As a luxury fibre, alpaca fibre can be as soft as cashmere and as versatile as merino in its uses. It is a durable, lightweight, high yield fibre with many advantages over more traditional wool textiles.
With 22+ recognized colours, alpaca offers the widest array of fibre colours out of all wool bearing species, and is amongst the most eco-friendly and sustainable of the lot. When used in production, alpaca fibre accepts dyes readily, and is known for producing garments with excellent drape, while being exceptionally warm and light weight.
The Benefits of Alpaca
- Alpaca fibre can be as soft (or softer!) than cashmere, while producing 12x to 28x more fleece than the average cashmere goat. On average, alpacas produce a longer fleece than sheep of a similar fineness, higher yields, and retain more of that yield after basic fibre processing.
- Alpaca does not readily absorb moisture, absorbing a mere 8% of its weight in water, as compared to sheep's wool which may absorb as much as 35% of its weight in water, and even silk which may absorb up to 11% of its weight.
- A 2004 study found that on average, alpaca is much stronger and more durable than wool of a similar fineness.
- The presence of medulation in alpaca fleeces produce a product with excellent thermo-regulating properties. The combination of loft and these hollow fibres make alpaca fibre better than standard wool's at keeping the wearer warm when it is cold, or cool when it is hot.
- Alpacas produce a "dry" fleece, lacking in lanolin. This means individuals with allergies to lanolin can wear alpaca trouble free, while also resting easy knowing what they are wearing has not needed to be scoured or exposed to chemicals as with super wash wool.
- The unique scale properties of alpaca make it soft to the touch, and less likely to cause "prickle" or "itchiness" like other wool products may.
- While alpaca can felt when agitated in water, it is more resistant to felting because of its "hookless" fibre scales.
- Alpaca is easier to care for than most wool products, while also being flame resistant and generally odourless.
Alpacas are known for being an extremely environmentally friendly animal, especially when compared to other wool-producing species. Both highly specialized and extremely efficient, alpacas have a minimal impact on the environments they live in, while producing an end product that has the capacity to be no-kill, chemical free, and requires minimal resources to sustain.
The padded feet and light weight of alpacas mean they preserve pastures much more readily than their hoover counterparts. Alpacas do not churn up the soil or damage plant life where they tread, which not only helps retain soil fertility but also reduces soil erosion. As browsers who "snip" plants off when they eat, alpacas do not pull plants up by the root like other livestock species and will browse a wider variety of vegetation available to them.
Alpacas have the most efficient digestive tracts of all livestock, requiring less pasture and feed than other species (On average a mere 2% of their body weight). As a pseudoruminant, alpacas digestive systems make the most of what they digest, metabolizing much of what they eat and producing dung that is low-odour and less likely to damage plant-life with nitrogen burn than other droppings. Having been adapted for the exceptionally dry, harsh climate of the Andes, alpacas also require less water than most livestock. Alpacas utilize communal dung piles, keeping their pastures clean and reducing parasite transmission.
Because alpaca fibre has the capacity to be used no matter how fine or coarse it is, there is value to literally any alpaca's fleece, regardless of the age or sex of the animal. Those parts of the fleece which cannot be used for textile production are routinely used for other means, from weed control to the insulation of houses and carpet or rug production.