Alpaca fleece has been a highly sought after textile material for thousands of years, in fact Alpaca are one of the earliest known domesticated animals, and since as early as 4000 BC they have been raised and bred exclusively for their wool - a natural fleece which is finer and softer than cashmere, and lighter and warmer than merino. And on top of all this, alpaca fleece is naturally hypoallergenic, meaning that even those with respiratory or skin irritation from ordinary wool can wear and enjoy the natural softness and luxury of Alpaca fleece.
Alpaca wool is available in 22 colors. The colors include shades of brown, black, gray, ivory and white. Alpaca fleece is not porous like sheeps wool which makes it difficult to dye - as a result, alpaca have been bred for generations into more than 50 unique shades and colors ranging from jet black, through browns, creams and even rose and pinkish colors. These pure color strains are segregated during the breeding season to keep the fleece colors pure, and some of these gorgeous natural tones can be seen in our top of the line Naturals Collection.
Sheep and goats, as well as camels and llamas, excrete an oil called Lanolin from their skin. Not only are many people allergic to lanolin itself, many others experience respiratory irritation from the dust mites and pollens that become trapped in lanolin. Most high end wool products are chemically treated to remove the lanolin at a great cost to the environment. Alpacas however, do not produce lanolin, therefore their wool is hypoallergenic and naturally resistant to shrinking, warping or pilling.
Alpaca are among the oldest known domesticated animals and there is evidence that the Inca and pre-Colombian civilizations of the Andes had domesticated the alpaca before Cattle were domesticated in the west, as early as 5000 BC. As a result, Alpaca have adapted to domesticity, meaning there are no wild alpaca. Like modern sheep, an Alpaca will produce so much wool that if it is not shorn in the spring it can develop serious complications and even die from dehydration or heat exhaustion in the summer. The shearing process is performed now in the same way as it has been for thousands of years, one animal at a time, by hand, by the same Quechewa herdsman who loving raised and care for each animal.
Handwash in cold water using a non-abrasive soap (Woolite or Liquid Detergent)
Lay flat or hang to dry. Do not wring!
Tumble on “air only” to fluff, and gently brush from the centre fold down using a soft hairbrush or garment brush to restore the “like - new” sheen and to remove any loose filaments.
Baby alpaca is the fleece produced by an alpaca after its very first winter, the first shearing. Like most animals, the alpacas fleece will gradually become thicker over time - the finest and softest fleece an alpaca will ever produce is the first coat grown in its first winter - this extra fine fleece is called Baby Alpaca and is among the finest natural wools or fleeces on earth, second only to Royal Vicuna, the Alpacas closest relative.
Although alpaca fleece is exceptionally fine, its structure is far more similar to silk than it is to wool, and like silk it is extremely lightweight, smooth and strong. If cared for properly, an alpaca garment will last a lifetime. Or much longer - in fact museums throughout Peru often exhibit alpaca garments once worn baby Inca royalty many centuries ago.
Huacaya are the more common variety of the alpaca, and the breed most often associated with alpaca wool products. Their hair is naturally crimped or curly and results in excellent loft and a natural stretch when used in knitted or crocheted items - huacaya is naturally suited for hats, mittens, socks or sweaters and other items where a bit of stretch is an advantage. Suri, on the other hand, is longer, straighter and smoother, and their hair hangs in ringlets. Suri alpaca is ideal for use in woven items such as our scarves, wraps and shawls.
Cashmere is a goats wool traditionally produced in Afghanistan and central Asia - due to the commercial popularity of the product as well as lax or non existent environmental and ethical regulations the production of these wool's are often associated with inhumane or unsustainable practices. Alpaca on the other hand is the national animal of Peru, and are one of the most protected and venerated species in that country. All our Alpaca are free range, they are never hurt or killed for their fleece or wool, and every measure is taken to ensure the health, well being and ethical treatment of both the animals themselves and the families who care for them, our partners.