ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ALPACA YARN

Alpaca sheep in their natural habitat

Alpaca sheep in their natural habitat

In this blog post we are giving you some insight on how to determine the quality of the alpaca yarn you just bought. Everybody loves Alpaca yarn and we as a yarn company are opening our treasure chest of knowledge to you today:

Alpaca is a soft, silky and durable fiber with unique thermal properties due to microscopic air bubbles found inside the hair. These bubbles allow the user to “breathe” through the fibers on hot days and in much the same way, to retain body heat in cold climates. Alpaca wool is also elastic and not inflammable.

Alpaca Fibers

Alpaca Fibers

Alpaca fibers are produced in around 15 natural shades, making it an attractive option for designers around the world ever since. The versatility of Alpaca fiber allows it to be readily transformed into all kinds of knitted garments, accessories or handcrafted products, either by machine or by hand.

This results in the fact that there are many Alpaca Yarns on the market.

In the western world we can see the cute animals here and there, even sometimes in a front yard – but they belong in a much higher elevation to create the best quality.

The only way to know the quality of the yarn is to have it professionally tested. This is what yarn producers should do before a yarn enters the market. We here at SKEINO always ask for a yarn certificate provided by the Spinning Mills to be sure of what we are providing to our customers.

Having a Histogram available helps us to understand the full picture of the quality. A histogram measures the fineness and the evenness of a single hair in micron. The lower the number the finer the fiber. However, the histogram does not take into account the age of the animal, environmental factors, density, luster and color.

Alpacas running

Running to be sheared?

Alpacas are being sheared the first time usually at around 12 months of age and the second shear at two years of age. At this time the fibers will give you a good indication of the quality.

Also, the Environment plays a major part in determining the quality of the fibers. Most Alpacas in South America have the finest fibers because they live in the Andes, right where they belong.

Here are some microns for the different Alpaca Yarn Types:

Super Baby Alpaca           19-20 micron

Baby Alpaca                      21.5–22.5 micron

Adult Alpaca                      25.5–26.5 micron

Coarse Alpaca                   30+ micron

For comparison: SKEINO’s Extra Fine Merino Superwash yarns are spun from 19.5 micron fibers

The Alpaca is indigenous to the Peruvian Andes, where they have been domesticated ever since the time of pre-Incan cultures. There are estimated to be approximately 3.5 to 4 million Alpaca in South America, 95% of which can be found in the regions of Southern Peru.

Alpacas are bred at altitudes varying between 11,000 and 15,000 feet above sea level, where temperatures can range from anywhere between -4°F and 86°F in a single day, surviving on a low protein diet based on natural grasses.

It is here where they grow the best quality.

If an Alpaca from the Andes would be “imported” from its habitat into the Western World, in a matter of months the fleece will “blow-out” by 10 micron or more. This is because of environmental factors and feed quality. If the Alpacas would be put on a lush, good quality pasture, the fleece would coarsen immediately.

Therefore, if you buy Alpaca yarn, try to find out where it is coming from in order to have the best quality for your money.

If you want to try Alpaca Yarn, take a look at our VENICE yarn or at our Baby Alpaca Kit that comes with 7 FREE patterns.

SKEINO Venice Yarn

SKEINO Venice Yarn

We hope you found this read enjoyable and found out some interesting facts “behind the scenes” about Alpaca yarn. As always please use the comments section for questions or comments.

BEHIND THE SCENES: PACKING KITS

SKEINO is based in Fort Myers, Florida. These are exclusive images of our partner LARC helping us packing our brand new Arabella Royal Shawl knitting kits. LARC is a non-profit company that gives people with special needs a chance to be in the middle of society by offering them jobs in an assisted institution.

6 TOP TIPS TO INCREASE YOUR KNITTING SKILLS

Knitting is a wonderful hobby. There are patterns out there for any skill level and even if you are a beginner working with handpainted yarn will give you so much joy you will probably never stop knitting once you have started. But how about that gorgeous jacket you have seen in the last issue of your favourite knitting magazine or on Ravelry? Will you be able to make it? Oh, it seems so hard to do! Surely the skill level will be far above your abilities!

