If you didn’t already know, alpacas are South American camelids that look like adorable crosses between little llamas and a sheep. Domesticated for thousands of years, these unique creatures are bred specifically for their prized woolen coats. Alpaca fiber is as a soft as cashmere and, in many cases, even more comfortable. It is warmer, lighter and stronger than wool. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items like blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves and a wide variety of textiles. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia, and 16 as classified in the United States. That’s more natural colors than any other fiber-producing animal on Earth.
Originally reserved for Incan royalty, this luxurious fiber is now enjoyed by people all around the world who value beauty, comfort and practicality. One of the best and unique characteristics of alpaca is that it’s a natural thermal insulator that absorbs ambient humidity—offering amazing protection and comfort in a variety of climates. Like wool, it’s resistant to external water penetration, but will slowly wick away perspiration much like cotton. It’s the perfect textile for cool, damp conditions. Natural water resistance properties also make alpaca easy to clean spills off of before stains develop—all without harsh chemicals. And if that wasn’t enough, alpaca is flame resistant and meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s rigid testing standards for Class 1 fiber to be used in clothing and furnishings. On top of all of this, alpaca bears no lanolin, so it’s considered hypoallergenic.
With all of this said, you may be wondering why this amazing fleece is so hard to find and often quite expensive. Part of the reason for this is that there simply aren’t enough alpacas in the U.S. to supply mills with enough fiber to run year-round. Peru currently has about 4 million alpacas, so they are currently the largest alpaca fiber producing nation. Even so, all alpaca products require special machines to process the fine, smooth fiber, so only mills that have such equipment can manufacture them. Once the soft yarn is produced, items are often hand-knit rather than on a machine. All of this careful care and special artistry goes into every item and increases the value.
Alpacas and their fiber are true gifts from God. For comfortable and luxurious gifts or times when only the most practical textile will do, it really can’t compare to anything else. Items made with natural alpaca fiber are meant to be enjoyed for years to come and are usually well worth the investment.