Nature and Harmony: Alpaca Fiber
Since the time of the Incas, alpaca fiber is probably the most emblematic product of Peru. The nobility of this fiber is manifested in the quality, beauty and sustainability of the production process.
Why do we say that alpaca fiber is sustainable?
Being from an animal that has the same sustainability properties as that of sheep. Being this unique in the aspect of finesse, in the highlands of Peru these animals are raised under ecological measures that do not cause an impact on the grasslands or the high Andean plains. The ecological footprint of the alpaca fiber produced in the Puna is minimal, its production being an example of harmony with nature.
The production of alpaca fiber begins in the Puna, above 3500 meters above sea level, with the main actor Peruvian shepherd or the producer of alpaca fiber (alpaquero). The characteristics of this ecoregion; dry and cold climate, and the style of raising of alpacas directly influence the interaction of alpacas with the environment.
Why doesn't alpaca wool retain water and can resist solar radiation?
Alpaca fiber has excellent insulating and thermal qualities because it has microscopic air pockets inside.
The alpaca fiber combines attributes that allow it to be valued commercially and industrially, becoming a tempting product. Alpaca has a high degree of cleanliness in the fiber after being processed (between 87% and 95% versus 43% to 76% of sheep wool), in addition to its process being easier and cheaper due to the lack of fat or lanolin in its fiber.
Bred on top of the world, the alpaca has developed a great thermal capacity, its fiber contains microscopic air pockets allowing to produce light and thermal garments. The two basic characteristics of all textile material are: diameter or fineness and length.
Diameter: As fibers increase in fineness, they tend to be mostly uniform. The fineness variation is influenced by the genetic factor and the environment. The higher the finesse, the higher the price.
Fiber length: The fiber length varies in relation to the type or variety. The fiber of the Huancayo variety is about two inches shorter than that of the Suri variety. The variability is in relation to the period of its growth. The one-year fiber has better textile characteristics than the two-year fiber, better length characteristics, in addition to its uniformity, compared to those grown for two years, deteriorated at the apex by almost one inch by the action of ultraviolet rays, intense in the Peruvian highlands. The excessive length demands a fractionation of the material, preventing greater variability in the fiber, with the consequent loss of matter.
How to differentiate the alpaca fibers?
We always hear about alpaca or baby alpaca wool, below we will explain the characteristics of each of them, and the official measures of commercial use.
1. Alpaca Fleece
It is the fiber obtained from the usual shearing of alpaca and measures between 25.5 and 26.5 microns in diameter.
2. Baby Alpaca
It is obtained from the first sheared of the animal's life and has a higher quality, since it is a softer hair than that of later sheared. The term baby does not refer to the age of the animal, since all of them need to reach adulthood of 3 years, before they are ready for their first shearing. The baby alpaca measures 22.5 microns in diameter.
3. Royal alpaca
It is the highest quality variety because it is a selection of the best baby alpaca fibers, which are usually those located on the spine closest to the skin. Hair diameter is about 19.5 microns.
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