– STOP! In this post we will talk about how you can REALLY increase your knitting skills before you start with that advanced piece. The key is to feel confident to take that next step up the ladder. First, take a pattern that fits your skills TODAY, maybe a little on the advanced side but not totally out of your league. You may want to check our website www.skeino.com and take a look at our knitting kits. Each item will show you the required skill level in the technical description below the photos. Most of our pieces including the very popular and successful Arabella Shawl, the limited edition Arabella Royal Shawl and the Scarf-In-A-Scarf are beginner’s pieces so consider those for your next project.

SKEINO Co-Founder and knitting designer Bjorn holding some skeins

SKEINO Co-Founder and knitting designer Bjorn is knitting for over 40 years.

Now that you have your project laying before you, let’s start. The best way to increase your knitting skills is by diving deeply into the pattern. Here are 6 top tips from our knitting designer Bjorn that will help you boost your skills:

1. Review and understand the pattern before you begin.

Have a good read through the pattern before you cast on. No one likes to unravel a piece or portion of it and start all over again. This is not good for the yarn. Therefore read the pattern first, all the way through, before you start your project.

2. Try to “unlock” the pattern to understand its construction and logic.

Think about the big picture! If you follow the pattern stitch by stitch you might create a piece, which does not fit or will not please you. Be sure to put your skills into a piece that you like so that it is the right piece for you.

3. Do not just follow a pattern without first understanding what you’re about to do.

Stay focused! Every single stitch should make sense. This allows you to become more and more comfortable in terms of knowing what to do next, before you read the pattern to confirm that you’re on the right path.

4. Reach out to your knitting friends to find help or provide help.

Just ask your friends! There is always help in a group for you. Don’t allow frustration or disappointment to take over. Your work should be pure joy. If you don’t have a knitting friend near you try a Skype video conference to interact with your friends and family or be active in the biggest knitting community in the world – Ravelry. Fellow knitters are always so helpful as everybody knows what it’s like to be stuck.

5. Sometimes it’s wise to follow your instinct and have the courage to change the pattern to please yourself.

Be brave! But also don’t forget to use your brain and think about it all the way. Will my changes use up all the yarn before the piece is finished? Will the dimensions of the piece be distorted? All those things are important to have in mind when you decide to be brave and change parts of the pattern to make it yours. Ideas could be throwing in a row of glitter yarn or adding buttons and other accessories that will make your project stand out of the crowd. You will be proud of your accomplishment and enjoy the “show and tell” about your piece!

6. Never forget: You can do it!

Believe in yourself! Be creative, crazy and confident with your knitting! If you love what you do your KNITTING SKILLS will grow and make you more successful the more you knit.

We hope these pointers will help you find the right way to turn a pattern into a piece that you can be proud of. Use them and find your way to increase YOUR knitting skills. You will make progress as you go along the way creating all those beautiful pieces for your friends/family and of course yourself.

Enjoy, Bjorn

5 REASONS WHY SKEINO ORDERS ITS YARN IN ITALY

SKEINO-Italian-Yarn

The majority of the yarn you can purchase on SKEINO is spun in Italy. So why have we chosen the land of great food, exquisite fashion and vibrant street life? Well, you could say for these same facts for example. But of course there’s more! So let’s talk about it in detail – Here are 5 reasons why we buy our raw yarns in Italy:

  1. The Tradition

Italy has a very strong tradition in fashion, you could even say it is a vital part of the country’s identity. There are many Italian fashion brands that are world famous for decades or even centuries. Yarn spinning is an essential part of that, being one of the earliest steps in the production chain.

There are 6 major hubs for yarn spinning in Italy: Biella, Carpi, Castel Goffredo, Como, Prato, and Vicenza. Most of the companies will be small or medium sized family businesses who know their trade, often for generations.

SKEINO works with companies from the regions Biella and Plato. You can truly breath the Italian yarn tradition when collaborating with them. With tradition comes knowledge and experience – and therefore quality.

yarn-bombing on Italian bridge

  1. The Quality

Here is where we talk business. Of course you can work with producers who will beat the price of Italian yarns a hundred times, and not only that: they are also fast, responsive and they are cheap. For example you’ll find great yarns produced in Asia.

However we still find that there is a difference when it comes to the Italian yarns. It’s just this subtle extra bit of quality you can feel when looking at the yarn and touching the yarn. We don’t know exactly how they do it but the yarn of our providers is just so soft and brings out the colors so well.

