All About Alpaca Fleece

March 09, 2021

All About Alpaca Fleece

Looking to wrap yourself in something cozy and soft? Alpaca fleece is one of the softest, durable and most sought-after natural fibers on the market. In some places it is known as the fiber of the gods! Like wool, alpaca fleece can be used to create a variety of textiles like throws, scarves and wraps. Do you have any alpaca fleece in your wardrobe?

 

What is Alpaca Fleece?

Alpaca fleece is gathered from, you guessed it -- alpacas. If you’ve never seen one before, an alpaca looks something like a cross between a camel and a sheep (very cute). 


Like sheep, alpacas need to be shorn annually to keep their coats healthy. Alpaca fleece grows on the animal in a way similar to sheep’s wool making the gathering process very similar. There are two main types of alpaca fleece: Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya fibers are dense and soft, much like sheep’s wool while Suri is long and silky. Suri fibers are more rare in North America with both varieties used for very different kinds of textiles. Blankets and scarves are generally made out of Huacaya for warmth and density.


Alpacas are native to South America and have been shorn for their fleece for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years in Peru, Ecuador, Chile and surrounding countries. Alpaca fleece has even been found in 2,000 year old Peruvian textiles! Now the animals are bred around the world for their fleece.


How is Alpaca Different From Wool?


Alpaca fleece and wool are very similar and are used to make very similar items but there are a few key differences. Alpaca fleece is generally softer than wool because it is finer and smoother with higher tensile strength. The fibers are so fine that they don’t retain water and act as a thermal insulator even when wet. The fibers also contain no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic and a great choice for someone who has a reaction to wool. Generally alpaca fleece is less scratchy than sheep’s wool.


What Is Alpaca Used For?

Everything that you see made of wool can also be made of alpaca fleece! Common offerings are sweaters, hats, scarves, wraps and throws. Alpaca fleece makes great garments because of their warm and smooth, non-scratchy texture. 

Prices for alpaca fleece garments or homewares can vary depending on the kind of fiber used. Generally the thinner fibers come from the younger alpacas making items softer and more expensive. Though alpaca fleece comes in a variety of natural colors, it can be dyed without losing any of its natural softness making it a versatile and fashionable fiber!




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