Fiber Friday – Alpaca

As a crafter, the large variety of fiber available to us is vast. We have a selection of fibers ranging from plants and animals to man-made fibers. With such a variation of choices, it can be difficult to decide what to knit with, spin from or felt together.

One of my personal favorite fibers is alpaca.

This lovely fiber is known to be luxurious and butter-soft with a beautiful drape and natural sheen.

So today, for Fiber Friday, we celebrate the alpaca.

A group of Alpaca pause to look at the camera while taking their morning feeding

A group of Alpaca pause to look at the camera while taking their morning feeding

Alpaca is an amazing fiber with many qualities that makes it a much sought after product for knitting, crochet, spinning, felting and weaving.

Alpaca is a breathable and lightweight fiber. At the same time, it is considered to be three times more insulating than sheep’s wool with only 1/3 of the weight.

Alpaca do not produce lanolin, so their fiber is hypoallergenic or low allergenic. It is naturally a stretchy and elastic fiber and creates very little static electricity.

The fabric it produces is wrinkle resistant, water repellant and odor resistant, which makes it an excellent choice for travelers.

I personally own a pair of alpaca leggings. I wear them often when I am in the woods or hiking and I can honestly say they are lightweight, fold up into a tiny little parcel, keep me warm and dry without overheating and are the most comfortable leggings I have ever owned.

And in case I get too close to the campfire, alpaca fiber is also flame resistant!

Alpaca is also considered one of the strongest fibers from a mammal. In fact, there is documented evidence that Incans braided together alpaca and llama fibers with cotton and indigenous plant reeds in order to produce rope. This rope was then used to make bridges to span canyons in the Peruvian Andes.¹

There are two basic breeds of alpaca: Huacayas and Suri.

A curious look from a younger alpaca

A curious look from a younger alpaca

Huacaya alpaca fiber can be compared to merino wool in appearance. It has a beautiful crimp, which means that it is naturally wavy. Because of this crimp, it produces a slightly elastic fiber. However, even with this wavy texture, it can be softer than cashmere to the touch. Huacaya alpaca fiber is excellent for fabrics, yarn and felting.

When a Huacaya alpaca is in full fleece, they take on a fluffy appearance. Fiber producers find their fleece easier to handle than suri alpaca, as it is more similar to sheep’s wool.

Huacaya alpacas compose about 80% of North American herds.

Suri alpaca, on the other hand, takes on an appearance more similar to that of angora goat or silk. It is softer, finer and more lustrous.

Unlike the crimp you see in Huacaya alpaca fiber, the Suri alpaca grows longer fiber and straight down in long luxurious locks or even ringlets. This type of fiber produces fabric and garments with wonderful drape.

Suri alpaca fiber was once reserved only for royalty and even to this day only accounts for 20% of North American herds. Because of the limited amounts available, it is often blended with other fibers to create yarns and fabric.

Both breeds of alpaca are generally first sheared at 12-18 months of age. Alpaca farmers take wonderful care of their animals and alpacas are NOT slaughtered or abused during shearing.

An alpaca can grow between 3-6 inches of staple during one year of growth. An animal can produce up to 12 pounds of fiber every year.

And there are 22 recognized shades of natural colors. However, alpaca fiber is also known to be colored with both chemical and plant-based dyes, which hold very well.

Alpacas are part of the camelid family.

Brown alpaca with cria

A brown alpaca with her cria

They are a modified ruminant, meaning that they gather plant-based nutrients from fermenting their food prior to digestion. Similar to cows, they chew their cud to help process the nutritional requirements from plants. They also have a three-compartment stomach. Alpacas lack upper incisor (front) teeth. Instead, they have bottom teeth and a hard upper palate along with molars that they use to chew tender grasses and brush.

They have soft padded feet with no hooves. Because of this, they can leave even the most delicate of terrain undamaged by their movements.

Alpaca have a very strong herd instinct and are a social animal. They do best in a herd or with other animals.