Another important part of this is quality control. If you are familiar with the industry you will know that there has been more than one scandal of yarn companies offering inferior quality or even mislabeled yarn to their customers. As a yarn brand you need to make sure that your quality stays at the highest level you are expecting and your customers love. We are absolutely happy to be collaborating with our Italian partners.

  1. The Social Responsibility

There is another thing that lets us walk away from cheap providers – Labor conditions. You just don’t know if the wages paid are fair and enough to let the workers make a living; if the working conditions are safe and sound; or if the animals the wool comes from are treated well.

As you might know a part of SKEINO’s identity is giving people with special needs the chance to gain a decent wage dyeing and processing our products. Shouldn’t we focus on the same values when it comes to our partners who provide the raw yarn? We strongly think so.

  1. The People

If you have Italian ancestors, friends or family you know what we mean by that. It’s simply a pleasure to feel the love of life you get from an Italian. This doesn’t mean that everything will always go super smooth but even the way they deal with problems seems to put a smile on your face.

Our contact persons Alberto and Alfredo are a joy to work with. They make sure that SKEINO orders are filled correctly and requests for new and specific fibers are looked after the right way. You can just feel the passion, experience and tradition we talked about earlier.

Italian-family

  1. The Love

OK, we admit this is the cheesy part! But let’s face it: Once you have been to the beautiful country of Italy you will fall in love with it. Add points 1-4 to it and you will surely understand why at SKEINO we decided to work with Italy when it comes to buying our undyed yarns. We hope that you can feel The Love when you knit your very own SKEINO project.

SKEINO Francesca Yarn

SKEINO Francesca Yarn

If you would like to discover our Italian Yarns try our yarn line called “Italian Ladies” (Bianca, Donna, Gina, Francesca, Monica, Paola, Sophia, Violetta). You’ll find all the common gauges for your preferred project. If you would like something more complete, our Scarf-In-A-Scarf is using a true classic Italian yarn called Precious. It’s totally easy to work with and the pattern is beginner’s level.

Do you also love Italy? What is your favorite yarn nation? Let us know in the comment section.

THE ARABELLA SHAWL PHOTO CONTEST – WE HAVE A WINNER!

Over the last months our Arabella Shawl knitting kit has been quite popular. Every now and then we could spot gorgeous photos of the finished pieces our customers uploaded on Ravelry, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Time to organize our very own official photo contest! Looking for the most beautiful, hilarious, creative or elegant photo of your Arabella Shawl.

The competition has been running for 2 weeks and after receiving numerous photos we sat together to choose the finest photos of our finalist which was hard enough. Today we made our decision after a long and lively discussion. And what can we say.. When in doubt choose cuteness! And so it was Michelle from South Carolina, USA who won our hearts with this beautiful shot of her Arabella Shawl and her dog Webster. Congratulations Michelle!

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Misty Morning

Our Winner: Michelle’s Arabella Shawl in colorway Misty Morning

Well we did have to choose one winner but since there were so many gorgeous photos here is a gallery of our finalists:

Elizabeth sent us her lovely photos in lush surroundings.

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Palm Tree

Although placed in a needle tree this colorway is called Palm Tree

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Palm Tree

Work in progress

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Palm Tree

Who’s feet are those? 🙂

April from Pei, Canada interpreted the Arabella pattern in her very own style.

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in custom  colorway

Another way of knitting the Arabella. Ahm, is that SKEINO yarn? 😉

Anita lives in Quebec, Canada and she sent us this beautiful example of her finished piece.

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Aqua

Elegantly placed on top of a dining table this colorway is called Aqua

Agnes is all about shades of blue with her example of the Arabella Shawl.

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Delphinium

In Delphinium all colors are shades of blue

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Delphinium

This is simply gorgeous

SKEINO Arabella Shawl in colorway Delphinium

Agnes’s way to wear her Arabella Shawl

I guess now you understand why we had such a hard time choosing our winner! A big thank you to all of you who participated in the photo contest! If you like SKEINO you can always email us your photos and we’ll post them on our social media channels – The world deserves to see your work! All colorways of the Arabella Shawl can be found here: http://www.skeino.com/arabella-shawl.html

As always please feel free to comment or ask anything in the comment section.