Alpaca sheep in their natural habitat
In this blog post we are giving you some insight on how to determine the quality of the alpaca yarn you just bought. Everybody loves Alpaca yarn and we as a yarn company are opening our treasure chest of knowledge to you today:
Alpaca is a soft, silky and durable fiber with unique thermal properties due to microscopic air bubbles found inside the hair. These bubbles allow the user to “breathe” through the fibers on hot days and in much the same way, to retain body heat in cold climates. Alpaca wool is also elastic and not inflammable.
Alpaca fibers are produced in around 15 natural shades, making it an attractive option for designers around the world ever since. The versatility of Alpaca fiber allows it to be readily transformed into all kinds of knitted garments, accessories or handcrafted products, either by machine or by hand.
This results in the fact that there are many Alpaca Yarns on the market.
In the western world we can see the cute animals here and there, even sometimes in a front yard – but they belong in a much higher elevation to create the best quality.
The only way to know the quality of the yarn is to have it professionally tested. This is what yarn producers should do before a yarn enters the market. We here at SKEINO always ask for a yarn certificate provided by the Spinning Mills to be sure of what we are providing to our customers.
Having a Histogram available helps us to understand the full picture of the quality. A histogram measures the fineness and the evenness of a single hair in micron. The lower the number the finer the fiber. However, the histogram does not take into account the age of the animal, environmental factors, density, luster and color.
Running to be sheared?
Alpacas are being sheared the first time usually at around 12 months of age and the second shear at two years of age. At this time the fibers will give you a good indication of the quality.
Also, the Environment plays a major part in determining the quality of the fibers. Most Alpacas in South America have the finest fibers because they live in the Andes, right where they belong.
Here are some microns for the different Alpaca Yarn Types:
Super Baby Alpaca 19-20 micron
Baby Alpaca 21.5–22.5 micron
Adult Alpaca 25.5–26.5 micron
Coarse Alpaca 30+ micron
For comparison: SKEINO’s Extra Fine Merino Superwash yarns are spun from 19.5 micron fibers
The Alpaca is indigenous to the Peruvian Andes, where they have been domesticated ever since the time of pre-Incan cultures. There are estimated to be approximately 3.5 to 4 million Alpaca in South America, 95% of which can be found in the regions of Southern Peru.
Alpacas are bred at altitudes varying between 11,000 and 15,000 feet above sea level, where temperatures can range from anywhere between -4°F and 86°F in a single day, surviving on a low protein diet based on natural grasses.
It is here where they grow the best quality.
If an Alpaca from the Andes would be “imported” from its habitat into the Western World, in a matter of months the fleece will “blow-out” by 10 micron or more. This is because of environmental factors and feed quality. If the Alpacas would be put on a lush, good quality pasture, the fleece would coarsen immediately.
Therefore, if you buy Alpaca yarn, try to find out where it is coming from in order to have the best quality for your money.
If you want to try Alpaca Yarn, take a look at our VENICE yarn or at our Baby Alpaca Kit that comes with 7 FREE patterns.
SKEINO Venice Yarn
We hope you found this read enjoyable and found out some interesting facts “behind the scenes” about Alpaca yarn. As always please use the comments section for questions or comments.