alpaca silk for pillows?

I am stumped trying to figure out a plan for some sofa pillows.  I wonder if alpaca silk is too fine-would it be an okay choice?  Perhaps a basket weave or twill?  I want a monochromatic pillow with texture.... Thanks!


Posted on Sun, 01/03/2016 - 18:25

In this household, pillows get pretty rough treatment (they don't call them throw pillows for nothing, and they make good cat motivators), and I have made them out of 10/2 cotton in rep, and of 5/2 cotton and cotton chenille in twill.  Both fabrics are ornamental and hard wearing.

Posted on Sun, 01/03/2016 - 19:54

While both those fibers are fine, they should both be relatively long staple.  A soft fluffy yarn in alpaca/silk will not last in pillows unless it is heavily fulled (to the point of felting).  A harder twist yarn in these fibers should last, especially if each ply going into final yarn is relatively fine.

Cotton has a shorter staple and for me does not last as well as linen or wool from a longwool breed.  Llama also makes a good choice and is less costly.

Posted on Mon, 01/04/2016 - 16:20

Thanks so much for your comments-how do I determine if the yarn is long staple?  The yarn is an 80% alpaca, 20% silk, 1736 yds/8 oz from Valley Yarns.  Which wool yarn would be from a longwool breed?  I like the llama idea and will seek it out.  You have much knowledge of fiber!

Posted on Mon, 01/04/2016 - 18:13

You should be able to untwist a little of the yarn and pull out single fibers to see how long they are.

Posted on Mon, 01/04/2016 - 21:05

Yes!  Untwist the yarn enough to pull a fiber out.

Many of the longwool breeds such as Lincoln and Border & English Leicester but NOT Blue Faced Leicester are relatively coarse.  You can tell by feel.  Unfortuantely, there are other breeds of sheep such as Herdwick and Karakul that are also coarse, so labelling is your best choice.   However, the greater diameter of the fibers of these breeds, not just staple length, helps make them durable.

Of course, staple length is not the only factor.  While a fine individual fiber such as alpaca is easily damaged, the fact that the fibers in the single (one strand of a plied yarn) are longer means that they are typically harder to pull out of the yarn, and that it is farther to discontinuities in the fibers.  There is a point where it doesn't matter any more, though:  I'm not sure that a yarn made of 12" Lincoln wears better than 6" Lincoln, for example. 

Spin is also very important.  Most commercial alpaca yarns you buy are soft and fluffy.  Socks made from them wear out quickly.  On the other hand I have a hard-twist singles alpaca poncho that was an antique when I got it in the Andes in 1974 and have been using continuously since, and the alpaca yarn in it shows no wear.  Silk is even tougher.

I know this might start a flame war, but I personally don't like to see these wonderful fibers used in short-lived, low twist yarns.

The right alpaca-silk yarn should outlast you.  The wrong one, made from the same fibers, will be quickly damaged . . . unless of course you felt it.  This latter might be your safest choice, given that you don't have a custom spinner on tap.  See Laura Frye's video Wet Finishing.

Posted on Wed, 01/06/2016 - 00:00

Thanks so much for all your input-I greatly appreciate adding to my (limited) knowledge of fibers.  I have never spinned, and you've kind of made me want to!  

Posted on Wed, 01/06/2016 - 19:34

Of course you should spin!

Do you ever watch TV or movies on TV/DVD/computer, etc?  How about listen to audiobooks or music?  If so, you have time to spin because you can do both at the same time.  There are even a couple of us that read on our e-readers while spinning (turning pages being somewhat difficult).

Spinning adds a whole dimention to otherwise simple weaving.  Although I am primarily a multishaft pattern weaver, I use my handspun, and sometimes break down and do plain weave to showcase my yarn.  

There is a slight learning curve, so I suggest starting with an inexpensive drop spindle (easier to learn on) and get in touch with your local guild for help and support.  You'll be out feeling fleeces in no time.