Stronger than wool, warmer than cashmere, and more breathable than synthetics, alpaca fiber is an ideal material for use in both crafts and apparel. If you enjoy the delightful process of felting, get ready to experience a whole new level of crafting heaven by swapping your wool for alpaca fibers!
What Is Felting?
Felting is an ancient craft, still widely enjoyed today. Unlike weaving or sewing, this relatively simple process involves separating and re-tangling animal fibers to create specific shapes. Animal fibers are coated with interconnected scales that serve to keep the coat’s shape. In felting, these tiny scales are separated using friction, water, or heat. They are then re-tangled into the desired shape. Here are the three common methods you can use:
- Wet: Start by laying one piece of fiber perpendicularly on top of another. The more layers you have, the thicker the felt will become. You can use a screen to hold the layers in place. Next, wet the top layer with soapy warm water and use your palm or a sponge to gently rub the fibers together. This method works great for blankets, gloves, hats, and more.
- Dry: This technique requires a set of barbed needles, hence the reason it’s also called needle felting. The barbs serve to tangle the fibers outward, which is an effective way to make 3D figurines or raised designs on fabrics and garments.
- Knit: For those who prefer to knit or crochet with animal fibers, you can create a knit felt by washing your garment and shrinking it in the dryer. By tightening the holes between your stitches, you still enjoy the same felt-like feel.
Why Should I Use Alpaca Materials?
Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years. South Americans have used their shearings to make everything from blankets and sweaters to baskets and textiles.
True, natural alpaca fiber is durable, luxurious, and incredibly soft. This material can be used for wet, dry, and knit felting. It’s considerably warmer than wool, yet much more comfortable against your skin. It’s also free from lanolin and dander and so naturally hypoallergenic.
The best part about working with alpaca materials is that you enjoy a variety of natural colors that won’t fade over time. Alpaca fiber is an ideal choice for hobbyists because it’s physical properties are easy to work with. You don’t have to worry about wrinkling or matting, and it effectively wicks water and even resists flames. These fibers are also machine-washable, biodegradable, and highly sustainable.
For more tips or to learn about our 47-acre farm, give us a call. We’d love to hear from you!