Alpaca wool has witnessed a resurgence in popularity for quite some time now, having been the yarn of royalty for generations. It is also sustainable, eco-friendly as well as animal-friendly.
Baby alpaca wool is regarded as one of the highest-quality fabrics in the world. The reason for this is because of its distinctive and luxurious feel. What exactly is baby alpaca wool? Does it come from baby alpacas?
We have the answers. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about baby alpaca wool. For those of you who are in a hurry, here is a rundown of the main topics we will discuss:
- Where Does Baby Alpaca Wool Come From?
- What Is Baby Alpaca Wool?
- How Is Baby Alpaca Wool Made?
- Baby Alpaca Wool Qualities.
- What Can You Knit With Baby Alpaca Wool?
- How To Clean Baby Alpaca Wool Garments?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Where Does Baby Alpaca Wool Come From?
Alpacas are a part of the camelid family that is native to the Peruvian Andes in South America. What you may not know is that there are two breeds of alpaca, namely the Huacaya and Suri alpacas. Both breeds are bred particularly for their natural fiber, better known as alpaca fleece.
Both breeds of alpacas differ in both physical appearance and fiber quality. The fleece of Suri alpacas has a dreadlock-like structure that drapes down on their body. Suri fleece is a straight fiber that is used for specialized fiber manufacturing in the same way as mohair is. Suri fleece is likewise incredibly fine and silky, and because of its fiber structure, it’s essentially used in woven goods.
Huacaya fleece has a crimpy string-like fiber that grows out and gives alpacas a fluffy appearance. Huacaya fiber has an unexpected feature: the natural crimp gives great elasticity, which is why it is utilized in most alpaca knit goods.
In terms of texture, Suri alpaca fiber is most often compared to Mohair from the Angora goat, and Huacaya fiber is similar to sheep wool. Huacaya fleece also resembles sheep’s wool in appearance. However, this fiber is considerably lighter and warmer but also less scratchy and prickly.
Alpaca wool is categorized by varying degrees of fineness which is measured in microns. The following are the three most frequent alpaca fibers used to manufacture wool:
- Royal alpaca is the finest and softest of all the fiber categories and measures in diameters of 18 microns or less.
- Superfine Alpaca wool is more common and thicker than baby alpaca and royal alpaca wool, measuring 21-23 microns in diameter.
- Baby alpaca fibers have a diameter of 19-20 microns, making it the second finest wool category.
What Is Baby Alpaca Wool?
The term baby alpaca wool sounds somewhat deceptive. You would be forgiven for thinking that baby alpacas are sheared to make the wool. Crias are the name given to baby alpacas, therefore the term “baby alpaca wool” does not directly relate to a baby alpaca.
The wool gathered from the underside of alpacas’ necks is referred to as baby alpaca wool.
First and foremost, baby alpaca wool is known for its quality texture. It is one of the softest textiles on the planet. It’s silky and soft, comparable to cashmere.
Because of its luxurious and silky feel, consumers are attracted to baby alpaca wool products. The alpaca wool is taken from the softest part of the alpaca, ensuring that the fibers have a wonderful quality.
Compared to sheep’s wool, baby alpaca wool is both light and warm. Mixed in with heavier synthetic materials, you won’t be bothered weight of the wool.
The baby alpaca wool’s superfine fibers are what make it such a popular commodity. The fibers are often compared to that of cashmere.
To better understand the term “fine”, let’s make a comparison. Alpaca fiber, unlike standard wool, is more similar to hair. It has a scale-like texture and hollow fibers.
The average human hair measures approximately 75 microns, whereas baby alpaca fiber has a micron count of 19-20 microns. You can well imagine just how thin the wool fibers of a baby alpaca are.
How Is Baby Alpaca Wool Made?
Alpaca wool processing is done in one of the most ethical ways imaginable. People in South America have been processing alpaca wool for generations and have the right combination of skills to do so in a natural, efficient, and animal-friendly manner.
Alpaca fibers are available in its natural colors, ranging from black, brown, to pure white, and every other shade in between. Let’s look at how alpaca wool is made.
Just like sheep, alpacas are sheared once a year, usually in the summer months. This helps the alpacas to re-grow their coats and also prevents alpacas from heat stress. The shearing process takes mere minutes to complete to causing little distress to alpacas.
Before carding can be done, alpaca fiber is sorted and graded. This means that the fiber shorn from one alpaca is sorted from super fine to coarse. Following the sorting of the fiber, any debris picked up by the alpacas will be carded using a fine-toothed brush or by hand.
Individual wool fibers are also combed in a consistent direction during the carding process. While alpaca currently comes in 22 natural colors, the fibers can be colored at this stage. Alpaca wool is ready to be spun into yarn once it has been carded.
Spinning is the process of making strong and consistent threads from raw wool fibers. Peruvian weavers utilize a drop spindle called a pushka, which looks like a wooden spinning top with an extended axis.
With one hand, fiber is collected and twisted while the other is threaded into the spindle. Multiple threads will merge to produce stronger fibers as a result of spinning.
