Vicuna – Llama

How is Vicuna fabric made?

Vicuna fabric is the fibre from the llama which is native to the Andes Mountains of South America. It is more expensive and rarer than Cashmere and it a very luxurious fabric. It comes from the smallest and most graceful member of the llama family that has an orange coat with white patches.

In Incan time this Vicuna fabric was known as ‘Fabric of the gods’ and only royalty were permitted to wear it. Any commoners that wore it were put to death.

Vicuna Manufacture

Vicuna fibres are collected with minimal damage to the animal. This is usually done by hand shearing the llamas, which is done by the native growers. The fibres are then processed without the use of chemicals, meaning the industrial impact on the environment is minimised. The fabric is produced in a way that is very similar to wool with the fibres being combed and carded to remove the imperfections before the yarns are spun and ultimately woven or knitted into fabrics. This animal can only be shorn once every three years so the fibres are very rare. They also starve themselves if they are kept in captivity which means that they must be released back into the wild once the fibres have been obtained. It takes approximately 25-30 Vicunas to make one overcoat, making it very expensive, especially because of the dwindling numbers of Vicuna in the wild, so much so it is now classed as an endangered species.

Like Cashmere and many other hair fabrics, the Vicuna animal protects its soft under hair with a layer of guard hairs. This means that before the fabric is processed the long inflexible hairs must be removed so that only the luxurious hairs are used for the yarns. Once the fibres have been combed and carded to remove imperfections the fibres can be spun into yarns which are ultimately woven into fabrics.

Properties of Vicuna fabric

  • Warm
  • Shed moisture, dry quickly
  • Naturally soft handle
  • Luxurious feel
  • Not scratchy like some wool fabrics
  • Available in a wide variety of colours without the need for dying, meaning that they don’t harm the environment or fade like dyed fabrics do
  • Does not pill
  • Flame retardant
  • Naturally hypoallergenic
  • Comfortable and wear well
  • Natural, Sustainable and Bio-degradable
  • It  is 8 times thinner than human hair and feels like silk
  • Can be easily damamged when dyed
  • Very rare and therefore expensive
  • Finished fabric has a distinctive nap

End uses of Vicuna

  • Gloves, Scarves, Hats
  • Knitwear
  • Overcoats
  • Men’s tailored suits
  • High-end couture pieces

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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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