They are a clean animal. In fact, in a herd, they will share a communal dung pile. This makes clean up of their space easy and efficient. Alpacas are gentle and affectionate. They rarely kick or spit and are considered good with children and other animals such as cats.

Alpacas produce only one offspring per year, known as a cria. I have been lucky enough to visit a number of alpaca farms for their annual cria viewing. I cannot think of many baby animals as precious, cute and fluffy as a baby alpaca!

Intelligent creatures, they are easy to train. It takes little time to halter train or to perform basic commands – important for nail clipping and shearing.

With all of these amazing qualities, it is no wonder that alpaca fiber is highly valued as a fiber artist. So, please enjoy our collection for Fiber Friday celebrating the alpaca.

One of the incredible things about supporting handmade, handcrafted, hand grown items is, in this case, knowing exactly which alpaca your fiber or yarn came from – such as Arwin, Dilly or Carmella!

We have also collected our favorite alpaca haircuts in this previous blog post.

1. Alpaca Roving from Mojito

Alpaca Roving from Mojito

2. 4 Ply Handspun Alpaca Yarn

4 Ply Handspun Alpaca Yarn

3. Raw Suri Alpaca Locks Bay Black

Raw Suri Alpaca Locks Bay Black

4. Undyed Alpaca Yarn

Undyed Alpaca Yarn

5. Hand Carded 100% Alpaca Batt

Hand Carded 100% Alpaca Batt

6. Hand Spun Rose Grey Suri Alpaca 2 Ply

Hand Spun Rose Grey Suri Alpaca 2 Ply

7. Drop Spindle Kit with Alpaca Roving

Drop Spindle Kit with Alpaca Roving

8. Superfine Alpaca Yarn, Undyed

Superfine Alpaca Yarn, Undyed

9. Beige Suri Alpaca Locks from Lucy

Beige Suri Alpaca Locks from Lucy

10. Suri Alpaca Yarn

Suri Alpaca Yarn

11. White Suri Alpaca Locks from Dilly

White Suri Alpaca Locks from Dilly

12. Alpaca Yarn – White Blend

Alpaca Yarn - White Blend

13. Raw, White Alpaca Fiber from Arwin

Raw, White Alpaca Fiber from Arwin

14. Super-Sized Skein of Royal Baby Alpaca Yarn Bulky Weight

Super-Sized Skein of Royal Baby Alpaca Yarn Bulky Weight

15. Royal Baby Alpaca Fiber from Carmella

Royal Baby Alpaca Fiber from Carmella

We hope you enjoy our collection for Fiber Friday. If you would like to see a collection curated for a particular color or theme, please let us know! You can contact us through our Contact page – we would love to hear from you.

*Please note that we do not receive any compensation for choosing the items we do for our treasuries. We simply love the artistry or uniqueness of the items we select. However, we do receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any of the items from Etsy through the Etsy Affiliate Program. It does not affect the price you pay in any way and allows us to continue running this website from a small commission we receive.

References:

  1. Wilford, B. J. (2007, May 08). Inca Leapt Canyons With Fiber Bridges – The Tech. Retrieved November 18, 2016, from http://tech.mit.edu/V127/N24/bridges.html

Wacky Wednesday – The Day of the Button

Today’s Wacky Wednesday collection celebrates Button Day!

A button. A simple, humble button. That is what we celebrate on the Day of the Button.

The National Button Society, founded in 1938, designated November 16th to be the Day of the Button. From its inception, the National Button Society has focused on the preservation and study of garment buttons.

From its inception, the National Button Society has focused on the preservation and study of garment buttons. And rightfully so!

Buttons are a humble little item. They are both practical and useful as well as decorative and ornamental. As fiber artists, the selection of buttons for our hand-crafted items becomes an important decision. The “right button” can enhance a cable, brighten a color, or secure a shawl. Knitting, crochet, weaving, felting and any other craft that creates clothing, accessories or decorative items uses buttons in some way.