Separated from the pushka, the single threads are shaped into balls and spun anew. Hand-spinning wool into yarn is a highly skilled trade as well as a valued Peruvian method used by indigenous peoples and passed down from generation to generation.
The next crucial stage in the procedure is to wash the wool. Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca wool is cleaned after it has been spun. This is a necessary step to get rid of any stains.
The wool is submerged in lukewarm water for around 30 minutes while being washed. It’s crucial to avoid rubbing, wringing, or squeezing the wool. Shampoo or a detergent is used to eliminate any oil or grime during the washing procedure.
The wool can be dyed at this time as well. In South and North America, instead of using synthetic dyes to color alpaca wool, people still practice the traditional method of natural dyeing. After being dyed, alpaca wool is washed a second time to remove any residual color.
Baby Alpaca Wool Qualities
Wool or yarn is typically sold in a ball, hank, or skein. The shape of a skein is shaped like an oblong ball. Baby alpaca yarn is much finer than traditional wool. The cost of baby alpaca yarn and royal alpaca wool is significantly higher than the cost of other grades of alpaca wool.
Let’s look at the qualities of baby alpaca wool.
Alpaca wool is 100% hypoallergenic which is ideal for sensitive skin. This is because there is no lanolin, which is the major cause of skin irritation in wool. It also is itch-free or holds dust.
Baby Alpaca Wool Is Durable
If taken care of correctly, alpaca wool can last a long time. Alpaca wool products will not lose their shine, shape, or strength. After a while, most varieties of wool will start to develop pills because of friction. Baby alpaca wool does not develop pills, which is another reason why it will continue to look lovely after a year.
Baby Alpaca Wool Has Stretch
Baby alpaca wool is not only durable but also quite stretchy. This implies it will keep its form even after many years of use. Baby alpaca wool, in particular, is recognized for its ability to keep its form.
The flame resistance of alpaca fiber is higher than that of other fibers. This means that baby alpaca wool is extremely unlikely to catch fire. However, if baby alpaca wool is blended with any plant-based or synthetic fibers, it will be flammable.
A word of caution: While baby alpaca wool is flame resistant, it should nevertheless be handled with care. Even while it won’t melt on your skin like other synthetic fibers, the flame’s intensity might do significant harm.
Baby alpaca wool has insulating and isolating features. It’s isolating in terms of keeping the cold and wind out while the insulation properties keeps in the heat and warmth.
The fibers of baby alpaca wool are hollow. The air pockets in this hollow fiber are exceedingly tiny. These tiny holes trap the heat and keep everything beneath them warm. This is how an alpaca’s body keeps warm in chilly weather.
The fibers of baby alpaca wool are moisture-wicking. Any moisture is absorbed by the fiber and expelled via the hollow fibers. Baby alpaca wool does not retain odor.
What Can You Knit With Baby Alpaca Wool?
Due to its special qualities, alpaca wool is mostly utilized in apparel to improve comfort. Scarves, sweaters, shawls, caps, blankets, and socks are the most popular baby alpaca wool apparel.
Because of alpaca’s antimicrobial and allergic qualities, those who are allergic to other materials can do well with baby alpaca wool goods.
How To Clean Baby Alpaca Wool Garments?
Always follow the instructions on the skein of yarn before using it. There are a variety of baby alpaca yarns available, some of which are far more delicate than others.
Hand-wash clothing in cold water with as little detergent as possible, and use a decent, mild, and sensitive shampoo.
Although alpaca wool is highly durable and outperforms most other wools, make sure it can be cleaned in a washing machine. Some baby alpaca wool garments should only be hand washed or dry cleaned.
If you’re hand-washing your alpaca garments, don’t wring or twist them afterward; instead, gently press them to remove extra water before allowing it to dry flat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Baby Alpaca Wool Shed?
Baby alpaca wool sheds. Although some may consider shedding to be a drawback, it is an advantage. Shedding removes weak, brittle, and broken fibers that can cause the wool to felt or pill if not removed.
Running a vacuum over your baby alpaca wool garments is a simple technique for removing any stray strands.
Can I Crochet With Baby Alpaca Wool?
You certainly can. Baby alpaca yarn’s fineness makes it excellent for crocheting blankets, scarves, shawls, cardigans, and more. The wool’s thickness, if it’s 100% baby alpaca wool or a blend, and crochet or knitting needle width needed for that particular baby alpaca wool skein may all be found on the label. You’ll also find instructions on how to care for the wool on the label.
Final Words: Why You Should Buy It
Baby alpaca wool is one of the world’s softest fibers. Being a natural fiber, baby alpaca wool has amazing qualities. It’s hypoallergenic, thermal regulating, and is an absolute delight on your skin.
Baby alpaca wool is rather expensive, but it is well worth the money. Garments made of baby alpaca wool will last a very long time if properly cared for.
Do you have any knitting experience using baby alpaca wool? Tell us in the comments what you like most about it!