The Christmas Season brought with it a snowstorm of projects to be finished, packages to be wrapped, and priorities to be re-evaluated (sigh).We hope you’ve been able to share time with family and friends and even find some restorative moments for yourself.
2016 (the Chinese year of the monkey) will usher in some fun and exciting projects here at Alpaca Direct. To kick off the New Year, the Critter Challenge is sure to delight knitters and crocheters of all skill levels! Do you have a fur child, a feathered baby, or a favorite mascot? How about a dream pony or animal guide? Pick up needles or hook and capture your love in any kind of critter at all. Use any pattern or let your imagination carry you along. Enter more than once – it’s free and you can win prizes!
When you’ve completed your critter(s), snap a photo and send it to us. We’ll post it on our Facebook Critter Challenge Event Page and the voting will begin!
Entries will close March 25th and voting will continue until 3/31/16. Each visitor to the site may vote once per day. People’s Choice (the entry receiving the most votes) will receive a $50 gift certificate from Alpaca Direct. Each entry will also be entered in a random drawing for another fabulous $50 gift certificate. So get started on that parlor cat, bunny rabbit, or dragon. We can’t wait to see what you create!
Did you know when a foster child turns 18 he or she no longer qualifies to live in the foster system? Rather than have services available to help these young adults continue becoming a productive member of society, these kids are often turned out into the streets to find their own way. The Red Scarf Project extends a hug to these kids in the form of red scarves knitted by you and me and then donated to their cause. We offer a large assortment of red yarns and knitting needles for your consideration, plus several super cute scarf patterns! Also, the Red Scarf Project organizers’ website offers patterns for you. You can access the Foster Care to Success website to learn how you can help in many other ways.
The red scarves need to be submitted by Nov. 30th so let’s whip one up for a young person in need of your hug.
Shorter days. Cooler nights. Nothing is as comforting as hand knit socks! Here in Northern Idaho we’re enjoying cool nights and warm days and as the leaves turn to red and gold, it’s time to knit socks! It’s Socktober!!!
Sock knitting is a varied as knitters. Toe up, Top down. DPN. Magic Loop. Fabulous lace patterns knit from fine merino, self patterning sock yarns for simple fun, chunky weight slipper socks that warm your toes and your heart. We all have a favorite technique or two, so our staff is sharing with you some of our favorite patterns, yarns and techniques.
I chose one of Michelle Hunter’s patterns, as she makes patterns that are fun and easy to follow. Kaika is the Japanese word for “bloom” and it uses a beautiful and easy to memorize Japanese inspired stitch pattern. I used this pattern to make a toasty pair of light weight leg warmers that will keep me nice and warm during the cold winter months here in North Idaho. I used a picot cast on and a picot bind off to dress up my leg warmers. This gorgeous yarn is Madelinetosh Twist Light in “Optic” .Now that I have finished this pattern, I will search for another sock pattern or leg warmer pattern as we have lot’s of new fingering yarns that I am eagerly waiting to try! Kelley
I just finished my first pair of socks in ten years. Until recently, the thought of working with fingering weight yarn would turn my stomach. Oh, I made a number of pairs with worsted weight yarn, but somehow, in my book, they didn’t seem to count. They were workhorses-not the sprightly ponies of spots and blotches of randomly strewn color, crafted out of the finest gossamer threads.
Anyway, soon after beginning my new internship with Kelley, Kjirstine, Jennifer, and Maria at Alpaca Direct, I was affected by a strange affliction….Zauberball Crazy! While stocking a shelf with marvelous, mind-bending orbs of color and texture, I was overcome by a desire to knit on size 1 needles! Even more fantastically, to simultaneously create a PAIR of socks (not one, but two at a time!) on 1 ridiculously long circular needle! In my library (books I absorb, without ever reading), was a copy of “2-at-a-time socks”, by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. While everyone at work had moved on to knitting a pair of socks, two at a time, from the TOES up, I was completely entranced, bewitched and beguiled! The easy to understand and painless to follow step by step directions caught my attention and inspired me beyond belief! Within two short weeks, after a family wedding and during a family reunion, the “Earth” color way of Zauberball Crazy became the “Twilight” socks of Morgan-Oakes.
