By: Brianna Boecker
Being that alpaca is not a well-known material or animal in the USA we get a LOT of questions about alpaca, their fur, and the process of creating high quality alpaca yarn. Read on to learn all about it!
Alpacas do not shed their fleece naturally and need to be sheared in order to stay comfortable and healthy. They are similar to sheep in this way, however sheep’s wool is quite different from alpaca fiber. Compared to sheep’s wool, alpaca fiber is both lighter and warmer. Alpaca is considered one of the finest fibers in the world because of its softness, warmth, strength, and hypo-allergenic qualities.
Photo by tissura.com
There are two types of alpaca, the Huacaya and the Suri. Huacaya fiber has crimpy waves and grows in bundles (right photo), while Suri fiber is straight and grows in locks (left photo). The fiber from Suri alpacas is rarer and more desired than the Huacaya fiber.
Photo by Kuodatravel.com
Most alpacas need to be shorn annually, so that they don’t overheat in the summer from their extremely thermal coat.
After the alpaca have been sheared, their fibers are sorted based on their different characteristics. Below are the steps involved in the sorting process.
- The fleece is skirted, which means it’s cleaned of any dirt or other contaminants on a skirting board (shown in photo below)
- The fleece is sorted into categories based on their color.
- The fibers are separated into categories based on their length.
- The fibers are graded according to their fineness. Different parts of an alpaca yield different diameters of fiber, measured in microns.
This last step determines their overall quality. A smaller micron number equates to a higher quality grade and considered to be finer.
Photo by alpacasofmontana.com
Many people will assume that fiber called “Baby Alpaca” is sheared from an actual baby alpaca, but that is not the case. The term “Baby Alpaca Fiber” refers to the high-quality, fine fiber found on the softest part of the alpaca, which is usually the chest.