A button is a small fastener used in today’s age in clothing and accessories.

However, a button can also be used for decorative and ornamental purposes.

Ian McNeil is his book, An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology, tells us, “the button, in fact, was originally used more as an ornament than as a fastening, the earliest known being found at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley. It is made of a curved shell and about 5000 years old.”¹

Buttons then resurfaced in Germany during the 13th century, as functional fasteners for clothing. The popularity has increased and expanded to encircle the globe.

In 1938 when the National Button Society was created, button collecting then also became recognized as a hobby. Since then, the collection of buttons has encaptured a wide array of people; from sewing enthusiasts and fiber artists to serious antique collectors.

For example, one of the most expensive buttons recently sold was in 2015 for $1025.00 on eBay. It was a collectible piece; a 23mm Confederate Navy button from a Civil War coat.

Nowadays, we have the luxury of a wide range of materials with which buttons are made. We can select an organic material, such as shells, wood or pebbles. We could choose from handcrafted materials such as polymer clay, ceramic or metal. We can take our pick of mass-produced buttons, using today’s technology of plastics and resins.

With so many options, it is easy to understand why your selection of the perfect button can take time!

1. Button Cookie Cutter by SweetSavannaCookies

Button Cookie Cutter

2. Rusty Tin Star Buttons by FiddlestixDesign

Rusty Tin Star Buttons

3. Rustic Texture Sterling Silver Button by CathyDailey

Rustic Texture Sterling Silver Button

4. Aqua Rectangle Ceramic Buttons by Sheppardhandmade

Aqua Rectangle Ceramic Buttons

5. Beach Pebble Buttons by MixedCraftGoods

Beach Pebble Buttons

6. Handmade Primitive Sheep Buttons by MyCountryDreamShop

Handmade Primitive Sheep Polymer Buttons

7. Handmade Ceramic Sheep Buttons by BeadFreaky

Handmade Ceramic Sheep Buttons

8. Ivy Leaf Button by StoneLiliesJewellery

Ivy Leaf Buttons

9. Wood Tree Buttons by WoodenHeartButtons

Wood Tree Buttons

10. Sea Foam Green Sea Glass Buttons by IrisDesignSeaglass

Sea Glass Buttons

11. Pink and Black Tree Handmade Buttons by Buttonsbyrobin

Handmade Tree Buttons

12. Handmade Polymer Clay Bitsy Bees Buttons by Digitsdesigns

Handmade Polymer Clay Bitsy Bees Buttons

We hope you enjoy our collection for Wacky Wednesday. If you would like to see a collection curated for a particular color or theme, please let us know! You can contact us through our Contact page – we would love to hear from you.

*Please note that we do not receive any compensation for choosing the items we do for our treasuries. We simply love the artistry or uniqueness of the items we select. However, we do receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any of the items from Etsy through the Etsy Affiliate Program. It does not affect the price you pay in any way and allows us to continue running this website from a small commission we receive.

References:

  1. McNeil, Ian (1990). An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology. Taylor & Francis. 852. ISBN 0-415-01306-2.

Orange – An Etsy Treasury for Monochrome Monday

One of our favorite parts of the older Etsy website was the ability to create Treasuries.

An Etsy Treasury used to be a platform to personally choose and curate a collection of Etsy items. The collection could be created with any type of criteria. Color, theme, price, category, anything to create your very own Treasury.

Unfortunately, Etsy decided to discontinue the Treasury.

We used to create three dedicated Treasuries a week: Monochrome Mondays, Wacky Wednesdays and Fiber Fridays.

Because we enjoyed searching through so many amazing items and coming up with each collection, we decided to do it again. But this time, on our own website!

So every week, we will be combing through Etsy listings to create a collection for you with our favorite picks of the day.

Monochrome Monday will be chosen based on a color. The key focus will be on items fo fiber arts, but will include other unique items.

