Llama is one of my favorite yarn fibers in recent years; the more I use it and the more I learn about it, the more I like it.
With a pre-Columbian history, llamas have long been a livestock staple in South American cultures, most notably Peru and Bolivia. There is a great deal of mythology, as well as scientific data regarding the anthropological history of these noble animals, but I’m not going to get into that here. I mostly want to share some information and observations about the beautiful qualities of the yarn that is created from llama.
In a broader sense, all fibers that originate from the removal of fur or hair from an animal during a sheering process is under the general umbrella term of wool; however, when we use the term wool in a yarn shop we are generally referring to sheep wool. Because of Perfectly Knotty’s attention to fiber allergy concerns, I generally refer to yarns by animal fiber: llama, alpaca, sheep, etc.
Being a lanolin free fiber with smaller smoother scales llama and it’s cousin alpaca tend to be less allergenic fibers than the more common and popular sheep fiber. Some might claim it as hypo-allergenic, but since I know people who have issue with all of the animal fibers, I prefer to use caution in the use of medical terms.
The undercoat of a llama is fine, meaning each hair is smooth and downy, think puffy cloud of, making it ideal for handicrafts and garments. This creates yarn that is softer than you can imagine! If you have only worked with sheep wool, think of the softest wool you have worked with, llama is softer. The coarser outer guard hair of the llama is often used locally for rugs, wall-hangings, lead ropes, and other more utilitarian pieces.
Llamas range in natural color from white or grey to reddish-brown, brown, dark brown and black, and often does not need to be dyed other colors. But our natural delight in bright colors has lead to an increase in the availability of dyed llama yarns in the last few years. While llama and alpaca are natural protein based fibers, it does take the dye colors differently than the very accepting sheep, so it takes a bit of a different process get the fiber to accept strong dye. Often the effect has a heathered quality that allows the earthy and natural colors to remain evident, adding depth and richness to the shades.
Each strand of llama hair is hollow which makes it very light, and increases it’s insulation, or thermal value, greatly. This means that you do not need a thick yarn made into a thick garment to have something that is warm and cozy to wear! Llama as a result is
Llama fiber is stronger than sheep fiber, but because llama hair does not have what is called “crimp” it doesn’t stick to itself the way sheep and other animal fibers do, this also means that llama yarns don’t necessarily have the same level of “springback” that sheep does. These smooth qualities make for a very soft yarn, but also makes spinning the into yarn a different process than spinning sheep, or even cotton. Much like the different way it takes dye, this is not a bad thing, just different. The smooth softness allows for drape and movement of your finished project, and adds a silky quality. Your llama sweater is not going to relax (or “grow) as much as a linen yarn would, nor is it at as much risk of felting as your sheep. It’s just right, in the middle.
I hope this gives you a little more information to think about as you make choice about what yarn might be the best choice for your next project!
This is my ODA Slouchy Hat. Crochet cables add a fun and unique texture to the Llama Una yarn. This hat is comfortable and easy to wear, the pattern is $5 here on the website.
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