I am hooked. One more thing to add to the never-ending and ever-expanding list of things I mustn’t live without! Susan
I love to knit socks! The first class I took, after I learned to knit, was a sock class. I love to knit them the old fashioned way, top down, on double pointed needles. It’s soothing to my soul. I love the portability of sock knitting (I have kids at home, we’re always on the go). There is one pattern I have knit several times and I think that may be linked to my addiction to fantastic hand painted sock yarns! The pattern is found in “One-Skein Wonders” and is called “Hand Paint Highlights”. It is a great, simple pattern that really brings out the beauty of a hand painted yarn. This pair is a yarn from a local independent dyer, but I’ve used it many times with many hand painted yarns. So jump in, buy the one gorgeous skein from a hand dyer and make some great, one of a kind socks!!
Maria’s favorite socks right now are the fabulous lace pair that Becky knitted, entered in the fair, won first place, and then gifted them to Maria! A gift of hand made socks says volumes about the giver, but a receiver who truly appreciates them, and knows the value of the time and love invested in them, is a treasure as well!
Summer is officially over, and we’re a week into Autumn. It’s been a busy summer here, with no signs of slowing down on the horizon.
The North Idaho Fair
was the last week of August, and we had quite a few of our knitters enter projects.
It’s always fun to go look at all the beautiful knitted, crocheted, and handspun projects in the fiber division. There are usually a couple spinners from the local spinning guild, the Log Cabin Spinners, demonstrating on their wheels and spindles as well. We love supporting the fair and spreading the love of fiber arts far and wide.
This year we had quite a few winners. Here are some of the winning entries.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Next month is
Knit a pair of socks or leg warmers and send us a picture! You can submit it on our Facebook page or just tag your photos on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) with #ADSocktober!
All entries will be voted on via social media and the winner will get a $25 gift card!
So get knitting! Entries are due by November 7, 2015. We’re looking forward to seeing all the wonderful socks and leg warmers!
The mattress stitch is arguably the best way to seam handknit projects. Whether we’re talking sweater pieces or blocks for an afghan, mattress stitch joins pieces simply and beautifully.
This tutorial is especially timely for those who’ve been participating in the Building Blocks and Building in Color groups. I know several of the ladies in the Tuesday evening Open Knitting Group are doing one or both of those and several of them haven’t done mattress stitch before. This tutorial is for you!
Shelly recently brought her Building Blocks pieces in to our Tuesday group to show off and get some help with putting everything together.
If you’ve never done mattress stitch before, take a deep breath and gather your supplies. It’s really pretty easy, and I know you’ll be pleased with the results.
For our tutorial today I’ll be piecing a baby sweater I’m making for my new son. It’s the Little Luxury Kimono. This is knit from an Aran weight wool yarn that I had in my stash. I’ve lost the ball band, so I can’t tell you what it is. But, I’d recommend knitting it in something like Malabrigo Twist if you don’t mind handwashing or Berroco Vintage if you want something easier to care for.
How To Do the Mattress Stitch on a Side Seam
1. Lay out the pieces you’ll be seaming together. Cut a piece of yarn a little longer than the pieces you’ll be seaming.
2. On the right hand piece, find the bar between the two columns of stitches on the edge of the piece. Pull the yarn through, leaving a six inch tail.
3. Find the bar between the two edge columns on the left hand piece. Pull the yarn through, loosely attaching the two pieces.
4. Continue in the same way, attaching each row and only pulling the pieces loosely together.
5. After you’ve sewn an inch or so, hold the tail of the yarn and pull the working yarn so that the two pieces come together side by side. You want them to be snug, but not tight. It should look seamless on the right side (there will be a visible seam on the wrong side). Continue with the mattress stitch until you’ve seamed the two pieces together, pulling the yarn snug after each stitch. If you accidentally pull it too tight and cause the work to pucker, just smooth it out along the seam until it lays flat and smooth.
How to do Mattress Stitch on a Shoulder Seam
You can do mattress stitch on two pieces of knitting vertically, as well as side by side. This works well for shoulder seams or for two blocks stacked on top of each other, rather than next to each other. It’s slightly different than the side by side mattress stitch and not quite as seamless, but still provides a nice seam.
