Soft and lustrous, alpaca fiber makes uniquely warm and elegant garments.
Characterized by great versatility, each project is a valuable creative endeavour. There are two breeds of alpaca: Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya alpacas have a crimped fleece like sheep’s wool and appear fluffier, while Suri alpacas, which make up only 10% of the world’s alpaca population, have a smooth fleece that hangs in long strands and is more like silk.
Alpacas are among the first known pets in the world. In Peru, where 80% of the world’s alpaca fiber comes from, people have been wearing alpaca fiber for hundreds of years. At least 50,000 families in the Andean highlands rely on alpaca farming for income and sustenance. Most of the alpaca fiber comes from animals that live outdoors in their natural habitat in the Andes, grazing on grass and other foliage. Alpacas are shorn annually, usually in the spring.
a sustainable fiber
Alpaca is a naturally sustainable fiber, which comes from farms that respect the environment and the people who raise these animals:
Goats and sheep have hooves that can cause soil degradation, while alpacas have padded feet that are delicate and do not damage the soil, keeping it intact so that plants can continue to grow
Compared to goats and sheep, alpacas require less water and food
Untreated alpaca fiber is completely biodegradable
Alpaca fiber contains no lanolin or fat; therefore it’s easy to wash without intensive detergents or chemicals. No chemical washes are needed to remove it
Since alpaca is naturally odour resistant and somewhat stain resistant, it does not require frequent washing
Alpaca can usually be hand washed or dry cleaned, washing by hand has a lower environmental impact
a unique animal
Alpacas are raised in large flocks that graze at altitudes between 3500 and 5000 meters in the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia and northern Chile. Unlike lamas, alpacas are not bred to be pack animals, but for their fine wool which is used to weave blankets and ponchos. Females give birth to only one offspring per year, given that their gestation period is about 11 and a half months. Alpacas do not exceed 90 cm in height at the withers, and 75 kg in weight.
They are shorn once a year, in the spring. A female alpaca produces around 2.5 kg of wool, while a male alpaca can produce up to 4 kg of wool per year. Alpaca wool contains keratin which is used to make cosmetics.
The fiber’s main characteristics
Alpaca fiber can take on as many as 22 different natural colours, including white, black, and a range of browns and grays.
Alpaca fiber generally grows to 8-12 inches in length. Like wool, alpaca fiber is water and stain resistant, and is naturally fire repellent. There is less pilling than wool, and so makes the wearer less itchy.