Sewing Tips for Alpaca KnitsStitch smooth, accurate seams for comfy luxurious sweaters and more
Once you learn sewing tips for alpaca knits, you’ll be able to create your own comfy garments in this wonderful luxury fiber.
Alpacas, llamas, and camels are cousins, and their wool is a close relative to cashmere in its softness and luxury. It is also warm to wear without being bulky. Sew with alpaca knits and create a sweater, cardigan, clingy dress, or gored skirt.
Since knitted alpaca is costly and ripped-out stitches weaken alpaca knit fabric, pretest the pattern by making a sample garment in a less expensive knit fabric. That way, you’ll be sure the fit and style are right for you.
Woven alpaca makes beautiful jackets or coats and luxurious throws. You’ll find tool suggestions and recommended techniques for working with alpaca woven fabrics here.
Sewing supplies and settings
Sewing machine needle: Use a 75/11 stretch type. To better understand sewing-machine needle design, check out our guide.
Stitch type and parameters: Apply a narrow zigzag, 0.5 mm wide, and 2.0 mm long.
Presser foot: Use a walking foot. This type of presser foot moves the fabric by applying pressure from above, mimicking the action of the feed dogs below the sewing machine’s bed. A walking foot helps ensure fabric moves smoothly and evenly through the sewing machine.
Seam finish: After sewing the seam with a narrow zigzag stitch, serge the seam allowances separately or together. The choice depends on whether you need to press the seam allowances open or to one side. Apply a two- or three-thread overlock stitch.
Sewing garments with alpaca knits
Facings: You may want to face knit alpaca garment openings with a lightweight fabric such as wool jersey. This provides a nice finish while keeping bulk to a minimum and saving the alpaca fabric.
Buttonholes: To make buttonholes in alpaca knits, switch to a 70/10 universal sewing machine needle for fine fabrics, and use extra-fine thread.
Serged hems or edges: Serge the hem edge of an alpaca knit garment with differential feed, adjusting the feed setting to prevent stretching the knit. If sewing on the regular machine, press the fabric with your finger behind the presser foot to keep the knit from stretching.
Double-topstitched stretch hems: Use a stretch twin needle, a walking foot, and hand-wrapped woolly nylon thread in the bobbin. Loosen the tension on the needle thread until the stitches lie flat.
Reinforce alpaca knit edges
Try this technique for strengthening the center-front edges on knit alpaca cardigans.
1. Press 1/4 inch of the alpaca knit to the wrong side along the center-front edges.
2. Cover the raw edge on the wrong side with grosgrain ribbon.
3. Then sew the long sides of the grosgrain with the ribbon on top and the knit fabric against the feed dogs.
The resulting reinforced edge is stable and secure. You can proceed with buttonholes, or snaps, or hooks and eyes, knowing that you may stitch them into the strong foundation of the ribbon-stabilized edge.
These sewing tips for alpaca knits were adapted from sewing expert Sandra Betzina’s book, All-New Fabric Savvy: How to Choose and Use Fabrics (Taunton, 2017).
Photos: Sarah McFarland, except where noted.