1. Lay out the pieces you’ll be seaming next to each other. I like to lay the pieces out so I’ll be seaming from bottom to top rather than side to side.
When you seam pieces vertically, you seam the columns of stitches to each other, rather than the bars between columns. So you’ll need to choose whether to choose the column oriented as a V or an A. Make sure you choose the same column on each piece.
2. Choose your column on one piece. I chose a V column. Pull the yarn through.
3. Choose the corresponding column on the other piece. Pull the yarn through, pulling the two pieces snug.
There you have it! Now, you can confidently seam your handknits together.
Have you tried the mattress stitch before? Will this be your first time? Let us know how it goes!
Alpaca Yarn Company is owned and operated by Beth Lutz. She is a lifelong knitter with an eye for high quality yarns. She owned an LYS before taking over the Alpaca Yarn Company. As an alpaca owner, alpacas are her favorite fiber producing animal (a sentiment we at Alpaca Direct can totally get behind).
Alpaca is lustrous and soft – rivaling cashmere in softness, but beating it out of the water on price. It is also strong and one of the best fibers for temperature regulation.
Classic Alpaca Tweed – This yarn is a luscious 85/15 alpaca/nylon blend. It is a light worsted yarn with 110 yards per 50 gram hank. It features natural colored flecks, giving it the distinctive donegal tweed look. It is great for everything from sweaters to accessories. Though, given alpaca’s tendency to grow, we recommend seamed sweaters over seamless ones. (For more on that subject, check out our post about the two sweater construction options.)
Halo Watercolors – This yarn comes in beautiful handpainted colorways. It is a 78/22 blend of brushed Suri alpaca and nylon. The brushed Suri alpaca is what gives this yarn its mohair-like halo, without the itch of mohair. It is a laceweight yarn that comes in 50 gram hanks of 257 yards. This yarn makes beautiful scarves, shawls, and cowls.
Come in to check out the new yarns in person, or throw a hand or two in your cart on the website and give these lovely yarns a try!
We’re gearing up to start our Team Scoreboard KAL sponsored by Skacel. This KAL uses a great yarn called ‘Simplicity‘ that is very wearable and machine washable! The KAL is fun because you get to create a unique “Knitted Record” of the scores for your favorite team in a scarf that tells the story of their season! Each scarf has at least 2 colors. Every time your team scores you knit the number of rows for points your team gets. If the opposing team scores, you knit rows for their points. When the game is over you knit a purl row to call it wrap and begin again on the next game!
Be sure to pick your colors and order up your yarn so you can participate and share in the fun this football season! We’ll posting photos along the way and having fun knitting while we support our favorite teams!
Author, Teacher, and Designer Michelle “Knit Purl” Hunter is once again teaming up with skacel to create the most highly anticipated knit-along of 2015!
Slated to kick off with the beginning of the football season, the 2015 Scoreboard KAL will allow fans to capture their favorite team’s season in the form of a hand-knit SCOREBOARD cowl!
THE SCORECARD KAL PATTERN WILL BE AVAILABLE ON SEPTEMBER 3, 2015!
Let’s show some team spirit and…may your favorite team win!
Here’s the college colors by number:
and here’s the Professional Team colors by number:
By now, your knitting is probably languishing in a basket by the couch or stuffed in your knitting bag while you host barbecues or hang out at the lake. Thinking about wool when it’s 100 degrees outside is enough to make you break out in a heat rash.
But what if you want to knit? Are your hands (and your brain) are bored without something to occupy them?
Here are 5 things to knit in the summer:
No, you probably don’t need a hat now. But this is North Idaho. It will be cold enough for hats again in about two months or less. That’s eight weeks or 60 days. Hats are portable, great stash busters, and may be knit out of pretty much any fiber and weight imaginable. Most importantly, they don’t take up room on your lap. Here’s some hat patterns (Many are FREE!) to get you started.
2. Mittens/Gloves/Fingerless Mitts
Nope, you don’t need these either. Unless you work in an office where they keep the air conditioning set to the approximate temperature of a meat locker. In which case, a nice pair of fingerless mitts might just keep the circulation going in your hands enough for you to do your work. Also, these are small, portable, and won’t make you sweat while you’re working on them (unless you’re working on them outside when it’s 100 degrees. But that’s the sun making you sweat, not your knitting.) Here’s some fun Gloves and Mittens patterns to get you started.
