How is Alpaca fabric made?

The process used to make Alpaca is very similar to that of wool. The fibres come from a domesticated, shaggy haired mammal related to the Llama and the Vicuna. This animal is native to parts of South America. The fibres are sheared from the fleece of the animal, meaning that it is not harmed in any way. Baby Alpaca is the name of the fibres that are shorn from the animal’s first full coat and are softer and more luxurious than any fibres collected thereafter.

Alpaca Manufacture

These fibres are then combed and carded in preparation for making the yarn. The fibres are now organised into length and are all facing the same way, ready to be spun into yarn. These yarns are then woven or knitted into luxurious fabrics. There are two main types of Alpaca that can be used for textile manufacture. These are Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya is a fibre most similar to wool. It has a natural crimp and is soft, dense and sheep –like. Suri is made up of silky, pencil like locks that tend to be longer and silkier than other types of Alpaca. Suri is the more rare fibre and the more luxurious. It was reserved for Royal costumes in the Incan times.

Like Cashmere, Alpacas have a softer layer of down hair which is protected by a layer of rough, coarse guard hairs. It is the under hair that is used extensively in fabric manufacture and as the animal moults, the fibres can be collected without the need for shearing. These fibres then have to be sorted so that only the softer hairs are used for processing.

Alpacas are shorn once a year and the best quality of fibres come from the ‘Blanket’ which is the side, back and shoulders of the animal.

Properties of Alpaca Fibre

  • Similar to wool in both handle and warmth
  • Has a Pile
  • Very soft and Silky
  • Silky and Very Glossy
  • Not rough or prickly like some hair fibres can be
  • Doesn’t naturally contain Lanolin like wool does so it can be worn by people who are allergic to the Lanolin in Wool
  • Not water resistant as it doesn’t contain Lanolin
  • Flame-Resistant because of the lack of Lanolin
  • Available in Natural colours but can be dyed easily
  • Comfortable
  • Can be stretchy depending on the end fabric and whether the fibres have a natural crimp
  • Cria fires (fibres shorn from the younger animals) is said to be softer and more luxurious than Cashmere
  • Can be blended with other fibres
  • Expensive
  • Excellent Insulator

Other uses of Alpaca

  • Clothing
  • Hats, mittens, scarves
  • Jumpers
  • High-end Luxury Fabrics
  • Knitwear
  • Outdoor Sports Clothing
  • Rugs and other interior furnishing fabrics
  • Blended with wool and silk to maximise the potential end applications
  • Outer rough hair can be used for sacking, ropes and other heavy duty end uses as it is strong and durable.

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Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary

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