Friday, December 3, 2010

Fiber Friday: Alpaca

What a yummy fiber. I just started knitting a new scarf (my third knit project!) with an alpaca blend. It is tri-colored with a creamy white, light brown and dark brown. I began to wonder if alpaca raised in warmer climes and lower elevations is as good as Alpaca from the Andes. As far as I have researched, the fiber looses some luster when the animals live in Australia or the U.S. and the fibers aren't quite as fine. Most alpaca still comes from Peru, Bolivia or Chile. Alpaca is very fine, less than 34 microns. Compare that to a human hair which averages 90 microns.Photo fromSnow Mountain Alpacas from Keenesburg, Colorado
Alpacas are sheared just like sheep, usually annually. The best fleece comes from the blanket of the animal, the part covering the back, side shoulders and rump. Baby alpaca fiber comes from the first clip that commands a premium rate because of its extra fineness, 22.5-23.5 microns. Shearings can produce 5-6 pounds of wool. Alpaca is hypoallergenic and less itchy than wool as alpaca has no lanolin. Vicuna, alpaca's wild cousins, have wool that is only 12 microns thick. They are rounded up and sheared every two years. What a chore that must be! You can buy a ball of vicuna yarn for a mere $300!
Here is a lovely superfine alpaca tweed from Knit Purl. This one is $27.50 for 8 ounces.
Oh, and if you want to buy and alpaca they run $1000-$16,000!
Theresa, Ommama

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