Scarves are too long for me. I don’t have the patience and follow through necessary for scarves to be part of my knitting list anymore. Cowls, though, can be knit on straights or circulars. They’re quick and easy and useful once it’s cold again (see #1. It will get cold again, never fear.) You can make plain stockinette workaday ones, pretty lacey ones, or ones covered in cables. A cowl is a blank canvas of self expression! Knit a couple now and you’ll have choices to coordinate with your outfits when the time comes. Here’s some unique Cowl patterns to get your started.
Want to knit a sweater in the summer? Knit a baby sweater. Baby hats can be done in a couple hours. Booties? They’re tiny and cute and the definition of instant gratification for a knitting project. Soft toys for babies are also great. Put some beans in an old Easter egg and insert it into a knitted ball and you’ve got yourself a soft sided rattle for your favorite infant. Baby things are great summer knitting projects. They can be as simple or complex as you like, they’re small enough to complete quickly, and they won’t weigh you down when you’re taking your knitting on vacation. Here’s some cute Baby Knit and Crochet Patterns to get you started.
I love knitting socks. I nearly always have a pair of socks on the needles. It’s my go-to project when I don’t know what else to knit. The thin yarn and the small size make socks perfect for summer knitting. They won’t make your hands as sweaty as a thicker yarn can, and if you knit socks all summer, your feet will be happy come winter. Here’s some fun sock patterns to get you started.
Do you knit in the summer? What do you like to knit? Let us know in the comments!
Palouse Yarn Company is a fairly recent addition at Alpaca Direct. These yarns are squishably soft and come in rich jewel tone colors. My personal color palette is made up largely of jewel tones and dark, rich colors. The rich tonal colors fit perfectly in my stash.
One of the other things I love about Palouse Yarn Company is that they’re quite local. The other features we’ve done this month are small companies based in Canada and Uruguay. Palouse Yarns is based in Moscow, Idaho and headquartered at The Yarn Underground there. I enjoy being able to support local companies, and I always feel a sense of connection to them even if I’ve never met the owners in person.
Palouse Yarn Company is owned and run by Shelley Stone. She’s been a knitter practically her whole life (she says she was taught to knit as a child to keep her occupied during the long winters in Maine so she wouldn’t drive everyone crazy). More recently she took up dyeing as a side project that has now expanded to become Palouse Yarn Company, producing the wonderful yarns we get to play with and enjoy today.
All Palouse Yarns are hand dyed in small batches in Shelley’s backyard studio. She loves getting to recreate the colors that inspire her with her own fibery pursuits.
Merino Fine is a fingering weight single ply yarn. It is made from 100% Superwash Merino wool. It comes in four ounce hanks of 475 yards. This yarn makes beautiful lightweight accessories and baby items. It will beautifully display both open, lacey patterns and cables.
Merino Lace is a lace weight single ply yarn made from 100% Superwash Merino wool. It is an even finer version of Merino Fine. It comes in four ounce hanks of 825 yards. It is perfect for creating heirloom lace pieces as well as everyday scarves, shawls, and stoles.
Cashmere Squeeze is a sport weight yarn made of 75% Superwash Merino, 15% Cashmere, and 10% Silk. It comes in four ounce hanks of 400 yards. This lovely soft yarn makes beautiful lightweight garments and accessories. The softness combined with its superwash content make it a good choice for heirloom quality baby items that can also be used.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts featuring our independent dyers for our Independent’s Celebration. We’ll be featuring more of our independents throughout the year. We know how much love and care the creators of these yarns put into their work. We love to support them and hope you do, too!
I first discovered Malabrigo several years ago, before Alpaca Direct opened here. I was still pretty new to quality wools and luxury yarns at the time, having spent most of my knitting life getting cheap acrylic from big box stores. By this time there was one local yarn store (LYS) in the area, and a new one was opening. My mom (who is also a knitter) and I went to check it out. Now, as I’m sure you know, when visiting an LYS you must go around and pet all the yarns that strike your fancy.
