Saturday, November 10, 2012

Understanding Yarn Weights

Understanding Yarn Weights

There are a few types of yarn descriptions in use today:
·        North American or The Standard Yarn Weight System
·        Tex
·        Metric or English Worsted
North American yarn descriptions are used the most and though they are approximate and less precise than the other two systems, they tend to be more comfortable to use for many involved in the wool crafts.

The numbers will vary somewhat depending on the type of fiber used to make the yarn. The yarn itself may be 2 or more strands also called plies.
The photos below show what we mean by "types" of fibers used. The heavier the fiber the heavier the yarn and it may NOT look to your eye to be a certain weight, but will calculate to the number of yards per pound.

The Standard Yarn Weight System
Categories of yarn, wraps per inch or WPI, gauge ranges, and recommended needle and hook sizes will give you general starting place.

Remember: Many manufacturers have their own standard weights of yarn.
Please note: that a gauge range is difficult to determine, and following the gauge stated in your pattern is the best way to insure success. For instance- One knitter almost always goes down 2 needle sizes from the suggested in the pattern. She is a loose knitter and knows 2 sizes smaller is a good starting point. Learning to gauge saves time and head aches.

A Side note: Steel crochet hooks are sized differently from regular crochet hooks—the higher the number, the smaller the hook, which is the reverse of regular hook sizes.

Chunky Is heavier than Bulky, Can be roving
Knitting = 6–11 stitches per 4 inches on an 8 mm or 11 US needle or larger
Crochet = 5 -9 stitches per inch on an 9 mm or M13 US needle or larger

Bulky Weight Less than 8 wraps per inch - 400 to 700 yards per pound
Knitting = 12- 15 stitches per 4 inches on an 5.5 - 8 mm or 9 - 11 US needle
Crochet = 8-11 stitches per inch on an 6.5— 9 mm or K–10 1/2 to M–13 US needle

Aran Weight 6 to 10 wraps per inch - 700 to 1000 yards per pound
Knitting = 16-20 stitches per 4 inches on an 4.5 - 5.5 mm or 7- 9 US needle
Crochet = 11 - 14 stitches per inch on an 5.5 - 6.5 mm or I–9 to K–10 1/2 US needle

Worsted Weight: 10 to 12 wraps per inch - 900 to 1100 yards per pound;
Knitting = 16-20 stitches per 4 inches on an 4.5 - 5.5 mm or 7 - 9 US needle
Crochet = 12 -17 stitches per inch on an 5.5 - 6.5 mm or I–9 to K–10 1/2 US needle

Double Knitting (DK): 12 to 18 wraps per inch - 1000 to 1400 yards per pound;
Knitting = 21 -24 stitches per 4 inches on an 3.75 - 4.5 mm or 5- 7 US needle
Crochet = 11 - 14 stitches per inch on an 4.5- 5.5 mm or 7 to I–9 US needle

Sport Weight: 18 to 24 wraps per inch - 1300 to 1800 yards per pound
Knitting = 23 -26 stitches per 4 inches on an 3.25 - 3.75 mm or 3 - 5 US needle
Crochet = 16 - 20 stitches per inch on an 3.5 - 4.5 mm or E4 - 7 US needle

Fingering:24 to 30 wraps per inch - 1800 to 2400 yards per pound
Knitting = 27 -32 stitches per 4 inches on an 2.25 - 3.25 mm or 1 -3 US needle
Crochet = 21 - 32 stitches per inch on an 2.25 - 3.5 mm or B1- E4 US needle

Baby:30 to 36 wraps per inch - 2400 to 3000 yards per pound;

Lace Weight:36 to 40 wraps per inch - 3000 to 6000 yards per pound
Lace weight yarns are most often knitted or crocheted on larger needles/ hooks to create the lacy patterns.

