What Is Alpaca?
Having bred alpacas for over 20 years, we happen to know a thing or two when it comes to these precious animals. Originally bred in South America, Alpacas belong to the camelid family, are cousin to the Llama, and owe much of their character to the wild Vicuna. The animals are very inquisitive and gentle due to years of domestication. For thousands of years, alpacas have been bred for their unique fibre, which was a cherished treasure of the ancient Inca civilisation known to Inca royalty as the ‘fibre of the gods’. Alpacas graze at high altitudes in the Andes in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They endure extreme climates from freezing to hot temperatures and it is this habitat that has helped their fleece evolve into a special fibre. Their fibre is so adaptable that Alpacas are now bred across the World from here in the UK, to Australia. There are now an estimated 45,000 alpacas registered in the UK. They have become a popular choice for those seeking to breed alpacas for their fleece and simply for keeping as lovely animals.
There are two types of alpaca, Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya alpacas have dense crimp-like hair and Suris have long silky ‘locks’ of hair.
Alpacas are mostly shorn once a year. The best alpaca fleece is mainly obtained from the blanket around the shoulders, neck and rump of the animal. This fleece is the finest and softest from underside of the neck. Once shorn, the alpaca fleece goes through a cleaning process and is then spun into yarns. All of our alpaca garments are sourced from Peru. Alpaca is graded in microns, the lower the micron count, the finer the fibre. You may notice that some of our garments are ‘Baby Alpaca’, this can be sheared when the alpacas are under one year old, or it can be obtained from an adult alpaca with a low micron count. Peruvians have been passed down skills and knowledge of the alpaca fibre through generations. They are able to select the grade of alpaca and sort through the fleece by hand, selecting the finest grades to ensure high quality.
Alpaca fibre has many special properties which makes it perfect for producing clothing and many other products too, and it is this that makes it very sought after from top fashion houses from around the World. Each tiny strand of fibre is a hollow tube which acts as an insulator and makes it warmer than wool. This also makes the fibre thin and exceptionally lightweight, there is no need for a heavy or bulky products in alpaca as you will find warmth in the lightest of garments. It’s softer than cashmere, but don’t be fooled by its softness, it is extremely durable and the second strongest natural fibre to silk. The alpaca fibre’s silky silky texture means there is not much friction when crafted into a knit, therefore there is much less chance of pilling.
Alpaca is hypoallergenic. For people sensitive to sheep’s wool, alpaca is a great alternative as it is not prickly and does not contain lanolin so shouldn’t irritate the wearer.
The miracle fibre in summary…
- Alpaca Fibre occurs naturally in over 22 shades from black to white
- Warmer than wool
- Pill resistant
- Naturally regulates temperature
- Wicks away moisture
- Deters dust mites
- Odour repellent
As well as our knitted garments, alpaca can be enjoyed in it’s natural fur form too. We stand by guilt-free fur. Financially, it is more viable for farmers to keep there alpacas alive as they can earn more for their fleece by shearing them year on year. Due to the harsh terrain and climate up on the Andes mountains, there is a natural death rate of alpacas. It is only from these alpacas that the fur is obtained so that the farmer does not lose out. The fur makes for dreamy luxurious garments like slippers, hats, scarves and rugs.