Wacky Wednesday will be curated based on a wacky theme. For example, we search Etsy for the zaniest pink flamingoes.

And Fiber Friday is all about the fluff: yarn, fleece, roving, fiber!

So today, welcome to Monochrome Monday!

Today’s Monochrome Monday is all about the color orange.

Orange is the only color on the color wheel that was named after an object; the orange fruit. Orange is a combination of red and yellow. The color itself signifies creativity, cheerfulness, and optimism.

The color orange helps to stimulate your appetite. Variations of orange, such a coral or terracotta are often used in restaurants for exactly that reason.

Orange is also stimulating for communication. As a warm and inviting color, orange helps to enhance two-way conversation and social interactions.

Unfortunately, orange is often the most overlooked color. So with that in mind, here are our top 12 Etsy picks that show the true beauty of orange!

1. Orange Yarn Bowl

Orange Yarn Bowl

2. Hand Dyed Yarn in Orange, Cream and Brown

Hand Dyed Yarn in Orange, Cream and Brown

3. Drop Spindle

Polymer Drop Spindle

4. Coral Sheep Locks

Coral Sheep Locks

5. Circular Needle Case

Circular Needle Case

6. Vintage Feather Trim

Vintage Feather Trim

7. Infinity Scarf Crochet Pattern

Infinity Scarf Crochet Pattern

8. Peelable Orange Crochet Pattern

Peelable Orange Crochet Pattern

9. Japanese Koi Appliqué

Japanese Koi Appliqué

10. 10 Large Handmade Paper Beads

10 Large Handmade Paper Beads

11. Fox Fabric Covered Buttons

Fox Fabric Covered Buttons

12. Honey Bee Topaz Necklace

Honey Bee Topaz Necklace

We hope you enjoy our collection for our first Monochrome Monday. If you would like to see a collection curated for a particular color or theme, please let us know! You can contact us through our Contact page – we would love to hear from you.

Please note that we do not receive any compensation for choosing the items we do for our treasuries. We simply love the artistry or uniqueness of the items we select. However, we do receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any of the items from Etsy through the Etsy Affiliate Program. It does not affect the price you pay in any way and allows us to continue running this website from a small commission we receive.

Would you like to win $50 worth of goodies?

Who wouldn’t, am I right?!

I am having a contest at Crimson Orchid Designs with the grand prize being a $50 gift certificate to spend in our shop.

You can use it for stitch markers, row counter bracelets, jewelry or anything else you may find.

Here are the details:

TO ENTER:
1. Post a picture on our Facebook page or Instagram page of your Crimson Orchid Designs accessories in use on the needles or project.
2. Tag it with #codgoodies.

For each photo you post, you will receive one entry. The winner will be drawn at random on November 25th, 2016 at 10:00pm MST (plenty of time to be able to use it for any upcoming holiday purchases if you wish).

Enter as many times as you want and show off your unique Crimson Orchid Designs accessories.

I cannot wait to see your photos!

23 Spooky (and Cute) Hallowe’en Items

Hallowe’en is a time of exploring the dark, mystical side of things. A time for ghouls, goblins and ghosts. Dressing up in costumes as we know it today is actually a custom that goes back to medieval times. It is thought to be a combination of a variety of customs, that has evolved into what we now know as Hallowe’en.

In that spirit, we found the cutest, ghouliest Hallowe’en knitted and crocheted items on Instagram!