Cobweb:40 or more wraps per inch - 6000 or more yards per pound; and

Zephyr weight yarn is finer than Cobweb
You will find spinning weights are a bit different due to the many weights

Wraps Per Inch
What is it and how do you come up with a number?
  • Get yourself a ruler, or buy a WPI measure if you want
  • Take your yarn and wrap the yarn around ruler for 2 inches
  • DO NOT wrap too tightly or too loosely- just a nice even wrap
  • Slide the yarn strands so they are touching- not overlapping
  • Count the number of wraps
  • Divide that number by 2
  • This is your wraps per inch!
Worsted Weight Yarn
Worsted wool is nothing to do with worsted weight yarn. Worsted wool is wool which is carded and then combed so that all the fibers are aligned in a parallel manner. Woolen measure or also called Yorkshire wool is carded only, and then spun to create a loftier yarn. Pencil roving that so many hand spinners use and some knitters with the "cakes" are actually a woolen processed "pre-yarn". Worsted wool is usually very fine and used for suits and fine fabric, many weavers use a worsted yarn. Hand knitting yarn is usually a woolen type yarn or possibly a semi worsted yarn.Occasionally, manufacturers will specify "worsted" or "woolen" which means the method in which the fiber was spun, not the weight of the yarn. Most do not!

Thank you to Spinderella’s Fiber Mill for the above information

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preparing your Fleece - From Skin to Skein

The most successful alpaca breeders are those who have developed a formal marketing program for their livestock.  When it comes to fiber produce by their livestock each year, however, few breeders have any type of marketing program. The function of the alpaca is the fiber, and most bypass this crucial aspect of the alpaca.  Some send part or their entire annual clip to AFCNA to support the national cooperative, which, of course, a very important use.  However, there are many ways for a farm to profit directly from its fleece production that most breeders seem to ignore.  Income from fiber sales could contribute significantly to a farm’s profitability.  You work hard to improve the fiber produced by your alpacas; it’s time to take advantage of what that offers to your farm in terms of income and sustainability.

First, you need to create a good product. 


Know your product.  Not alpacas are as soft as cashmere…some are Brillo Pads! 

Have your fleece tested.  You need to know the representative micron value of each fleece, the uniformity and comfort value.  This will tell you the most suitable end use for your fleece.  Yocom-McColl has an excellent, standardized testing method. If you obtained an OFDA report, you can use the annual growth chart to check for stress points – areas along a fiber’s length where stress may have caused a weak point that could result in breakage during processing.

A very fine (low micron) fleece with good uniformity and a high comfort value can be used for products designed to be worn close to the skin, such as sweaters or lingerie.  A moderately fine fleece may be best suited for products such as hats, gloves, or mittens, which will be worn on the head or hands where the skin is less sensitive.  It may also be blended with coarser fleece to add a degree of luxury to sock yarn without sacrificing the durability of the coarser fleece.

High micron (strong or adult) fleeces in the low to mid-30’s micron ranges are suitable for socks or other garments that will receive heavy wear and thus require greater tensile strength for durability.  Very high micron (coarse) fleeces can be used for blankets or felting and needle craft projects such as rug yarn.  Regardless of micron, all clean alpaca fiber is usable, so take the time to gather and market those seconds and thirds.  As long as fiber is clean and unstained, and of spinnable or feltable length, it is a valuable commodity that can add to the bottom line of your farm enterprise.


Pasture Management.  The first step to producing marketable fleeces is to maintain your pasture and barn facilities so that the alpaca are not exposed to excessive vegetable matter.  Setting up feeding stations to prevent waste hay from falling onto the backs or embedding itself in the neck fiber of your animals will help significantly.  Alpacas love to burrow deep inside their hay to find the choicest morsels.  If you can keep their heads above the hay mass, it will force them to eat what is available at the top, thus saving hay and keeping their neck fiber free of waste.  Keep your pastures and yarn areas mowed so that grasses and weeds do not have a chance to set seed.  Not only will this keep your forage source growing over a longer period of time, but it will prevent alpacas from being exposed to seed heads and weeds while grazing.  Be particularly careful to eliminate burrs and other weeks that produce clinging seeds which become entangled in your alpacas’ fiber and are very difficult to remove.

