Most alpacas are sheared annually, usually in the spring. It also does not require harsh washing as it naturally does not smell of anything. Interestingly, alpaca is a single coated animal, and the fiber generally does not have to be dehaired like cashmere, llama and camel. As a result, this leads to greater yields of fiber after processing.
The stunning alpaca is one of Peru’s most treasured gems and is viewed as the legacy of the Incas, who first domesticated this animal some 5,000 years ago. The reverence for the alpaca has stood the test of time, providing not only a livelihood to so many Peruvians but also a world stage for it’s caretakers to showcase all that this wondrous species has to offer. Today, the alpaca industry thrives thanks to generations of Peruvians.
Here is a little more information about what makes alpaca superior to other textiles:
Alpacas are naturally bred in 22 different hues, with more than 300 shades, which minimizes the need for added dyes or chemicals during the production of many of our goods. Shades range from black to mahogany brown and rose gray and white. Also, alpacas can be bred for a specific color.
Alpaca fibers are naturally fire resistant, more so than plant or synthetic fibers. In fact, if alpaca fibers were exposed to flames, it wouldn't melt onto the skin like synthetics do. It meets the standards of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s rigid testing specifications as a Class 1 fiber, the safest level of flame resistance for use in clothing and furnishings.
Alpaca is also widely known to also be stain resistant to a high degree. This is mostly due to the unique fiber texture, causing the wool not to absorb liquids easily. Another key feature of alpaca is that it is considered water-repellent. Alpaca fibers are heavily medullated, or hollow, so it traps more heat and naturally pushes the water away, never allowing wet fabric to sit on the skin. The water essentially evaporates as a result of the structure and warmth of the alpaca fiber. So, while alpaca is not waterproof, it is considered water-repellent. It is also resistant to pilling and carries significant luster and durability properties.
According to the Yocum-McCall Testing Laboratories, alpaca was shown to be three times warmer than sheep's wool. Just as alpacas require warmth from the cold and coolness from the heat, the fibers naturally regulate the temperature your body requires in any given climate. This is highly convenient when traveling as you don’t have to bring extra winter wear to stay warm during a trip! As previously mentioned, alpaca fibers are medullated, meaning that they are a unique, pocket-like tube. This particular aspect of the alpaca gives the fibers an ability “breathe” due to its lighter weight by volume. Other wool fibers like merino do not carry this unique structure naturally.
Alpaca wool contains a minimal amount of lanolin, which is eliminated during the production process. Clothing made with 100% alpaca are considered completely hypoallergenic, allowing individuals with wool sensitivities to wear it without the possibility of an allergic reaction. Because of the lack of lanolin, alpaca isn’t scoured prior to spinning, which is a process that often involves harsh chemicals. Rather, it can be spun directly from fleece to yarn.
Alpaca fibers are among the most superior fibers in existence due to the transparent sourcing/production process and amazing properties of the animal itself. Even at its coarsest, alpaca is inherently softer and the smoothness of the fiber also gives alpaca a natural, lustrous brightness because the smoother surface reflects the light better.
Alpaca fibers are not itchy at all. In fact, the fibers are softer, lighter and stronger than cashmere in their most natural state. Also, something that sets alpaca apart from wool is the alpaca’s lack of scales, which causes the strains to feel softer. Scales can be protruding, which means that they can stick out. When scales “stick out” they can be felt on the skin, causing an itch or an irritation (the infamous prickle factor of wool).
Alpacas are an incredibly sustainable animal and require very little from the earth beneath their feet in order to sustain themselves. These majestic animals leave little to no footprint on our planet. Alpacas eat primarily native grass and differ from other grazers because they don’t destroy natural vegetation and require very little food intake in order to be strong and healthy. They only drink from the natural rainwater supply in their habitat, which is well above sea level. Also, unlike cashmere's production process, which has become environmentally toxic.
At Moda Kalon, we enjoy educating our community on the beauty of alpaca and how it is superior to other fibers used in the fashion industry. And although alpaca is still recognized as a niche market, we wouldn’t want to use anything else.
Sentinel Ranch Alpacas
Wild Hair Alpacas
Alpacas of Montana