Sometimes, even in the summer months, the weather can be changeable. So being prepared and finding a wooly that doesn’t overheat you when it’s hot or is ineffective in keeping off a chill can be a conundrum. Is Alpaca wool the answer?
Here, we’ll explore the properties and advantages of wearing alpaca. We’ll look at:
- What Is an Alpaca?
- Alpaca Wool Qualities
- Wearing Alpaca Garments
- Wear Alpaca Wool All Year Round (Conclusion)
An alpaca is a South American camelid that looks like a llama but is much smaller. In their native countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile, alpacas have been domesticated since ancient Andean societies kept them for their wool and meat.
Most alpaca textiles still originate from this source, but many alpaca farms are popping up in the US.
There are two different types of alpaca fiber—Huacaya, which looks similar to sheep wool, is a better fit for woven goods than the less common “ dreadlocked” Suri fiber, which is more similar to natural silk and has no crimp.
Huacaya fiber can be spun into varied weight yarns using a wool-making technique. It’s a natural fiber that’s soft, long-lasting, sumptuous, and smooth.
Let’s look at the wool’s properties closer.
An alpaca garment has a number of advantages over its sheep or goat equivalents. Due to its hollow structure and lack of lanolin, Alpaca wool is warmer and less “itchy” than Merino wool, which is a premium sheep’s wool.
While not being quite as soft as Cashmere, it is nonetheless silky soft, as well as being warmer, more durable, stretchy, and breathable than Cashmere.
Alpaca wool is also water, fire, and wrinkle resistant.
Because alpaca wool does not contain lanolin, a grease released by sheep and goats into their wool, it is hypoallergenic. The absence of lanolin reduces allergy symptoms in those who are normally susceptible to them.
This incredible material contains small air pockets that give it unique properties that retain heat to keep you warm in cold weather. These very same air pockets allow the wool to breathe in hot weather, keeping you cool.
Garments made from the Huacaya Alpaca’s fleece are airy and wick sweat away from the body to maintain a comfortable temperature, and they do not retain body odors.
Alpaca fiber is available in six different fiber grades. These are:
Grade A – “Ultra Royal” – a premium fiber between 10-17.9 microns thick.
Grade one – known as “Royal Alpaca” – 19 microns in diameter or less
Grade two – “Baby Alpaca” – the name is deceptive, this yarn is not from young alpacas—it is taken from softer parts of the alpaca’s body, typically, the neck – between 20-22 microns in diameter,
Grade three – “Fine” or “Superfine” alpaca – this fiber has a micron count of 22.1-24 microns
“Regular” alpaca fiber is grade four (24.1-26 microns) or grade five (26.1-30 microns).
The lower the micron count, the softer the alpaca wool and products.
Once the Alpaca fibers have been processed and turned into yarn, there are a variety of thicknesses available. These are categorized into eight recognized weight classes:
Zero – A gossamer fine yarn, known as “Lace.”
One – A superfine yarn, known as “Fingering.”
Two – A fine yarn, known as “Sport.”
Three – A light yarn, known as “DK.”
Four – A medium yarn, known as “Worsted.”
Five – A bulky yarn, known as “Chunky.”
Six – A super bulky yarn, known as “Roving.”
Seven – A jumbo yarn, known as “Jumbo.”
While there is legislation in the United States to combat mislabeling, when it comes to alpaca product descriptions and labeling, there are occasions when they are inconsistent and incomplete.
Check the label and product description for the following information before buying any alpaca items:
- Level of fiber quality – regular alpaca, baby alpaca, royal alpaca, or superfine alpaca.
- Sport, DK, worsted, roving, and other weight classes.
- Alpaca fiber content as a percentage of non-alpaca fiber – 100 percent alpaca or 90 percent alpaca and 10% bamboo.
The normal Andean habitat of the alpaca can get to around 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and drop to -4 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
The unique fur of an alpaca protects it from these harsh temperature changes. It also naturally wicks away moisture to assist in their body temperature regulation.
Humans that dress in alpaca fabrics can share some of these characteristics.
Because of the alpaca wool’s microscopic air pockets, it has about three times the insulating power of sheep’s wool—you will find an alpaca garment is light and warm, airy and soft.
DK grade alpaca yarn is generally used to produce lightweight sweaters and shawls, ideal for wearing on summer days that might turn cooler later on in the evening.
Alpacas come in a wide range of natural colors (around 16 at the last count), so their wool can be turned into yarn and there’s no need for chemicals or dyes to be involved in the process.
However, you can obtain dyed yarns and garments in a wider variety of shades should you require them.
The alpaca industry is well-regulated and animal-friendly. Killing alpacas only for their hides is neither practical nor ethical. They can produce more wool the longer they live.
While you can obtain alpaca hide products, only ethically sourced alpaca hides from Peru’s exclusive alpaca meat industry are used by legitimate alpaca hide producers.
Alpaca farming and grazing have a relatively minimal environmental impact. This, according to studies by PETA, is not the situation with sheep’s wool. Neither is it the case with the more commonly known cashmere goat’s wool.
So there you have it! Alpaca garments are a great choice any time of the year. Due to microscopic air pockets that give the fiber amazing insulation, it keeps you warm in the winter and you can also slip on alpaca in the summer and stay cool.
Alpaca wool is naturally windproof, anti-bacterial, and odor-resistant, among other qualities. It’s less dense than sheep’s wool and comes in a variety of natural hues.
Ethical sourcing and sustainability mean it is also an environmentally sound choice.