Alpacas – The Fiber

If you love the fiber arts (spinning, knitting, felting, etc.) and you love animals, you cannot go wrong with alpacas. Alpaca fiber is a soft, luxurious fiber that is a joy to spin and knit with.

Alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic. When people say they are allergic to wool they are mostly allergic to the lanolin that is commonly found in sheep’s wool. Alpaca fiber contains no lanolin. It also does not “itch”. Sheep’s wool contains coarse fibers called guard hairs that cause a person to itch. Alpaca fiber contains no guard hairs. Alpaca fibers contain microscopic air pockets that make the fleece have a unique thermal capacity. The result is a lightweight but warm fabric.Alpaca sweaters and other finished products are strong and resilient. With proper care, they can last a lifetime. They can generally be hand or machine washed on a gentle cycle. It is best to lay them flat to dry to avoid shrinkage.

With the recent drop in prices, alpacas and alpaca fiber are becoming more affordable to the “hobby farmer.” Because of its superior quality, alpaca fiber is ranked in the same category as cashmere. In fact, many people will tell you that Alpaca feels just as soft.

Hand Washing Alpaca Garments:

  • Fill the wash basin with cool water and add a squirt of mild shampoo (dishing washing liquid and  laundry soap/detergent are too harsh).
  • Submerge the alpaca garment in the wash basin and agitate it gently.
  • Rinse the garment thoroughly in cool water.
  • Spread a large towel on a flat surface.
  • Lay the wet garment flat on the towel. Roll the towel up and garment together and then squeeze out excess water.
  • Remove the garment from the wet towel and spread it out on a clean, dry towel, tugging gently until the shape is even and seams are straight.
  • Allow the garment to dry in a shaded location, preferably on a garment rack to allow air to get to the bottom
  • Store in a cedar chest or a zipper-sealed plastic bag to prevent moth damage