FAQ About alpaca

Some questions we all ask ourselves about alpaca wool

and their answers.

alpaca sweaters one on top of the other. Detail of the alpaca wool showing the softness and weave.

What's so special about alpaca sweaters?

As a knitter, finding the ideal wool for a project is a never-ending task. There exists in our imagination perfect wool, soft, fluffy, warm, that doesn't pill, doesn't get damaged and that gives us as a result garments with a cozy finish to the sight and touch. This search led me to investigate and delve even deeper into the materials, especially when I discovered the alpaca wool and decided to use it as the raw material for the garments that I have been knitting ever since. 
From my experience, I can say that alpaca sweaters are special because they carry hundreds of years of history not only of the art of knitting that has transcended entire generations but also of the wool that composes them, the alpaca, revered since pre-Columbian times, an animal with a fleece that is extraordinarily magical and that makes it the best natural fiber in the world. Taking into account all the goodness of its characteristics as a material to weave and that its production is absolutely sustainable for the planet, an alpaca sweater is certainly the best alternative to keep warm. 

alpacas

What's so special about alpaca wool?

It is important to understand that there are two possibilities within the materials with which we can weave a garment. Natural fibers and synthetic fibers.  The latter are cheaper, of course, but also more common and not very sustainable for the planet.
Alpaca wool, coming from an animal, we know that it is a natural fiber and that in itself puts it on a completely different level.
Alpacas are animals that live in the Andean highlands in extreme climatic conditions. This is perhaps one of the reasons that make their fur a powerful shield against the cold, rain, and heat. This coat has the ability to adapt to various conditions making it an extraordinary alternative for the manufacture of garments. It adapts to the climate, keeping you warm when it is cold and allowing ventilation when it is hot, as well as being impermeable to water. 
The number of shades that exist in the hair of alpacas (22) gives a superior variety of colors to any other animal in the use of their hair, leaving it free of the dyeing process.
Another of the qualities of this yarn is that it lacks lanolin, the substance that usually causes allergies in people intolerant to wool such as sheep's wool, which makes it an excellent hypoallergenic material for the most sensitive people. 

knitted detail of an alpaca sweater. Slowfashion

Is alpaca wool itchy?

The number of myths and information about alpaca wool can be overwhelming and that is why I think it is important to clarify some points about alpaca yarn.
Alpaca yarn is not a single yarn. When we say an alpaca sweater we know that it is knitted with alpaca wool but that does not mean that its wool is 100% made with this yarn. In fact, there are hundreds of varieties of alpaca yarns. The big producers and marketers of this yarn are the creators and suppliers of almost all the percentages of this fiber in the world. They elaborate varieties of alternatives that offer not only 100% alpaca yarns but also combine them with other materials for its manufacture.

 

For example, the yarn in the picture above is made with 70% baby alpaca/ 7% merino wool, and 23% polyamide resulting in super soft and fluffy wool that tends to fluff but still has extraordinary quality.

So, now we know that there are many varieties of alpaca yarns and this is where the subtleties come in as to how they feel on the skin, whether they are itchy or not, how soft they are to the touch, and whether they are lumpy or not.
Some of these fabrications may be itchy, others not so much and this as you can now deduce has nothing to do with quality. In general, the higher the percentage of synthetic material it contains, the itchier it is likely to be. 
If you are a person very sensitive to wool I recommend that you look for garments knitted with 100% alpaca or even better with 100% baby alpaca. 
The logic of what we have just learned applies to any type of wool, whether natural or not. There are in fact many types of wool that do not itch do not produce pilling and are not necessarily the best quality. 

girl modeling a woven alpaca jacket. Modern, elegant and timeless woven fashion.

Does alpaca wool pill?

Like all-natural fibers, alpaca wool has the tendency to become pilling, this is not a defect, it is just the result of friction. The fact that a woven garment produces pellets does not mean that it is of poor quality. The solution is simple, take a pair of scissors and cut out the pilling to keep your garment looking new forever.
I was also one of those who thought that loose hairs in a knitted garment were synonymous of cheap yarn, nothing more wrong than that. Have you noticed how your synthetic garments don't do that? Did you know that most cheap garments are made with polyester? Do you know what polyester is? It's plastic! Yes! Plastic that you put directly on your skin. Now you'll understand why those garments don't get pilling and why that's not necessarily a good thing. 

hand-knitted sweaters. A sweater store displaying. Detail of the colors, textures of the alpaca yarns

Why alpaca garments are expensive?

The alpaca yarn, being a natural resource, results in a material that is not cheap to manufacture. The alpaqueros respect the natural processes of the animal making it a slow and costly process since it is a limited resource. In addition, given the extraordinary characteristics of its coat, it is a highly valued yarn that is positioned as one of the best natural fibers in the world, if not the best.
If you ever travel to Peru and are sold a cheap alpaca sweater, question if what you have bought is really alpaca. Alpaca yarn is expensive and there is no way that a garment made from real alpaca can be cheap. Be suspicious if the value of your garment is under $100, especially if it is hand-knitted. 

sustainable alpaca.jpg

How and why alpaca yarn is sustainable?

There are many reasons that make alpaca a 100% sustainable product for the planet:
 

  • Unlike goats and sheep that are widely used for their wool, alpacas do not damage the fields they inhabit. When they graze for food, they do not break the roots of the garden. In addition, their feet have a very soft pad that is very gentle on the ground, which allows the vegetation around them to remain alive. 

  • In the highlands where they live, conditions are unviable for agriculture, so their presence is the least disturbing to the surrounding environment since they do not make use of the land and water generally used for food production. 

  • Alpacas are very efficient because, unlike other animals, they need half the food to survive and produce their precious fiber.

  • Since alpacas come in more than 22 different shades of color, the yarn from their hair does not have to undergo chemical processes or damage caused by dyeing.

  • Due to the characteristics of the hair, much less energy and chemicals are required than those normally used to wash the fiber. 

  • The alpaca fiber is resistant and very durable so the garments made with its yarn result in long-lasting clothes.  

  • The production of alpaca yarn contains hundreds of years of history of families that are dedicated and live thanks to this. It is a chain that gives life and sustenance to thousands of Peruvians who earn their living in an honest and environmentally friendly way. 
     

Alpaca wool is ethical.