Above: Suri alpaca on Peruvian farm.
The Lowdown on This Special Fiber
Warmer than Merino wool and silkier than cashmere, alpaca is one of our new favorite fiber for all seasons. We love the rich history of alpaca and that it is such a unique fiber. This Fall, we have used alpaca to create pillows and throws, scarves and more, in subtle, serene colors and rich textural weaves.
Our alpaca products are made using fiber sourced from small family farms in Peru where ranchers are raising the alpaca in wide-open spaces to support themselves and their families. Through careful, deliberate breeding practices, the ranchers produce the highest quality fiber, which, in turn, ensures a better price at market and raises their standard of living. Our yarns are spun locally, with the natural shades minimally processed for safety and purity. The colors are achieved with low-impact, non-toxic dyes, and some of our products are undyed to showcase alpaca’s natural color variation. For our customers who prefer undyed fibers, we offer our an array of options like our new Undyed Alpaca Knit Throw in Granite and Quartz.
Our careful sourcing and crafting results in beautiful and uniquely performing products, much like the nubby coziness of our Alpaca Pebble Knit Pillow. Or better yet, wrap yourself in the lightweight warmth of our Undyed Alpaca Infinity Scarf. If you’re looking for that perfect gift for you or someone special, consider, our Undyed Alpaca Luxe Robe or our Undyed Alpaca Luxe Sweater. Snuggle the little in your life with a Baby Alpaca Stroller Blanket.
An Impressive History
Alpaca are related to the camel and the llama, but unlike their larger and stronger cousins, they are too small to be pack animals. Their main value to the people who raise them is the long, lush coat they produce. In fact, the people of Peru domesticated the alpaca thousands of years ago—they appear in the art of the ancient Moche civilization (who flourished between the 1st and 8th centuries), and the Incas prized the fiber more than gold—and rural ranchers still raise them on remote pastures in the high plains of the Andes. True to Andean tradition, once a year, in the warm season, the alpaca are sheared, and the fiber is spun into soft, silky yarns that are used both locally to create gorgeous textiles and internationally to be knit and woven elsewhere.
Natural Fiber Variations & Attributes
Alpaca fiber comes in an astounding array of natural colors—from deep, rich black to dozens of shades of gray and brown to ivory. Furthermore, different types of alpaca produce different textures of fiber: the coat of the Huacaya alpaca, the most common alpaca, has a crimped texture that makes it fluffy, while the Suri alpaca has longer, lock-like hair that is silk and lustrous. Once sheared, the fiber is sorted into grades, with the coarsest—the guard fibers from the animals' legs and sides—classified as "strong" or "robust" and used for upholstery, carpets and felting. At the other end of the spectrum, the very finest fiber—called "baby" or "royal baby" alpaca—measures around 20 microns, some of the finest in the world, but longer, stronger and much less likely to pill than similar fibers, like cashmere. Some additional positive attributes about alpaca fiber are that the fiber contains no lanolin, so it is hypoallergenic; it is breathable and naturally regulates your body temperature; it has excellent fiber strength, which makes it more durable; and it stretches easily and wrinkles little.
High Marks for Sustainability
Because alpaca have soft, padded feet and a gentle grazing habit that preserves root systems, their impact on the environment is much less than that of most livestock, including cashmere goats. They also produce four times the fiber of goats, while consuming less water.
We recommend Eucalan delicate wash cleaners - biodegradable, non-toxic and phosphate-free. Enriched with lanolin, it cleans and conditions delicates like alpaca products. It can be used in both front- and top-loading machines, or for handwashing. Its effective no-rinse formula saves time and water, too.
Peruse our collection of products that are hand-woven and knit by local Peruvian artisans, supporting their families and communities and sustaining crafting tradition.
We are excited to add new items to our natural fiber line-up, and we are already dreaming up more ways to use it.