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We love our alpaca sweaters, and we want them to love us back for a long time. But what do you do when that treasured alpaca poncho gets a snag, or when your alpaca hat is just a little too small? And how DO you wash an alpaca cardigan or cashmere sweater? Rest easy: this article condenses nearly forty years of sweater care experience into a few basic techniques that will keep your alpaca sweaters from Peru and Bolivia looking good for many years.
How to Fix a Snag
When that cherished ruana wrap catches on a fingernail or button leaving that telltale loop of alpaca wool on the surface, it’s frustrating! But with a simple crochet hook, available for $2-3 on the internet or at a notions store, you can repair most snags and pulls in less than 60 seconds.
Make sure you buy a smallish-size crochet hook, based on the size of the yarn you’re dealing with. The D-3 (3.25 mm) is a good all-around size, If the sweater was snagged from outside and is on the outer surface, gently grasp the loop of yarn and pull it through to the inside of your alpaca wool sweater or ruana at the same spot it has emerged from. After it is safely inside the sweater, weave it back into the loops on the inside of the sweater. For jacquard sweaters, (shown in the following video), weave it behind the other loops. For other knits, such as jersey, you may need to squeeze it in behind the regular stitches. In any case, be gentle and distribute the tension easily so that you don’t cause additional pulls. The videos below show you how, but we also recommend you google “How to Fix a Snag with a Crochet Hook” and see other helpful videos.
How to fix a snag with a crochet hook1
How to fix a snag with a crochet hook 2
Note: for long hard snags that leave a visible line on the outside of the garment, you can still tuck in the loop as suggested, but to get the visible line out you will need to take it to a skilled knitwear repair person who can alleviate the tension. In that case, leave the loop where it is until the sweater is repaired..
How to Make a Sweater Bigger
Unfortunately, while alpaca sweaters come in standard sizes, human beings do not. Since it’s a bit easier to lengthen the sleeves or widen the waist on that Norwegian sweater than it is to shorten your arms or lose twenty pounds, you’ll be glad to hear that there’s a super-easy way to get that gorgeous long sweater coat fitting exactly the way you want it to. All you need is a hot steamy iron and an ironing board. Ironing to size is actually a part of all sweater production. We’ve done this many times, and it works great with women’s cashmere sweaters and alpaca beanies alike.
Here's how: fill your iron with water and get it hot and steamy. If you have a spritzer bottle, you can use that, too. You want the sweater steamy. Lay the sweater or toboggan hat on the ironing board, warm it with the iron, spray it with steam or water and then gently iron it outwards in and dimension you want to enlarge. Since you are using steam, it will not snap back to its previous size, so do things gradually. We’ve added as much as two inches onto sleeve length, and turned a medium into a large for a photoshoot. It works great, but don’t overdue it: work in increments and try the sweater on as you proceed so that you don’t end up with a sweater that is too big.
How to Wash an Alpaca Sweater
Our official stance is that alpaca and cashmere sweaters should be dry-cleaned or hand washed. And some sweaters: particularly ones with loose, heavy knitting, delicate embroidery or exceptionally airy fibers (like our Brushed Baby Turtleneck), should always be dry-cleaned. Also, sweaters with more elaborate structures (such as pleats), or ones that are particularly fitted, are best dry-cleaned. However, for standard light- or medium-weight alpaca wool sweaters, machine washing on the delicate cycle works extremely well. In fact, washing is a standard part of cashmere pullover and cardigan production. The length of time a sweater is washed determines the “finish,” or how soft and fuzzy it is.
All that being said, putting your ponchito or pullover in the washing machine with cold water, delicate cycle, with a little bit of shampoo and perhaps hair conditioner, will do as good a job as handwashing. If it has embroidery, turn it inside out. Afterward, lay it flat to dry in a shady place. That men’s sweater or cashmere hoodie will be cleaner, softer and, in the case of cashmere, it seems to alleviate pilling. We sometimes wash sweaters when they are new, just to soften them up.
NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT CHOOSE DELICATE CYCLE, COLD WATER, YOUR SWEATER WILL BE RUINED. Likewise, we cannot predict how your individual machine will perform, so you are proceeding at your own risk. However, we have done this successfully dozens of times.
For our alpaca socks, of course, you can wash them in a regular wash and throw them in the dryer and they’ll come out just fine.
Final Tip:You can shave pills off a cashmere sweater with a safety razor.