10% of the alpaca population). With his long curly fleece, he has a friendly little hippie look. It's love at first sight but apparently not shared : ) Le Suri and Céline.
Next, I'm going to plunge my hands into the fleece of a Huacaya alpaca, the most common breed. By sinking my hands into its wool, I remember the "tapitouf" of my childhood. How sweet ! : The Alpaca "Tapitouf"
The big candy of the day? I am authorized to enter the "kindergarten" of the Ranch. The herd of "crias" (baby alpacas) look at me with their big black eyes. I melt and look for one that would fit in the suitcase. This one isn't bad.
During the evening, Miguel, the manager of the Ranch explains to me the work done on site. Pacomarca is dedicated to improving the quality of alpaca fiber.
Because, if alpacas were bred for hundreds of years for the fineness of their wool (reserved for the Inca nobility), the Spanish invasion unfortunately changed the situation. Breeders were rewarded for the quantity of wool and no longer for its quality. Thus leading to a decline of the fiber from the 16th century until very recently.
The Pacomarca Ranch has therefore made it its mission to improve quality with genetic crossbreeding and an education program for breeders. Pacomarca has notably developed tools for animal shearing so that it is respectful towards the animal and without danger for the shearer.
By improving the fineness of the wool in this way, breeders obtain a better price for their fleeces and the local economy develops. Each year, Pacomarca offers the breeder producing the finest fiber an energy-efficient house . This initiative thus makes it possible to avoid the rural exodus by offering a local quality of life.
Now back to our mout...alpacas!
Its fleece has 22 different colors, from white to black (very rare) through all shades of beige to chocolate.
It has 6 to 7 different gradations depending on the systems. From the roughest to the finest like the superfine alpaca or the very rare Royal alpaca. These superior qualities have the same softness as cashmere at a softer price. To remember about the qualities of the alpaca:
- Softness (one of the softest in the world and comparable to cashmere thanks to its finesse)
- Lightness (due to microscopic air pockets)
- Resistance (second most resistant after silk and 3 times more resistant than sheep's wool)
- Thermal insulating power (one of the warmest in the world and 7 times warmer than sheepskin)
- Its very high absorption capacity
- Alpaca fiber provides insulation from heat but also from cold. In reality, the alpaca fiber does not heat up, but allows you to maintain a correct body temperature while allowing the humidity to pass through.
And now that I have taken you to the end of the world, I present to you the 3 "House" qualities of Alpagas from the Pacomarca program:
The MACHU , made of 70% Baby alpaca, 7% Wool and 23% Nylon (the yarn weft).
This chunky wool, light as a feather, is 260 meters per 100 grams but is knitted with 5 to 6 mm!
We just received it so I haven't had time to play with it much yet. But, I imagine it marvelously in a super cocoon shawl like Amanda Clark's Skoosh (free pattern in English). In addition, it will only require 220 grams thanks to the lightness of the wool! (Budget: $47!)
Photo credit : Amanda Clark
After the Machu ... the PICHU !
Attention, cracking guaranteed and for the moment the quantities are limited. A real cotton candy floss, extremely soft, with a mohair and airy effect. The big favorite of the team.
The composition is 89% Superfine Alpaca (yes, as soft as cashmere) and 11% Nylon (the weft). The fiber has been brushed to give this "mohair" effect and makes it so light that it gives 500 meters per 100 grams!
It is knitted with 4 to 6 mm needles. My sample in 4 mm gave me a very full 20 stitches per 10 cm.
What to do with it?
The UI Sweater by Noriko Ishikawa (in English and for a fee) seems perfect to me as a classic and airy little sweater.
Photo credit : Noriko Ishikawa
Or quite simply, a jersey stole for a super classic-chic accessory!
And, in memory of the city of Arequipa that I loved (to put on your travel bucket list!):
AREQUIPA , a 100% baby alpaca cream in a range of plain and mottled colors.
This wool has a worsted weight (200 m/100gr) and will lend itself to both sweaters and accessories. But, I will avoid hats because the alpaca has no "memory". It is therefore likely to expand. What it loses in resilience is more than made up for in its drape and softness.
What to do with it?
One of my favorite sweaters: Le Chaika by Midori Hirose (in English and for a fee)
Photo credit : Midori Hirose
Or Claudia Q's Catedral pullover (in English and paying)
Arequipa will also be perfect in accessories.
For a very simple and easy project: The faux English rib scarf from Maison Tricotée. Pattern in French and free.
So, ready to knit gently?
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Do not hesitate to leave me your comments.
Warm regards, Celine