10 Things to Love (& Know) About Alpaca
1. It’s really soft
And by that we mean its downey soft.
There are two types of alpaca - Huacaya (pronounced Wuh-kai-ya) and Suri (pronounced Sir-ee, yes, like Suri Cruise!). Huacaya makes up the bulk of the alpaca population worldwide (about 92%*) and is short, crimpy like a flat spring, dense and fluffy. This makes it really soft, while giving it strength and elasticity.
Suri, makes up the remainder. Suri Alpaca is lustrous and silky shiny smooth. Hanging down from the animal in tendrils, this fiber has almost no spring to it, rather it clings together curled like a spiral, yet has the same strength and durability.
2. It’s versatile
Living at altitudes where the temperature can fluctuate between -4 degrees to the mid to upper 80's in the same day, the alpacas have a high tolerance for temperature change, aided by their wool, insulating and protecting them from these dramatic swings. This quality is transferred to garments made with alpaca's fleece, or wool.
3. It’s not just warm, it's cozy
Tucked inside the alpaca wool you will find microscopic air pockets. These create natural thermal properties which insulate from the cold, and conversely protect from the heat. They create a very thermal yarn, and thus clothing made with alpaca is very cozy - not too hot, not too heavy, rather its like the perfect hug, embracing you with a soft gentle touch and sublime warm feel.
4. It’s breathable
Unlike wool, alpaca doesn't absorb moisture (no sheep smell with alpaca!), rather, moisture forms on the strands themselves and through the heating of the body it is turned into evaporative steam. This natural property makes alpaca exceptionally breathable, regulating your temperature far better than any other wool.
5. It’s wrinkle free
Because of the unique fiber alpacas grow (it's really hair) - a culmination really of all the above properties; alpaca garments drape beautifully and wrinkles "drop out" when worn, making it a perfect travel companion.
6. It gets lots of attention
Alpaca fiber is sorted into various micron groups, from Premium Baby Alpaca to Corse grade, each used for specific types of textiles. These types are sorted and classified by their thickness and color, and this is done only by hand. This process can never be mechanized because the variable characteristics of the fibre can only be identified by the "touch" of experienced hands. Our sorters are a treasured component of the alpaca fiber process and we employ fair trade principals when working with all the hands that help create our sustainable Erlum Alpaca items.
7. Its colors are exquisite
Alpaca grows naturally in 16 classed shades (As classed by AOA color classes*). From Ivory creams, to cognac camels, neutral grays and rose gray hews, a myriad of dye free shades are available naturally. Expert blending these naturally occurring colors creates far more. Alpaca dyes beautifully as well, creating every shade under the rainbow, often bright and happy colors instead of muted pastels.
Dyed or natural, alpaca has a richness and depth to its color, unrivaled by any other fiber, natural or man made.
8. It’s noble
Also known as ‘the fibre of the gods’ or ‘the gold of the Andes’, alpaca cloth was once reserved only for royalty, and with one touch you'll understand why.
9. It’s sustainable
Alpacas are green animals. They are not overbred, their two-toed feet don’t cause damage to the ground they walk on and their "particular" grazing (they only eat certain plants and don’t pull up them up by the root, rather they nip them off at ground level) helps preserve the ecosystem in which they live. Their manure does not contaminate the soil rather it enriches it.
The processing of their fiber or "wool" doesn't need harsh chemicals unlike sheep's wool, thus the cleaning of alpaca will not pollute ground water.
Alpaca garments are biodegradable, lanolin and dander free - making them naturally hypoallergenic AND alpaca is naturally flame retardant.
10. It’s easy to wear, to care for, and btw exceptionally durable
Last but truly not least, alpaca garments don’t need to be laundered as often as other garments, and far less than you'd think. Because alpaca doesn't absorb moisture, because of the smooth shaft that doesn't hold odor or dirt, airing them out between wearings is often all they need.
Unlike other natural fibers, alpaca is stronger and far more durable. No need for elbow patches or de-pilling. Alpaca wouldn't dream of wearing out.
When you do need to wash them, (always store them clean with lavender or cedar as moths like alpaca too.) simply use cold water and mild detergent, gently swishing, never agitating them. Wash once, rinse twice in cold clean water. Be sure to blot them in a towel and lay them out of suns reach to dry. Yes, you can use fabric softener but not bleach. Worried? Don't be! They can also be dry cleaned. Cleaning instructions come in each of our garments.
If you don’t have alpaca somewhere in your wardrobe, you’re missing out. It’s a modern, sustainable, natural luxury that fits every lifestyle.
We have created heirloom quality pieces for you to enjoy or give, sure to be treasured.
Photo credit: @smarttimages via Twenty20
*at the time of writing.