One of the most versatile materials in the world is alpaca yarn. And for that reason it's easy to see why it's in such high demand. In fact, the animals are primarily bread for their fibers.
Alpaca is a domesticated animal that is native to the Andes Mountains of South America. Because of the low temperatures of their habitats, they rely upon their coats to stay warm. The fibers of their hair are hollow, providing a high degree of warmth. The insulating capability of alpaca is five to seven times greater than that of wool. But despite their ability to insulate, alpaca fibers are lighter than those found in wool, which makes alpaca yarn ideal for garments designed to keep humans warm, from scarves to sweaters. Other knitted and woven items that can be produced with alpaca yarn include blankets, hats, gloves, socks and coats. Baby alpaca yarn can be made to make beautiful accessory items, such as vests, legwarmers and even mittens. This type of alpaca is actually finer than cashmere.
Characteristics that determine the value of alpaca are the amount produced by each animal, its color, fineness and the length of the fibers. And while the two textiles are processed in a similar manner, alpaca has many advantages over wool. Not only is it warmer than wool, but softer and stronger. Its durability makes it more adaptable to various industrial processing methods. And its value is reflected by the fact that raw alpaca hair can be converted into "clean" fiber, for use in yarn, at a yield rate of between 85 and 95%. This contrasts with a yield rate for wool of only between 45 and 75%.
There are many other characteristics that make alpaca unique. Not only do the hair fibers come naturally in 22 different colors, but they can be blended to reproduce virtually the entire color spectrum. Industrial processors are particularly fond of white alpaca because it can be dyed to any color, and when dyed, the color will not fade. Alpaca is also versatile because it can be combined with other textiles. Appealing to wearers is an alpaca silk blend yarn, which is super soft and super light. A particular type of alpaca silk blend yarn is half and half, while other blends may be only 20 to 30% silk. Baby alpaca yarn is not only the softest and finest variety of the material, but is still durable, and can be hand-washed. On the other end of the spectrum is bulky alpaca yarn, which is perfect for knitting. Though heavier, bulky alpaca yarn is still smooth and soft.
Strong enough not to tear, alpaca is not easily stained, and if it gets dirty, it can be cleaned without the need for special cleaning agents. Those who are sensitive to certain fabrics will be happy to know that alpaca material is hypoallergenic. And unlike wool, alpaca will not build up static electricity, which means no sudden shocks for the wearer.
Alpaca yarn may be more expensive than wool, but it's many advantages make it well worth the extra cost.