Alpaca is a durable and elastic fiber that does not stretch easily. However, in heavy use, a high-quality knitted garment may loose its shape, for example in the elbow-area. However, the great feature of alpaca wool is that, as a natural fiber, it reacts well to steaming and by that it returns to its original shape. Steaming can be done with a clothing-steamer or with an iron set to steam and wool heat setting – this way the garment gets even better!
Steaming the garment is a great treatment for the knit: for example, if the knit got wrinkled in the washing process it can easily be flattened out again by steaming it. Steaming is a way to customize the sweater to your preferences. Steam and heat can temporarily loosen the grip of the alpaca fibers from each other, and the knit can be either stretched or shrunk as needed. As the knit dries, the fibers lock firmly into their new shape again.
(Please note that with both stretching and shrinking the knit, it will eventually go back to its original shape when the knit is being used. The shortened sleeve therefore lengthens slightly and the stretched one shortens to its original length.)
Stretching the knit is quite simple: the knit is placed on a flat surface and the area you want to stretch should be steamed. The knit is stretched with one hand and ironed in the other direction. This is repeated until the lenght is what you want.
You should be careful, because the knitwear changes surprisingly fast. Luckily, if you stretch the sweater too much, the situation can be easily corrected.
When shrinking, the knit is steamed so it gets damp and squeezed tightly. Allow the area to dry before you repeat the process.
This may seem ineffective, but goes almost as quickly and easily as stretching.
The shrinking can also be used locally, for example to tighten the cuff. Another option is to dip the cuff in hot water and gently squeeze it tighter. However, it is recommended to avoid hard rubbing so the knit does not felt.
For all modifications, it is important to allow the sweater to dry completely before use. Remember to always dry the knit on a flat surface to avoid stretching.