Shearing to simplify skirting

Whether you do your own shearing or use a professional shearer, it helps to perform that shearing task so that fleeces are shorn in stages, with the blanket shorn and collected first, separately from the belly, brisket, legs and neck fiber.  Please each shorn section in a separate bag.  This will facilitate the skirting process, since you will have already segregated based on your areas of micron divergence.

If you hand shear, you will be able to assess each handful or “clip strip” before placing it in its appropriate container.  It’s also very easy to shake out debris and dirt as you work, thereby simplifying the skirting process.

Clean your fleeces

A clean, well skirted fleece will bring significantly more than a stained or dirty “raw” fleece.  Educate your tactile senses and employ them in conjunction with your visual sense to distinguish between prime fibers and the secondary fibers found around the edges of the blanket fleece.  Remove the coarser fibers and set them aside for sale seconds.  Unless you are skirting for a specific hand-spinning client who prefers random color shifts, you should remove any color contamination (spots or areas where color changes occur in patterned alpacas) and set those fibers aside with others of like color and quality.  Be sure to remove all dung tags.  Dirty or stained fibers can be set aside for washing and use as stuffing.  Pick or shake out and discard sand, mud clumps, seed heads, burrs, and other vegetable material.  If there are areas that are clumped with burrs, try Cowboy Magic or similar equine mane and tail products to help you to remove them. 

Once you have skirted your fleece, place it in a clear plastic bag or storage box so you can locate it quickly.  It is very helpful to write the name of the animal and grade on the bag.  If you wish, you can combine fleeces of a single color in the same container, as long as all fleeces included fall within a comparable 2-3 average micron range.  Poke holes in the bags so the fiber can breathe and release excess moisture.

Sort  Gather the seconds and odd-color bits and combine them in like groups for marketing to those seeking those specific qualities.  In small quantities, you can use Zip-Lok freezer bags to keep those items collected and clean.

Add Value  If you want to go beyond the basics, you can add value to your fiber production by having some of it processed.  Some breeders have learned to car and spin, and make their own handspun yarns for sale.  There are also many small mills available where you can have fleeces washed, cared or combed and turned into roving, batt, top, or felted sheets for sale to hand spinners, crafters and weavers. Many mills can spin, ply and dye your fiber so that it is retail-ready yarn or felt.  Obviously, the expense of processing will increase the price you must ask to recoup your investment and make a profit, but having value-added product can broaden your marketing base. 

To get money out, you must put time and some money in.  You can get out more than double what you put in if you create a quality product.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Where Does All That Baby Alpaca Fiber Come From?

When I was first getting into alpacas, I kept on seeing tags on almost every article of clothing as being "Made from Baby Alpaca".  I was amazed at how many cria there must be in the world to produce this one time supply of fleece and what did they do with all of the adult alpacas?  Well, the short answer is, any alpaca can grow Baby Alpaca fleece.

"Baby alpaca" is not used as an adjective for a young cria in the textile world, it refers to the fineness of the fleece an alpaca - even if that alpaca is10 years old.

Fiber Classification: 

Royal Alpaca - finer than 18 microns 
Super Fine / Baby Alpaca - finer than 20 microns
Fine - finer than 25 micron
Medium - under 30 micron
Strong - 30 microns and greater

Mixed Pieces - short fibers, coarser than 32 microns - used for felting 

* A micron is a measurement of length equal to one millionth of a meter and used to measure the width of a single alpaca fiber to determine its fineness / softness. Most human hair is at least 100 microns, 5 times thicker than alpaca fiber.

Hopefully this helps anyone wondering about this topic as I did years ago.

Feel free to contact us with any quesitons.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Alpaca Pneumonia

The trick about alpacas is that they are very stoic - they can look fine and then they can just go downhill quickly and die.  It can be extremely frustrating because you do not know anything is wrong until something is really wrong.

