A skein of Baby Alpaca Brush
Baby Alpaca Brush knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Plymouth Baby Alpaca Brush

First Impressions
Baby Alpaca Brush has a built-in soundtrack that goes something like this. Every time someone picks it up, they let out a delighted "ooooooooh!"

This unusual yarn has the plush softness of angora and the cozy blur of mohair, yet it contains not a trace of either fiber.

Instead, it consists primarily of four plies of alpaca (taken from the first shearing) that have been blended with a small amount of acrylic, spun into one strand that is then brushed to a dreamy cloudlike texture.

We see a lot of brushed mohairs on the market, but very few brushed alpacas (the only other one I've seen comes from the Rare Yarns Company). It's an intriguing concept that has great appeal for those who like the aesthetic of brushed mohair but can't tolerate the fiber's often brassy overtone.

Baby Alpaca Brush was spun in Peru and is distributed in the U.S. by Plymouth Yarn under the Indiecita Alpaca brand. For this review, I used the color Herb (1477).

Knitting Up
Because of its brushed nature, Baby Alpaca Brush does require a little more care and feeding than your standard yarn while knitting. The brushed fibers have a tendency to take on a life of their own, getting caught in stitches (or left behind) where they don't belong.

The biggest problems come when you fight the fuzz, trying to make it do something it doesn't want to do. It helps to make slightly broader gestures as you wrap the yarn around the needle and form your stitches to make sure you have the full cooperation of every bit of fiber in the yarn.

Other than that, however, the yarn knit up quickly and easily. The unevenness of the fuzz gave my stitches a faintly uneven look that was mostly concealed by the halo of the fibers.

Blocking / Washing
Baby Alpaca Brush took to its bath with great delight, quickly absorbing the water and relaxing into a fluid and seemingly tissue-thin fabric. There was no bleeding in the water, nor could I detect any color fading in the dried swatches.

My swatches resumed their perfect square shape with a minimal amount of blocking, and they quickly dried. I noticed that the swatches had expanded from a prewashed gauge of 4 stitches per inch to a finished gauge of 3 1/2 stitches per inch—a significant expansion you must keep in mind when planning your garment.

(Note that the yarn's recommended gauge is 3 1/2 stitches per inch, so if your initial gauge comes out to 4 stitches per inch using US 9 needles, you can simply complete your garment, wash it in warm water, as I did, and presto, you'll have met the yarn's recommended gauge!)

Despite its soft and delicate demeanor, Baby Alpaca Brush can endure quite a bit of thrashing before showing signs of wear. As an added bonus, with every minute of thrashing, my swatches became softer and softer.

The most significant sign of wear was a simple flattening of the surface fuzz. Washing the swatches again perked up the surface fibers into almost new condition.

As the wear increased, the swatches began to develop large, vaguely defined areas of loose fiber (too vague to be called pills, necessarily). These were difficult to pull off without disturbing the neighboring fibers.

I suspect a Baby Alpaca Brush garment might be a good candidate for a battery-powered sweater shaver device (found at most nationwide drugstore chains).

Baby Alpaca Brush has several things going for it. The wispy cloudlike appearance is backed by a plush, supersoft alpaca fiber that keeps you very warm without being overpowering. While not as rugged as your standard two-ply unbrushed wool, it is far more durable than you'd think. And at $6 per 110-yard ball, the price is definitely right.

I can see this yarn performing beautifully in any type of sweater, from a simple stockinette design to a more elaborate one with cables and ribbing. (Keep in mind that alpaca has less fiber memory than wool, so your ribbing may lose its elasticity over time.) A medium-sized women's sweater with minimal embellishment will run you 10 skeins, or $60. For prime alpaca fiber, that's a bargain.

More than for an adult sweater, however, I see Baby Alpaca Brush being used for a special baby blanket or layette. It's not machine-washable, but most cherished heirlooms deserve to be handwashed anyway.

 Talk about this yarn in our forums