How to Reshape a Stretched-Out Alpaca Hat
Silver Sage Alpacas Care Tips
Here's the thing... Alpaca is not wool. Alpaca is "fiber," and many fiber people simply refer to it as "alpaca." Here's the other thing... Most people we meet know what wool is, while a small percentage, in comparison, know what alpaca is. Educating people about what alpaca fiber is is our responsibility as alpaca owners!
What Happens When You Get Exposed to Cold?
You know how you get goosebumps when you feel cold, and your reaction may be to pull your blanket around you tighter in hopes of warming up? When alpaca fibers (and wool fibers) are exposed to a severe temperature change (cold to hot, or hot to cold), imagine them tightening up like you do when you shiver, and pulling the nearby fibers in around them, like we might curl up under a blanket. Now you can picture why wool clothing might shrink!
I Had to Shrink My Alpaca Hat On Purpose!
Alpaca fibers have large scales that lay quite flat against one another, decreasing the impact of the "itch factor" people associate with wool. Due to the large, smooth scaling, the fibers may slide against each other, potentially stretching out your knit item. For this reason, many alpaca knit items have another fiber blended with the alpaca fiber so that the yarn holds its shape.
We had a rainstorm at the Farmers Market, and my alpaca hat became completely soaked. I draped it over a laundry rack to dry, but the weight of the rainwater it was exposed to had already taken its toll. Not to fear! I washed my hat in hot water, rinsed it in cold water, reshaped it, and it is back to normal!
How to Wash an Alpaca Hat:
I filled a wash basin at the sink with hot water, set my alpaca hat in a colander, and placed the colander into the hot water. I dunked my hat, and let it soak for about 10 minutes (keep safety in mind when putting your hands in the hot water!). DO NOT put the hat in the basin first and run water over the top of it, as that could cause felting of the fibers! Note: Do not heat the water separately, use tap water to control the degree of "hot." I did put a small amount of Dawn dish soap in the water to clean the headband on my hat while I was at it. A drop of gentle shampoo would work, as well, because the fiber is hair, if you think about it.
After letting my hat soak in hot water, I lifted the colander out of the basin, poured the hot water out, and filled the basin with cold water (for some reason, living in the mountains means the tap water is wicked cold!), and set the colander in the basin, dunking my hat under the cold water. It is worth noting that I have more than one colander I use for washing alpaca fiber, so I set a second colander inside the one with my hat so the hat could not float. I left the hat in the cold water for 20 minutes or so, as long as the water stayed cold, then lifted the colander out, poured the water out of the basin, and set the colander in the empty basin to contain the dripping water while I prepped for drying my favorite hat.
How to Dry an Alpaca Hat
A recommended way to absorb excess water from an alpaca knit item is to double a towel over itself, lay the knit item on the towel, and roll that towel up to absorb the moisture. You would need to fold a scarf over itself to fit on the towel, but the hat made it easy. I used a sweater drying rack, made sure my hat was in a good shape, and left it to air dry. Turn it over partway through the day to dry faster.
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My Hat Fits!
The alpaca hat I had been wearing for three years reshaped itself back to its original size using this technique. This particular hat is composed of 80% U.S. Grown Alpaca and 20% Recycled Nylon. The more alpaca content, the more careful you want to be when washing it, but keep in mind you can reshape it before it dries if it compresses too much.
It Can Be Done!
My alpaca hat not only returned to the right size, but the shock to the fibers from the temperature change tightened them up so well that it looks brand new - a pleasant surprise! So do not be afraid to purchase a lovely knit item just because it says "Hand Wash, Air Dry." It can be done, and being that dirt and oil sit on the surface of alpaca fiber waiting to be wiped away, you should not have to wash your alpaca items very often anyway. So, head to our Merch store and pick up a beautiful alpaca hat, gloves, or neck gaiter without fear! As always, our alpaca socks are made to be machine-washed and dried! www.SilverSageAlpacas.com