We came upon a stack of what would turn out to be Malabrigo Lace. I instantly fell in love. I think it was the softest yarn I had ever touched up to then, and it’s still in the top five. The softness combined with the rich colors keep it in my list of favorite yarns.
My mom bought a hank and knitted me an Estonian lace scarf with it for Christmas. I still wear that scarf all these years later.
Malabrigo is a family owned company based in Uruguay. They started in a kitchen in 2005 with small batches of hand dyed yarns. They slowly grew and now distribute their yarns worldwide. They have added new yarn lines to their original Malabrigo Merino Worsted and Malabrigo Lace over the years, and long ago outgrew their first kitchen workshop.
They have maintained their commitment to producing one of a kind colorways and high quality hand dyed yarns. Their commitment extends to using local (to them) wool producers, and all of their yarns are made with wool from Uruguayan farms who allow their sheep to range freely and care for them in humane ways. For their yarns that use other fibers, they source their silk and alpaca from farms that show the same commitment to their animals and the environment as the Uruguayan sheep farms.
Their environmental commitment extends beyond their yarn sources to their manufacturing. Their superwash process now meets Oeko-Tex standards, which means the yarns are free from harmful agents like formaldehyde, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals. Since I often recommend Malabrigo yarns for baby things, knowing this makes them an even better choice in my opinion. They also use solar energy to heat the water used in their dyeing process.
Malabrigo Rios is a worsted weight superwash yarn. It comes in 100 gram hanks of 210 yards. It is a 4-ply yarn, making it great for sweaters, hats, scarves, and baby things.
Malabrigo Arroyo is a sport weight superwash yarn. It comes in 100 gram hanks of 335 yards. Like Rios, it is a 4-ply yarn, so it is great for lighter weight garments and accessories.
Malabrigo Chunky is a bulky weight yarn. It comes in 100 gram hanks of 104 yards. The bulky weight makes it great for quick knits and warm, thick sweaters, scarves, and hats.
Malabrigo Finito is a fingering weight yarn. It comes in 50 gram hanks of 200 yards, with five hanks per dye lot. It is a plied yarn suitable for fine gauge garments and accessories.
Malabrigo Lace is a lace weight yarn made from super soft baby Merino. It comes in 50 gram hanks of 470 yards. It is a single ply and makes beautiful lace scarves, stoles, and shawls.
Malabrigo Merino Worsted is a worsted weight yarn of super soft Merino. It comes in 100 gram hanks of 205 yards. It is a single, and is great for accessories that don’t see hard wear.
Malabrigo Rasta is a super bulky yarn. It comes in 100 gram hanks of 90 yards. It is a soft, slightly felted single ply, making it great for quick knits and accessories.
Malabrigo Silkpaca is a lace weight yarn spun from a 70/30 alpaca/silk blend. It comes in 50 gram hanks of 420 yards. It makes beautiful lace shawls, scarves, and stoles.
Malabrigo Silky Merino is a DK weight yarn spun from a 50/50 silk/baby Merino blend. It is a single ply that comes in 50 gram hanks of 150 yards. It is great for lightweight but warm accessories.
Malabrigo Sock is a fingering weight yarn made from 100% superwash Merino. It comes in 100 gram hanks of 440 yards. It is great for socks as well as other lightweight garments, accessories, and baby things.
Malabrigo Twist is an Aran weight yarn made from 100% Merino wool. It comes in 100 gram hanks of 150 yards. It is a plied yarn, making it great for sweaters, hats, and other accessories.
All Malabrigo yarns (except Silkpaca) feature the same super soft Merino wool for which Malabrigo is known. All yarns come in the full spectrum of colorways offered by Malabrigo. They are hand dyed in small batches of rich jewel tones and one of a kind colorways.
In addition to the lines of Malabrigo yarns, we also carry Malabrigo Nube, Malabrigo’s line of spinning fiber. Using the same super soft Merino as the yarns, these braids are hand dyed in the same colorways, too. Hand spinners will enjoy the rich colors as well as the soft Merino wool while creating their own unique yarns.
All Malabrigo yarns are on sale July 24 – July 30.