Alpaca Fleece

A Luxurious, Rare Specialty Fiber

Scarcity or rarity is the primary determinant in defining a specialty fiber. Wool is not considered a specialty fiber due to its abundance. Alpaca fleece is valuable because it combines so many positive, commercial attributes into one fiber. There are no negative characteristics to be found in the alpaca’s fleece. It is found naturally in 22 distinct colors, which can also be blended to produce an infinite array of natural colors.

The fiber from alpaca is unusually strong and resilient. The strength of the fiber does not diminish as it becomes finer, thus making it ideal for industrial processing. Raised at high altitudes in freezing cold, the alpaca has developed more thermal capacity in its fiber than almost any other animal. The fiber contains microscopic air pockets which create lightweight garments with high insulation values. Alpaca is soft, supple and smooth to the touch. The cellular structure of the fiber produces a soft handle unmatched by most other specialty fibers.

Alpaca fleece produces a high yield of clean fiber after processing: 87 to 95 percent for alpaca versus 43 to 76 percent for sheep’s wool. Alpaca is easier and less expensive to process than sheep’s wool due to its lack of grease or lanolin, and generally does not have to be de-haired like cashmere or camel. Alpaca fiber can be scoured or cleaned without using costly chemicals. Scouring is the actual washing of dirt and foreign matter from the alpaca fleece. It is usually done in a lukewarm, neutral solution, followed by clear-water rinses.

Basket of Fiber

Alpacas produce a fine fiber with an absence of guard hair in their prime fleece. Their fiber has a natural, rich luster which gives garments made from 100% alpaca high visual appeal. It is easily dyed any color and always retains its natural luster. Fabric made from alpaca can range from bulky tweeds to fine gabardine. Those who own alpacas sweaters will find they practically last forever. This fiber does not easily tear, pill or stain and it is easily cleaned.

Alpaca produces beautiful yarns, either handspun or machine made. The long staple length makes it ideal for processing as either woolen or worsted yarns. Manufacturers also like to blend alpaca with cashmere, mohair, silk, cotton and wool. These blends make into exquisite luxury garments.

Awareness of the unique quality of alpaca fiber is increasing with the worldwide recognition gained from promotional efforts of breeders in the U.S., Canada and Australia. With selective breeding techniques, better animal husbandry and nutritional care, fiber fineness will improve and fleece weight per animal will increase. The terms luxury and alpaca are becoming synonymous. The treasure, which the Incas harvested from the back of the mystical alpaca, will soon be enjoyed by discerning consumers everywhere.