Alpacas. The adorable little cousins of the Camel who have been supplying fiber to South America for thousands of years. Similar to sheep's wool and goat's angora and cashmere, but superior to them in several ways.
Common Claims About Alpaca Fiber Are:
"It is as light and soft as cashmere."
Because alpaca does not have the scales, or barbs, that wool has, and if the ultra-fine 16 - 18 micron (baby) fleece is used, it is ultra-soft like cashmere. It's hollow core makes the tiny fiber light as a feather, too, and creates a luxury yarn that use to be reserved only for royalty.
"It is stronger than wool."
It is scientifically measured to be several times stronger than wool, regardless of fiber diameter or length. That means longer wear!
"It is warmer than wool."
It contains pockets of air, like polar bear fur, which traps heat. It has tested as much warmer than wool.
"It is hypoallergenic and water repellent."
Alpacas do not contain dander or oils such as lanolin, which is what creates the allergen. Instead, the hair is coated with a natural resin which repels water and dirt. It does not hold on to dust, either, which may be why some are allergic to other fibers, which do.
"It does not pill."
Because it is a long, strong, smooth fiber coated with natural resin, it does not come loose and "tangle", which is what causes piling.
"It wicks moisture away."
Perfect for garments worn next to the skin, it naturally pulls perspiration away from the body, like a candle wax up the wick, so that it evaporates faster - thus keeping you warm and dry. It just breathes better than other fibers. (Especially important in socks that eliminate blistering for extreme sports activists, Alaska fishermen and diabetics alike.)
"It is machine washable."
It's true! On top of all these other excellent reasons to buy and use products made from Alpaca Fiber, it is so strong it withstands machine washing in cold water. It will welt up if there is heat involved, but cold-water wash and laid flat to dry and it comes out like new every time. Maybe even better - it gets softer!
"It is eco-friendly!"
The National Resource Defense Council suggests that we all stop buying cashmere, and this is the suggested alternative fiber. It is true that Alpacas are one of the greenest animals on the planet. For one thing, they produce 3 - 10 lbs of fiber per sheering - versus 4oz per cashmere goat annually. Do the math. How many more products can be made from one animal? For this reason alone, the difference in the environmental footprint is outstanding!