Alpacas are Amazing
Now that the weather is cooling down (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), we here at Handwoven in chilly Northern Colorado are looking forward to weaving some cozy scarves with one of our favorite cold-weather fibers: alpaca. And so, in honor of this soft and warm fiber we dedicate this post to the majestic alpacas.
Alpacas were domesticated by the Andean native peoples around 6,000 years ago, and it is believed by some scientists that they are actually descended from the vicuña. The wool from alpaca was so highly regarded, it was reserved for royalty.
While many weavers might take for granted the lovely skeins of alpaca and baby alpaca wool available at local yarn shops, the first small herd of alpacas didn’t come to North America until 1984. In contrast, today there are around 20,000 alpacas in North America.
Alpaca fleece has many benefits, from its water and fire resistance (although hopefully none of us will have to worry about our alpaca scarves catching on fire) to a natural lack of lanolin (which makes it hypoallergenic). Alpacas also come in 16 officially recognized tones so you can get a wide variety of naturally colored fleece.
As if that weren’t enough, alpacas are notoriously adorable (especially the babies or crias). There are two primary types of alpacas: the suri (shown in the bottom photo), which grow long, silky locks that looks like dreadlocks (minus the matting); and the huacaya (shown in the top photo), which grow naturally crimped hair that make them look like puff balls when their fleece gets long. The crimp in the huacaya fiber makes it naturally springy and suited for knitting, while the less elastic fiber of the suri make it better for weavers.