Alpacas descend from the vicuna and are a domesticated species bred specifically for their fibre. Llamas descend from the guanaco and were primarily bred for trekking and guarding, (but many llamas have amazing fibre too!)
In the fibre world, softness is measured in microns. The micron is the width of one individual hair. Typical micron ranges for vicuna are between 11-14, alpaca 15-28, llama 25-38. In comparison, cashmere ranges 14-30, merino 17-21, mohair 32-40 and human hair 80-100.
Why choose Alpaca or Llama fibre?
- Warmer and softer, 7x lighter and 3x stronger than wool by weight.
- Does not contain lanolin, which is often the cause of sensitivity to sheep’s wool.
- Repels water. When it does get wet, it absorbs less water than wool, so it dries faster.
- Flame resistant.
- Can be spun, knit, woven, crocheted, dyed, felted or fulled, and blended with other fibres.
- Comes in 22 natural colors, more than any other fibre producing animal.
- Environmentally friendly – camelids are very selective about where they poop and eat so require less parasite control compared to other livestock. They do well on mid-grade hay and because of the soft pads on their feet, they are easy on the pasture.
- Fleece averages 5-10 pounds per alpaca, per year. The prime fleece can weigh between 2-6 lbs and sells for anywhere from $20 to $200 per lb.
- A Renewable resource. Animals are NOT killed for their fleece – alpacas are sheared annually, along with other health maintenance such as toenail trimming that a responsible farmer would do as necessary.
- Utilizing the fibre has been a way of life in the Andes for thousands of years. Alpaca was once referred to as the ‘fibre of Kings’.
- Can be bought locally! Support your local farmer and buy Canadian.
Did you know?
All protein fibres, including silk, are made up of a–keratin, which is the same as the hair on your own head.
If you find you are sensitive (or even allergic) to some fibres, the cause, (in wool or wool blends), is likely the lanolin. Itchiness for the rest of us comes simply from course hairs! Indeed, you are just as likely to experience the same course hair itchiness from synthetics like nylon or acrylic yarns. The prickle factor of a good quality, well prepared alpaca or llama fleece should be minimal.