Pneumonia can be lethal to alpacas.  As soon as it is recognized, it needs to be treated immediately. Pneumonia settles in fast and may or may not cause a fever. Preemies are common in late term females and the thought is the depletion of oxygen (from the nose & lungs being affected) propels her into premature labor. Older females seem to be hit the hardest and treatment should continue on an individual basis until all signs of cough, sneeze, fever, snotty nose, is gone.

Our protocol is 3cc of Nuflor per 100lbs every other day up to 5 times. Give banamine for any who seemed uncomfortable or feverish. Banamine can cause ulcers but use it to prevent discomfort, lessening fever and going off feed.

Antibiotics for Alpacas with Pneumonia

  • Naxcel, Excenel (Ceftiofur) – commonly used to treat neonatal sepsis, upper respiratory infection, pneumonia, retained placenta and uterine infections. Naxcel can be used IV or SC. If used IV, must be given BID. With severe infections and SC usage, can also use BID. Excenel has the same parent drug as Naxcel, just a different carrier that allows it to be kept at room temperature, with a long expiration date, it should be given SC. Concentration for both is 50 mg/mL.

Dose:  1 – 2 mg/lb, SC, IV, SID to BID (0.5 – 1.0 mL/25 lbs, 2 – 4 mL/100 lbs)

  • Nuflor (Florfenicol) – commonly used to treat upper respiratory infection, pneumonia, and tooth root infections in camelids. It is a broad spectrum antibiotic that is labeled to treat respiratory infections in cattle and is given every other day (EOD). Based on preliminary information from a study done at OSU in alpacas, the best dosing regimen in alpacas is daily dosing and the IM route. Due to how the drug is metabolized (by the liver), it should not be given to young crias (less than 3 months old). Contraindicated to use with any other antibiotics. Can occasionally cause them to lose their appetite.

Dose:  9 mg/lb, IM or SC SID (1 mL/35 lbs, 3 mL/100 lbs)

  • Baytril 100 (Enrofloxacin) – commonly used to treat neonatal sepsis, upper respiratory infection, pneumonia, and uterine infections in camelids. It is labeled for treatment of respiratory disease in beef cattle. It is considered to be a “big gun” and should not used as a first choice antibiotic. In puppies (< 8 months), use of this drug is associated with cartilage damage in joints, it is unknown if the same is true for camelid crias. Use of this drug in cats has been associated with blindness with high doses and long term use; the same has been reported in a Guanaco after 26 days of therapy. Research has looked at oral absorption of this drug in camelids using double the injectable dose. There is absorption at 4.5 mg/lb, PO, SID but it is still preferred to give Baytril either SC or IV. It is considered to be a broad spectrum antibiotic, but does not work against Streptococci, Enterococci, Actinomyces, Pseudomonas bacteria or anaerobic infections.

Dose:  2.3 mg/lb, SC, IV, SID to BID (IV route) (0.6 mL/25 lbs, 2.3 mL/100 lbs)

Anti-inflammatory, Analgesics (pain management)

  • Banamine (Flunixin meglumine) – this is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain, inflammation and endotoxemia (toxins in the blood from bacterial infections). It does not have properties to directly cause calmness, except as what would be expected by the relief of pain. If used for long term, it may lead to ulcers in the third compartment. It should also be used with caution in dehydrated camelids as it can damage the kidneys. In dehydrated animals, use one-half dose until the animal is fully hydrated. Depending on the reason it is being used, once a day seems to clinically be adequate. If the animal becomes painful again after 12 hours, an additional dose can be given for short term use. To avoid severe side effects it is best if the animal is fully hydrated (possibly on IV fluids). It is not effective if used orally.
         Dose:  0.23 mg/lb – 0.5 mg/lb, IV, IM, SC, SID to BID (0.5 – 1 mL/100 lbs)