SageRidge Mill & Critters

What Makes Alpaca Fiber so Special?

Over 7,000 years ago, the South American people domesticated and bred alpacas to produce fine, soft and warm fiber.  Of all the animal fibers, only de-haired cashmere, around 14-16 microns, is finer than alpaca which comes in at around 18-26 microns.  In comparison, human hair is about 100 microns thick!

  • Light weight:  Alpaca is warmer by weight than most sheep's wool because each hair contains microscopic air pickets which insulate the garment; holding heat in and cold out.
  • Requires cleaning less often:  Alpaca fiber has suint, a waxy coating, which protects and seals the individual hairs.  This protective coating is not removed by processing so it continues to protect the fiber even after it is made into garments.  Suint repels dust/water and even is somewhat stain resistant!
  • Flame resistant:  Animal fibers are more resistant to flame than most plant based or synthetic fiber.
  • Long staple length:  Alpaca fibers have a longer length - generally 3-6 inches each year - which makes for a smoother dressier yarn with better drape and flexibility.
  • Lustrous:  The long smooth scaled alpaca fiber is naturally shiny and lustrous, reflecting light brightly - comparable to silk.
  • Hypo-Allergenic:  Alpaca fiber does not have lanolin which is what induces an allergic reaction in some people to sheep's wool.
  • Silky soft feeling:  The longer smoother scales on alpaca fibers are less prickly feeling than all but the finest wool.  Alpaca does not typically irritate sensitive skin.
  • Natural colors:  Alpaca comes in a broader array of natural colors than any other animal fiber for un-dyed natural fashions.  Alpaca fiber also takes dye beautifully for an unlimited range of colors.
  • Wicks moisture:  Alpaca fiber garments will "breathe", retain their warmth when wet.
  • Diverse uses:  Alpaca comes in 2 fiber types - Crimpy huacaya fiber is used to make garments with high loft (lots of warm, trapped air), stretch and spring.  Smooth, drapey suri fiber is long and highly flexible which lends itself beautifully to woven goods and fabrics.  
  • High tensile strength:  In spite of each individual hair being so fine; when alpaca fibers are twisted (spun) the result is highly resistant to breakage.  The Incas of Peru spanned impassable canyons in the Andes by building incredible suspension bridges without the use of metal or concrete.  Instead they built the bridges out of fiber cables that were braided from reeds or cotton and llama or alpaca wool.  These bridges were in use hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived in the 1500's.
  • Durable:  Although any natural fiber will degrade when exposed to the environment, garments made from alpaca fiber will last many years when properly cleaned, stored and cared for.  The ancient weaving of the Inca people have survived thousands of years, seen to this day.
  • Sustainable farm products:  Alpacas are gentle on the planet with their efficient digestive systems, community dung piles and soft padded feet.  Alpaca fiber is "harvested" by shearing the alpaca.
  • Environmentally friendly processing:  Alpaca fibers are easier to clean than sheep's wool because it doesn't have lanolin which has to be removed in the scouring (washing) processing step. 

Spinners say that alpaca spins like butter.  Mountain climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts are wearing alpaca socks on their feet, testifying that alpaca is warm and insulating yet wicks away moisture.  Alpaca fiber is strong - yet soft next to the skin, lightweight - yet long-lasting and durable for rugged outerwear.

​Alpaca fiber IS special.  

Alpacas - What do you make with their Fiber?

Alpacas are a type of livestock, like any other domesticated animal kept by people, they have to have value to the owner.  Alpacas are similar to sheep and some types of goats because of the fact their main function is to produce fleece (sometimes called fiber or hair), which is similar to wool.  The raw fiber can be used many ways.  It can be felted or spun into yarn.  It can be knitted, crocheted, hooked, or woven into garments and other useful household items.