1. Alien Autopsy

A photo posted by Andi (@andresueknits) on

 

2. Monster Mash

A photo posted by The Concho Purl (@conchopurl) on

 

3. Zombie Coffee Cozy

 

4. Jack O’ Lantern Hat

 

5. Vampire Bat

A photo posted by Andi (@andresueknits) on

 

6. Creepy Hands

A photo posted by Wildethyme Art (@wildethyme) on

 

7. Black Bat

 

8. Fligg Flagg Bat Cowl

 

9. Pumpkin and the Patch

A photo posted by Suzanne (@suzymarieknits) on

 

10. Princess Leia

A photo posted by Kirstie Moppett (@mirstymoo) on

 

11. Free Form Crocheted ET

A photo posted by Crochetverse (@crochetverse) on

 

12. Scary Jack O’ Lantern

A photo posted by Just Pootling (@just_pootling) on

 

13. Glitter Vampire Bat and Ghost

A photo posted by Hope (@hope2getitdone) on

 

14. Pumpkin Kitten

A photo posted by Natalia (@yorbamonster) on

 

15. Spider Web

 

16. Voodoo Zombie

A photo posted by Moni M. (@lemoncake_designs) on

 

17. Felted Monsters and Bride of Frankenstein

 

18. Pumpkin Candy Jars

 

19. Frankenstein

A photo posted by Fay (@stitchbyfay) on

 

20. Pumpkins, Ghosts and Candy Corn

A photo posted by Kate (@tocraftahome) on

 

21. Who Carroted Roger Rabbit?

 

22. Brains!

A photo posted by Monika Weber (@monigurumi) on

 

23. Spooky Owl

What is a Stitch Marker?

What is a stitch marker? How are they used for when knitting or crocheting? This is an excellent question that can confuse a new knitter or crocheter. Many patterns call for the use of stitch markers and a trip to your local yarn store or craft shop will show you a wide array of options. There are a number of different types of stitch markers available to you. As well, they can be used in a variety of different ways.

What is a stitch marker?

Quite simply, a stitch marker is an item used to mark a stitch or place in your knitting or crochet. Stitch markers can be hand made, store bought or I have even used scraps of yarn or a hair elastic in a pinch. They can be a solid ring, removable, locking, hanging, snug or any other number of varieties.

Why is a stitch marker used?

Marking a certain number of stitches

Stitch markers are used to signify a place in your knitting or crochet. They can be used to mark a certain amount of stitches; this is an excellent “knitting hack” if you are working long counts of stitches.

If you are working a row of 100 stitches, for example, you can easily place a stitch marker every 2o stitches. This way you can easily keep count and recognize any errors in stitch count quickly and more easily.

Mark the beginning of a round

Stitch markers can also be used to mark the beginning of a round when knitting or crocheting in a circular method.

When knitting or crocheting in the round, it can be difficult to tell where a new round begins. Adding a stitch marker at this point allows you to easily identify this point in your project.

Marking a place of importance

Another use of stitch markers is to signify a place to create a particular stitch or instruction. For example, you can place a stitch marker immediately before an increase or decrease to provide yourself a visual cue to complete that part of the pattern.

How is a stitch marker identified in a pattern?

PM is the abbreviation for “place marker”. You would knit or crochet up to this point in the pattern, add the stitch marker and then continue in the established pattern.

Sometimes you may also see the abbreviation SM. This stands for “slip marker”. Knit or crochet to the point in the pattern where SM is written, physically move the stitch marker from one needle to the other and continue in the established pattern.

What types of stitch markers are available?

From the millions of stitch markers available on the market, they basically boil down into two different types: solid and removable.

A solid stitch marker is a solid ring that fits directly onto the knitting needle to mark a designated place.

A removable stitch marker is a hook or locking ring that can be used either directly on a knitting needle or can be used within knitted or crocheted fabric to indicate a specific place.

What does a solid stitch marker look like?

To explain better, here are three types of solid stitch markers:

Clover Soft Stitch Ring Markers

The Clover Soft Stitch Ring Markers are flexible nylon rings that come in two sizes.

The small markers will fit on knitting needles from a range of US 0 – 5 (2.0 – 3.75 mm) and the large markers will fit on knitting needles from a range of US 5 – 11 (3.75 – 8.0 mm).

They are effective, do what they are designed to do and are cheap enough that you won’t feel bad if you lose them at the bottom of your knitting bag.

