My fantastic alpaca beret

Last summer, during a fiber emergency, I bought 7 oz. of gorgeous brown alpaca top, and promptly spun it all up. It was a dream to spin. Luscious. I chain-plyed it and ended up with about 220 yards of worsted weight alpaca.*

It looked like this:

It took me a while to decide what to do with it. I mean, 100% alpaca yarn is definitely a luxury–it’s rare because alpaca is expensive, and also because alpaca doesn’t have the natural elasticity of wool, meaning that whatever project I made had to be okay with a lot of drape and not a lot of ability to bounce back into shape.

I finally decided on a beret. I was in need of another hat that was cute but also warm enough for winter wear. I have warm hats, and cute hats, but not many warm AND cute hats. Fortunately for me, alpaca is an exceptionally warm fiber, because the individual hairs are hollow and thus insulate better than wool.

I didn’t use a pattern–I’m sort of allergic to patterns–though I did read a few beret patterns to see how other people had done it. After a few false starts, this is what I got!

I knit it from the center/top down, increasing with yarn overs to make pretty little ladders of holes spiraling out from the center of the hat. It took me a few tries to realize that I needed to twist the stitches beside the yarn overs–otherwise, the neighboring stitches would eat up the extra yarn there, and instead of a hole next to neat columns of stitches, I’d just get a few very loose and messy stitches.

(If you look at the full-size version, you can see how I inadvertently created a little flower at the center of the hat. It was an accident, but it’s one of my favorite things.)

It’s a nice, slouchy project that is for the most part totally okay with not having a lot of elasticity. The only place I really needed elasticity was the ribbed cuff. So I went down to the craft shop, and bought a little spool of knitting-in elastic (literally: that’s what it said on the package), and knitted it right into the cuff.

Knitter nerd note: I actually only knitted it into the knit stitches of the k1p1 rib. For the purl stitches, I just stranded it along the back. I figured I would get more pull inward that way than if I knitted it with every stitch (thereby increasing the length of the elastic around the brim, and decreasing the amount of inward pull). It’s just a theory, so I’m not sure it made a difference, but the cuff is springy and snug, so something worked.)

I can’t tell you how much I love this hat. The yarn is beautiful and soft and luxurious, the color is great, it’s warm (because of the alpaca), but also suitable for warmer weather (because it doesn’t cover my ears). And it’s cute!

And the best part is, it only used half of my skein of alpaca, so now I can use the rest for something else! I’m thinking maybe wrist-warmers, or a skinny scarf.

* Incidentally, to all you non-fiber nerds, I’m sorry the posts are so full of jargon. I just sort of decided not to gloss everything. That’s what Google is for, after all.

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