Alpaca fiber (also known as alpaca wool) is some of the softest materials in the world, and it is obtained by shearing the fur off of alpacas. It is some of the most sought material in the world because it creates extremely soft and long-lasting clothing items.
What is Alpaca Fiber?
So, this brings us to the question – what is alpaca fiber? Alpaca fiber is a natural fiber that is obtained from alpacas. Different breeds of alpacas provide various types of fiber. Huacaya is the breed of alpaca that provides fiber that is quite similar to that of sheep’s wool. It is warm, soft, and hypoallergenic.
Suri is the second breed that is used to harvest alpaca fiber. Suri fiber is similar to natural silk, and it hangs off the body in the way dreadlocks do. Interestingly enough, alpaca fibers naturally come in 22 different colors.
Alpaca fiber has natural water and fire-resistant properties, which is another reason for it being so highly sought after. The fibers are naturally soft, lightweight, and durable, making the material created from them ideal for any winter season.
What are Alpaca Fiber Grades?
One important thing to consider when harvesting alpaca fiber is the grade you are getting. Alpaca fiber grade is the classification system used to grade the fibers according to their fineness. Depending on the association that you are a part of or follow, you can find different fiber grade classification systems.
One of the most common grading systems classifies alpaca fiber as follows:
Royal Baby fibers have 22 or fewer microns.
Baby Alpaca fibers have between 22.1 and 23 microns.
Superfine Alpaca fibers have between 23.1 and 26.5 microns.
Second fibers have between 26.6 and 31 microns.
Thirds fibers have 31.1 or more microns.
According to the American Foot Care Nurses Association, the grading system of alpaca fibers is as follows:
Royal baby fibers have 20 or fewer microns.
Baby fibers have between 20 and 22.9 microns.
Superfine fibers have between 23 and 26.9 microns.
Adult fibers have between 27 and 31.9 microns.
Strong fibers have 32 or over microns.
How is Alpaca Fiber Made?
Alpaca fiber is made by shearing alpacas, and this is done once a year in the springtime to ensure that the alpacas have time to grow their wool back for the winter. During the shearing (also known as harvesting), a thick layer of the awn hairs is removed to reveal the undercoat. The undercoat consists of a finer grade of alpaca fibers, and these are sheared separately as they are softer and more delicate than the other grades of fiber.
Once the shearing process has been completed, the alpaca fibers are roughly cleaned to remove any dirt, grime, or bugs that are hiding within the pounds of wool. After cleaning, they are sorted by grade (and sometimes even color). With the sorting process, the fibers are carded by combing them in a single direction to ensure uniformity and ease with the spinning process.
The fibers are then taken to be spun into yarn with the use of spinning wheels. This yarn is washed and dried to remove any fine impurities. Once dried, the wool is ready to be sold as knitting yarn or used for further processing and production.
Alpaca fiber clothing can be found at specialty shops that sell such clothing at prices that reflect the quality of the material. Alpaca fiber is manufactured in South America (most commonly in Peru) so you can find there a lot of shops that will be selling alpaca clothing at the actual rates.
Another option anyone can avail of is online shopping. Many online shops sell alpaca clothing at reasonable rates; however, these rates will not be similar to clothes made from synthetic material. Synthetic fibers are cheap, so it is quite evident that the clothing made out of these fibers will also be cheap.
One of the most coveted alpaca fiber items is aPeruvian throw blanket. So, anyone looking to buy alpaca blankets, these are easily available online.
Alpaca fibers have a level of quality unlike any other material, and it is exclusively produced in South America (home of alpacas). It is also wondrous how two breeds of the same animal can produce fibers that are so different from one another, with Huacaya fiber being similar to sheep’s wool and Suri fiber being silkier in texture.
Using these fibers, designers create garments that are long-lasting, durable, and have the softness of a cloud. This material is made through hard work and an intensive process that includes shearing, cleaning, sorting, carding, spinning, and further processing.