Black Currant Droplet Stitch MarkersThen there are more fancy varieties of solid stitch markers, such as the ones made right here by Crimson Orchid; Droplet Stitch Markers.

There are six sizes available to meet a wide range of knitting needle sizes, from Mini to Extra Large.

They are hand-made out of silver wire, crystals, gemstones or glass and fit snuggly onto your needles.

Fiddlehead Stitch MarkersAnother version of solid stitch markers are ones that dangle down. They can be made of a solid ring or even a loop from laminated wire or plastic.

The concept is the same as the stitch markers above, except that they are usually decorative and hang down onto your work. One example are these Fiddlehead Stitch Markers.

Solid stitch markers slide directly onto your knitting needles.

One common misconception I’ve encountered, especially among non-knitters and non-crocheters are that they are knit or crocheted into the fabric itself. However, this is false and the stitch marker moves from needle to needle throughout the process.

What does a removable stitch marker look like?

To explain better, here are two types of removable stitch markers:

Clover Split Ring MarkersClover Split Ring Markers are similar to the solid ones above, however are split and allow the marker to be removable or to hook into the yarn.

These are adaptable for both knitting and crochet applications. They can be used for all of the same reasons in both crafts.

With the ability to slip into a stitch, this style of stitch marker is used often in crochet for marking stitches of importance or the beginning of a round.

Removable Stitch Markers Entomology - 5 Spider Stitch Markers for Crochet and KnittingAnother difference between removable stitch markers and solid ones is that removable markers do not usually come in a variety of needle sizes. Because they often don’t follow along on the knitting needles, it does not matter how large or small they are.

Some manufacturers may offer a small and large hook to work better on fine or bulky weight yarns.

Another version of removable stitch markers is made with a locking mechanism or hook. For example, Caliopes Fibre make these delightful markers. They can easily be hooked through the yarn to mark the beginning of a round or another important place in your pattern.

What does Crimson Orchid Designs offer for Stitch Marker options?

Here at Crimson Orchid Designs, we have provided a wide array of options. We hand-make three stitch marker varieties, offering customizable features within each.

Droplet Stitch Markers and Stitch Marker Drops

Crimson Orchid Designs Autumn Stitch Marker DropsThese are essentially the same product; being made to fit snuggly on a wide range of knitting needle sizes.

Droplet Stitch Markers are made in small sizes featuring beautiful glass, crystal, Swarovski or gemstone beads. They are sold in a set of 10, come on a matching holder and are available in two small sizes:

  • Mini – 3.25 mm / US3
  • Small – 4 mm / US6

Stitch Marker Drops are the same as above but made with larger beads in larger sizes. They are still hand-crafted, fitting snuggly on your needles and are snag-free. Drops are sold in sets of 8, come on a matching holder and are available in four sizes:

  • Medium – 6 mm / US8
  • Medium/Large – 8 mm / US10
  • Large – 10 mm / US15
  • Extra-Large – 11.5 mm / US16

Traditional Stitch Markers

Crimson Orchid Designs Stitch Marker OptionsAll of our traditional stitch markers are customizable with four options. You can choose from two ring sizes to be used for knitting projects. You can also choose, if you prefer, from two hook sizes. This allows the markers to be removable and can be used for knitting or crochet. The small hook is perfect for more delicate, lighter weight yarns. The large hook is great for worsted to bulky weight yarns.

All of our stitch markers are hand-crafted with high-quality glass, crystal, Swarovski or gemstone beads. They come in a set of 5 (unless otherwise noted in the description) and are available with the following options:

  • Small rings – 4 mm / US6
  • Large rings – 6 mm / US10
  • Small hooks
  • Large hooks

Stitch markers are an invaluable tool in a crafter’s project bag. There are so many options available, allowing you to customize according to your personality and knitting or crochet style. Whether solid or removable, stitch markers are useful, handy and can save you time and frustration in your fibre projects.

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