Soft baby alpaca scarves from Huacaya
Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is light or heavy in weight, depending on how it is
spun. It is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite. Huacaya, an alpaca that grows soft spongy fiber, has natural crimp, thus making a naturally elastic yarn well-suited for knitting. Suri has no crimp and thus is a better fit for woven goods. The designer Armani has used Suri alpaca to fashion men’s and women’s suits. Alpaca fleece is made into various products, from very simple and inexpensive garments made by the indigenous communities to sophisticated, industrially made and expensive products such as suits. In the United States, groups of smaller alpaca breeders have banded together to create “fiber co-ops,” to make the manufacture of alpaca fiber products less expensive.
Alpacas have been bred in South America for thousands of years. Vicuñas were first domesticated and bred into alpacas by the ancient tribes of the Andean highlands of Peru, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. Two-thousand-year-old Paracas textiles are thought to include alpaca fiber. Also known as “The Fiber of the Gods”, Alpaca was used to make clothing for royalty. In recent years, alpacas have also been exported to other countries. In countries such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand, breeders shear their animals annually, weigh the fleeces and test them for fineness. With the resulting knowledge, they are able to breed heavier-fleeced animals with finer fiber. Fleece weights vary, with the top stud males reaching annual shear weights up to 7 kg total fleece and 3 kg good quality fleece. The discrepancy in weight is because an alpaca has guard hair, which is often removed before spinning.