Alpaca Fiber Definition : Learn about Alpaca and Alpaca Fiber
 Alpaca Fiber Definition : Definitions for the Clothing & Fabric Industry
 

Wool Fiber Directory Fiber Directory Fabric Mills Definition List   Fashion Industry News  Research Wool

 
Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an Alpaca. It is a light-weight, soft, durable, luxurious [1] and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep's wool in that it is a natural fiber, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin which makes it hypoallergenic.[1][2] However, this lack of lanolin also prevents Alpaca fiber from being naturally water-repellent. It also has less crimp, thus making it much less elastic. Alpaca fleece is made into various exports, from very simple and inexpensive garments made by the aboriginal communities to sophisticated, industrially made and expensive products such as suits. In the United States, groups of smaller alpaca breeders have banded together to create "fiber co-ops," in order to make the manufacture of alpaca fiber products less expensive.

In physical structure, alpaca fiber is somewhat akin to hair, being very glossy, but its softness and fineness enable the spinner to produce satisfactory yarn with comparative ease.[3] It is hollow as well, which makes it a good insulator. Good quality alpaca fiber is approximately 18-25
in diameter[1], and can sell for 2 to 4 dollars per ounce. Finer fleeces, ones with a smaller diameter, are preferred, and thus are more expensive. As an alpaca gets older the width of the fibers gets thicker, at between 1
m
and 5
m
per year.

As with all fleece-producing animals, quality varies from animal to animal, and some alpacas produce fiber which is less than ideal. Fiber and conformation are the two most important factors in determining an alpaca's value.

Alpacas come in many shades from a true-blue black through browns-black, browns, fawns, white, silver-greys, and rose-greys.[1] However, white is predominant, [1] because of selective breeding: the white fiber can be dyed in the largest ranges of colors. In South America, the preference is for white as they generally have better fleece than the darker-colored animals. This is because the dark colors had been all but bred out of the animals. The demand for darker fiber sprung up in the United States and elsewhere, however in order to reintroduce the colors, the quality of the darker fiber has decreased slightly. Breeders have been diligently working on breeding dark animals with exceptional fiber.

The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool.

Types of Alpacas

There are two types of alpaca: Huacaya (which produce a dense, soft, crimpy sheep-like fiber), and the mop-like Suri (with silky pencil-like locks, resembling dread-locks but not actually matted fibers). Suris are prized for their longer and silkier fibers, and estimated to make up between 19-20% of the Alpaca population.[4] Since its import into the United States, the number of Suri alpacas has grown substantially and become more color diverse. The Suri is thought to be rarer, possibly because it is less hardy in the harsh South American mountain climates, as its fleece offers less insulation against the cold.

History of alpacas

Alpaca have been bred in South America for thousands of years. Vicunas were first domesticated and bred into alpacas by the ancient Andean tribes of Peru, but also appeared in Chile and Bolivia. In recent years alpacas have also been exported to other countries. In countries such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand breeders shear their animals annually, weigh the fleeces and test them for fineness. With the resulting knowledge they are able to breed heavier-fleeced animals with finer fiber. Fleece weights vary, with the top stud males reaching annual shear weights up to 7 kg total fleece and 3 kg good quality fleece. The discrepancy in weight is because an alpaca has guard hair which is often removed before spinning.

History of fiber industry

The Amerindians of Peru used this fiber in the manufacture of many styles of fabrics for thousands of years before its introduction into Europe as a commercial product. The alpaca was a crucial component of ancient life in the Andes, as it provided not only warm clothing but also meat. Many rituals revolved around the alpaca, perhaps most notably the method of killing it: An alpaca was restrained by one or more people, and a specially-trained person plunged his bare hand into the chest cavity of the animal, ripping out its heart. Today, this ritual is viewed by most as barbaric, but there are still some tribes in the Andes which practice it.

 

The first European importations of alpaca fiber were into Spain. Spain transferred that fiber to Germany and France. Apparently alpaca yarn was spun in England for the first time about the year 1808 but the fiber was condemned as an unworkable material. In 1830 Benjamin Outram, of Greetland, near Halifax, appears to have reattempted spinning it, and again it was condemned. These two attempts failed due to the style of fabric into which the yarn was woven a type of camlet. It was not until the introduction of cotton warps into Bradford trade about 1836 that the true qualities of alpaca could be developed into fabric. It is not known where the cotton warp and mohair or alpaca weft plain-cloth came from, but it was this simple and ingenious structure which enabled Titus Salt, then a young Bradford manufacturer, to use alpaca successfully. Bradford is still the great spinning and manufacturing center for alpaca. Large quantities of yarns and cloths are exported annually to the European continent and the US, although the quantities vary with the fashions in vogue. The typical "alpaca-fabric" is a very characteristic "dress-fabric." [3]

Due to the successful manufacture of various alpaca cloths by Sir Titus Salt and other Bradford manufacturers, a great demand for alpaca wool arose which could not be met by the native product. Apparently, the number of alpacas available never increased appreciably. Unsuccessful attempts were made to acclimatize alpaca in England, on the European continent and in Australia, and even to cross English breeds of sheep with alpaca. There is a cross between alpaca and llama a true hybrid in every sense producing a material placed upon the Liverpool market under the name "Huarizo". Crosses between the alpaca and vicuna have not proved satisfactory.[3] Current attempts to cross these two breeds are underway at farms in the US. According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, alpacas are now being bred in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and numerous other places.

In recent years, interest in alpaca fiber clothing has surged, perhaps partly because alpaca ranching has a reasonably low impact on the environment. Outdoor sports enthusiasts recognize that its lighter weight and better warmth provides them more comfort in colder weather, so outfitters such as R.E.I. and others are beginning to stock more alpaca products. Occasionally, alpaca fiber is woven together with merino wool to attain even more softness and durability.

References

  1. Quiggle, Charlotte. "Alpaca: An Ancient Luxury." Interweave Knits Fall 2000: 74-76.
  2. Stoller, Debbie, Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet, New York: Workman, 2006, p. 18.
  3. "Alpaca." The New Encyclop
    dia Britannica
    . 11th ed. 1911.
  4. "Alpaca Registry" (HTML). Alpaca Registry (7-05-01).

The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpaca_fiber).  Modified by Apparel Search August 31, 2008

Wool Definition

Woolen

Shearing

Shearing Shed

Wool Classing

Wool Measurement

Wool Bale

Staple Wool

Worsted

Angora Wool

Fiber Definition

Fabric Definition

Sweaters

Needlepoint

Woolen Hat Retailer Wool Hat Retailer Wool Hat Wholesaler Woolen Hat Wholesaler Wholesale Directory   Hat Wholesaler Category List  Hat Factories Hat Stores Hat Definitions  Clothing Stores Woolen Definition  Wool Fiber  Wool Fiber Definition  Woolen Fabric Definition  Worsted Fabric Definition

Discussion boards are a great place to meet other members of the fashion industry, get advice, and share information.  This forum was created to discuss the topic of this page.  If you have questions, or information to improve this page, please join in the community discussion below.  Please keep the communication on topic and for the purpose of education.
 
comments powered by Disqus
  Fashion Industry
 
  
 


Apparel Search   Add Your Company   Contact Us   About Us   Advertise   News Letter   Legal   Help
Copyright 1999-2017 Apparel Search Company.  All Rights Reserved. 

More To Explore