Big hole in a sock worn for only 1 winter!!!!
This really upset me since alpaca yarn is supposed to wear a lot BETTER than many wools and acrylics! Since these socks are nice and warm and it was a lot of work to knit them, I thought about mending the hole but then I took a close look at the back of the heel !
Egads! Not much point in mending that sock after all. Grrrrrr! This makes me mad. But what about the "matching" sock knit from a different skein of the same brand of Peruvian yarn?
No sign of any hole in this sock. Not surprising if you realize that, in big processing mills, they basically throw all of the fleeces of similar color and fineness together for processing into yarn. The problem with that is that similar color and fineness doesn't equal similar strength or crimp. One of these skeins of yarn turned out to be way better than the other but they looked identical when I bought them. Here's the back of the heel of that second skein:
No problem on that heel. So now I have one good, 100% alpaca sock that is not worn out, and one that is not worth fixing. Is this good for the alpaca fleece and product business? Not really.
Meanwhile, the mis-matched pair of socks that I made on purpose are wearing just fine even though I have worn them as much or more than the socks from the Peruvian yarn. In the photo below, you can tell which sock was sent out to a mill because the ankle of that sock (at top of photo) is a little loose despite the ribbing:
Mill spun alpaca yarn tends to have less elasticity because the mills process it worsted, i.e. comb it rather than card it. But, although the hand spun sock in the photo above is tighter in the ankle, it's also fuzzier. So, more woolen processing leads to tighter fit but also fuzzier look. Fuzzy doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't wear out quickly but it wouldn't be good on a more dressy garment. Here are the toe regions of the same two socks where the difference in fuzziness is also obvious:
What does all this mean? It means that, if alpaca fleece producers don't do a better job of excluding fleeces that are weak and brittle from being made into yarn, we won't have the kind of high quality products that people want. Luckily, it's possible to send fleeces to smaller mills that will give you back yarn from only your own, carefully chosen fleeces. Make sure your fleeces are strong and don't use a processor who's equipment or chemicals weakens them.
But, it isn't just yarn that I'm talking about. I have many pairs of 100% socks bought from Peruvian and North American companies and these have a lot of quality control issues too. Here's a pair that was included in a shipment of socks that I bought from a Peruvian importer:
These are sewn with a big seam going up the side and in no way resemble the actual shape of any person's foot and leg! They aren't even both the same size! They're not really wearable but come in handy when people go on and on about how the Peruvian products are cheaper. Here's a pair of imported Peruvian socks that I bought at an alpaca show:
I wore these a couple of times and loved how warm they were (they are two-sided and reversible!) but they shrunk and partially felted when carefully washed in cold water, and they wore out at the top of the calf where there isn't even any friction from the wearer! Clearly the yarn used to knit these was weak in that spot. There's no visible wear on the heel or toe of these socks and that's where we'd expect to see it so it's not what manufacturers call "normal wear and tear."
So do I hate all commercially bought alpaca socks? No. I have a pair of Red Maple alpaca socks that I wore all through the last two winters and I loved the way they fit. Now if the person who designs these could maybe reinforce the heel and toe, they'd be perfect! After all, they do cost upwards of $18 a pair! I liked them enough to buy them again though.
Just in case you think that, as a hand spinner, I'm too picky about all commercial yarn, here is my current knitting project, a cardigan made from Classic Elite's Zoom 50% alpaca/ 50% sheep wool yarn:
I'm loving this yarn! Great color, great bounce and memory, and it's obvious that the yarn is really strong. Too bad it's far too large in diameter to use for socks!
If you have 100% alpaca socks that you have knit from a commercial yarn and found them to wear and fit really well, I'd love to hear about it. Pls. e-mail me: email@example.com.
or, tell me about it in person at the MD Sheep & Wool Festival! I'll be at the spin-in and the meet ups for the ravelry online knitting community. Here's the web page of the MD Sheep & Wool Festival containing the ravelry meeting info:
ravelry meetups at MD Sheep & Wool Festival
My ravelry screen name is: alpacagal
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