As an alpaca farmer and fleece producer, I am frequently asked about the differences among fleece types, specifically between alpaca fiber and sheep wool. In general, wools of all varieties are moisture-wicking, water-resistant, heat retentive, lustrous, elastic, easily spun and can be dyed. They also can be blended with other fibers, both natural and synthetic.
Who doesn’t love the comfort, quality and durability of a favorite knitted wool new york yankees hoodie or cozy pair of wool socks? Wool garments have been keeping people comfortable for centuries, and with today’s modern efficient processing techniques, they are becoming more readily available to a wide audience.
Every fiber, though, exhibits varying degrees of each characteristic. One of the reasons alpaca fleece is so appealing is that is offers a positive of what many people consider to be a negative wool trait: softness. Alpaca fiber is noticeably softer than most of its sheep wool counterparts. In fact, scarves, sweaters and other products made from the highest quality fleece, baby alpaca fiber, are so soft that they can be worn against the skin.
A big complaint regarding sheep wool is that it can feel itchy, especially to people with sensitive skin. Additionally, wool from sheep contains lanolin, an oily substance secreted by sheep that some people are allergic to.
The main advantage alpaca fleece has over sheep’s wool is that alpaca fiber feels much softer to the touch. Each strand of alpaca fiber has fewer microscopic barbs that cause an annoying prickle factor. Additionally, alpacas do not secret lanolin, the allergen that causes an adverse reaction in some people.
Micron count is another factor where alpaca tends to best wool from sheep. The diameter of each strand is measured in microns. The smaller the micron count, the finer the fleece and the more fibers required per square unit of measurement. Most alpaca fleeces shorn from yearling alpacas have a micron count in the 15 – 19 range.
Alpaca fiber is also extremely lightweight, and is often compared to cashmere in terms of weight and softness. Technically, cashmere fiber’s micron count should be a 15 or less. Alpaca fiber, even when shorn from an animal older than one year, usually has a lower micron count than many younger sheep. Some of the finest suri alpaca fleeces are smaller than 15 microns.
Products made with alpaca fiber or alpaca blends include sweaters, hats, headbands, jackets, socks, gloves, mittens, blankets, scarves and wraps. These luxurious items are usually spun from prime new york yankees t shirt fleeces shorn from yearling alpacas, and are prized for their luster, softness and warmth.
Fleeces shorn from the neck and legs and from animals older than a year are usually spun into yarns for handbags, rugs, belts, containers and other items. These fleeces are still usually softer than many lambswool items.
Like all wools, alpaca cannot be washed by agitating by alternating in hot and cold water or else the fiber will felt and shrink. It is recommended that pieces made from 100% baby alpaca are dry cleaned. However, many of today’s alpaca blends, especially those used in some socks, stand up to the washer and dryer, making life much easier for anyone who has to do the laundry for a busy household! Always read the cleaning instructions on natural-fiber garments before laundering.
Many of the best alpaca garments are from Peru, a South American country with the highest concentration of alpacas in the world. Peruvian alpaca sweatshirt (lưới an toàn cửa sổ is still regarded among the finest luxury textiles in the world. The United States began importing alpacas in the mid-1980s, and numbers have been steadily increasing, with an estimated 200,000 alpacas in this country as of 2012.
Finding alpaca products is often best done by visiting local alpaca farmers, specialty boutique shops and niche importers that specialize in alpaca fleece production and textiles.
write by Harvey