Knitting with Alpaca Made Easy by Keenan Goldsmith (Knitting Bartender)

Knitting with Alpaca Made Easy

by Keenan Goldsmith (Knitting Bartender)

I’ve heard it said many times over my 30 years of knitting that fiber artists do not want to knit with alpaca yarn because they have been told that the fiber will inevitably stretch and balloon out on them when blocking. (This is only true if you do not follow a few simple guidelines which I will explain). I have knitted many sweaters in alpaca and enjoy the cashmere like texture. It is certainly worth the effort of simple planning to knit with this decadent fiber.

It is my mission to encourage fiber artists in the knitting community to embrace 100% alpaca because it has so many lovely qualities including:

The ability to provide warmth even in lower yarn weights

Alpaca yarn in sport weight is my go to when knitting a sweater or cardigan. Due to the fiber’s hollow core, alpaca is very warm and holds in heat. The fiber is dense enough to provide warmth without the heavy weight of the worsted variety. Sport weight is the perfect option when knitting a fitted garment.

Super soft

100% alpaca fiber is as soft if not softer than cashmere. The fiber has fewer scales owing to its luxuriously feel. Because of this alpaca does not felt as easily as wool. The drape of the fabric that alpaca produces is a wonderful choice for fitted garments, hats, shawls, mittens, cowls, and scarves.

High Tensile Strength

The strength of alpaca yarn makes this fiber an excellent choice for long wearing heirloom quality knitted and woven projects.


Those with a lanolin allergy may find alpaca appealing as an alternative to wool as the animal does not produce lanolin.


Now lets talk about gauge. It is vital to knit a gauge swatch prior to beginning any knitted project, even more so with alpaca to ensure that the fit is spot on. Knit a 4”x4” swatch from the pattern that you are working with and wet block it. It is strongly recommended to hang the

swatch while damp, using clothes pins at the bottom of the fabric to suspend a heavy knitting needle. A U.S. Size 10 metal needle should do the trick. This will provide the needed weight to stretch the fabric while damp, which will in turn provide the needed finished measurements of the dry swatch to choose the correct sized garment to knit from your pattern.

After allowing the swatch to dry, carefully measure your fabric to determine which size you will knit for your garment. In this case I went with the smallest size when knitting the Timberline Cardigan by Jared Flood for this post.

The Timberline Cardigan had an intended ease of +6-8” which means that it knits up into a super relaxed garment. I wanted the finished cardigan to have a more fitted tailored look so I chose the smallest size which had a finished chest measurement of 43 3/4”. My chest measurement is 44”. Having knitted a swatch and wet blocked it I was able to determine that the alpaca would bloom (stretch) upon blocking giving me the perfect fit which is why I knitted  a size smaller than what the pattern called for regarding my actual chest size.

When knitting the sleeves I noticed at the beginning that if I did all of the increases that the pattern called for that I would end up with a loose sleeve which is not what I wanted. Upon this realization I only worked the sleeve increases as needed in reverse stockinette stitch, trying the sleeve on and jotting down notes as I worked. When I reached the last row before the sleeve cap decreases I increased evenly across the last row, including all of the reverse stockinette stitches that I’d omitted to obtain a fitted look and still have enough stitches at the top of the sleeve to shape the cap according to the pattern instructions.

All of my effort yielded a beautiful cardigan in a fiber that can only be likened to the texture of sable. Alpaca is a joy to work with and if properly cared for can last for generations.

Here is the finished cardigan in all its glory.




Love this sweater and want to make one like it? Purchase yarn our alpaca sport yarn here.  Purchase the pattern for the Timberline Cardigan by Jared Flood here. 

Love Keenan?  We do too.  Please follow along with his incredible knitting artwork over on Facebook , and then on Instagram and then go support what he does by buying some of his cool swag.

A note about the author:  Here at Purple Alpaca, we were fortunate enough to collide paths with this incredible artist.  Keenan is a generous person and talented knitter that has created an online learning community and space with his zoom sit and knits and online presence.  We’ve been honored to get to share in his journey and see our fiber made into something so incredible.  Help us support him by checking out his links above and let him know how great he looks in this sweater.  Thanks Keenan — for everything! 

One thought on “Knitting with Alpaca Made Easy by Keenan Goldsmith (Knitting Bartender)

  • Gloria SmithFebruary 6, 2021 at 3:03 am

    He does fantastic work. Such a beautiful sweater. I thoroughly enjoyed his experience in making such a beautiful piece of art.

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