Alpaca Fleece Basics
100% Alpaca Yarn
Our label says 100% alpaca and that is just what it means. The regulations in South America may allow up to 30% other fiber in “100% alpaca.”
Fingering weight yarn is often used for baby items, socks, and awe inspiring Fair Isle patterns. Fingering weight is sometimes listed as “baby yarn” and is about double the weight of lace yarn. It also works well for a lace shawl with a bit of substance.
Sport weight yarn and DK (double knit) weight yarn are often viewed as interchangeable, but they do have a slight difference. Sport weight yarn is a teeny bit lighter or finer than DK weight. Use these weights for socks, accessories, shawls, wraps, and heirloom sweaters like those inspired by Norwegian ski clothing.
Worsted weight yarn is the most widely available weight of yarn and the most frequently used. At double the weight of fingering yarn, worsted weight yarn is great for knitters of all skill levels and can be worked into nearly anything.
Heavy worsted weight is just a hair heavier than plain old worsted weight. Good for the same range of projects as worsted weight.
Bulky weight yarn is about twice as thick as worsted weight yarn. The greatest part about bulky weight is that it can be worked up quickly on large needles. For those who want instant knitting gratification, try a project with bulky weight yarn. Use for sweaters, throws, felted items, or home decor.
Super bulky is the ultimate for making fast knits. At 2 stitches per inch, you could knit up a small project in a couple of hours; a larger project in a few days.
Alpaca fleece is rapidly moving to the top of an elite group known as specialty fibers. Alpaca fiber is rare and extremely fine.
To touch and then to wear a 100% alpaca garment inspires superlatives such as “finer than cashmere . . .“, “smoother than silk . . .“, “softer than cotton . . .“, “warmer than goose down or the new synthetic fabrics like Gortex,” and “breathes better than thermal knits.” And the really exciting part of these enthusiastic endorsements is that they are all true.
Alpaca fleece is almost indestructible. In fact, fine woven alpaca garments in remarkably good condition have recently been discovered in Peruvian ruins dating back 2500 years. Just think how long your new alpaca sweater will last!
And, alpaca clothing is extremely healthy and comfortable to wear. The absence of lanolin and other oils in the fleece and its extraordinary fineness of handle mean that alpaca garments are both hypoallergenic and luxuriously soft on your skin. When you put on an alpaca sweater, you will immediately notice the absence of the scratchy “prickle” found in garments made of more coarse fiber.
The hair of the alpaca is called ‘fleece’ or ‘fiber’ rather than ‘fur’ or ‘wool.’ Alpaca fleece has 22 natural shades ranging from black to silver and rose gray and white, from mahogany brown to light fawn and champagne.
Alpacas are sheared annually, usually in the spring. The fiber may be sold and processed into rovings, spun into yarn, knitted or woven into fine fabrics. Each step adds more value to the product.
Alpaca fleece is softer than cashmere or angora, and warmer and lighter weight than wool, without the prickle-factor that some wool has. Since alpaca fleece has no lanolin, it is easier to process and is hypoallerginic.
Alpaca fleece is a premium fiber and in high demand in the fashion industry. It is light-weight, warm, durable, soft and not itchy. Handspinners appreciate its quality, and handcrafters find it easy to work with. The natural hues are highly desirable, yet light colors readily accept dye.
Alpaca fiber is sold several ways. Hand-spinners and fiber artists buy raw fleece. Knitters often purchase alpaca yarn. Each stage of the process (cleaning, carding, spinning, knitting, finishing, etc.) adds more value to the fiber. As a finished garment, it can sell for $10.00 per oz. Hand knit goods are more desirable and may sell for much more.