As I posted last time, I'm working on some pieces using perhaps my favorite fiber, so I thought I'd reveal why I think alpaca fiber is so wonderful.
No, seriously, the fiber has many terrific attributes. One important one: it is hypoallergenic. This is because it does not contain the heavy lanolin that sheep's wool does and which is so difficult to scour out. It is also water resistant, as well as being thermal, even when wet.
Compared to sheep's wool, alpaca is stronger (higher tensile strength) and provides more warmth than wool without the weight. It is also naturally flame resistant and difficult to ignite.
Alpaca fiber is often compared to cashmere. It has a smoother surface than wool which makes it considerably softer and very pleasurable, not only to wear, but to knit with.
It is sorted and qualified into different grades. The #1 grade is called "royal", which is rare and expensive. It is said that only 1% of alpaca fiber is designated "royal". The #2 grade is called Baby Alpaca or Superfine Alpaca. This is the grade of alpaca yarn I use in all of my knitwear.
Alpacas have been bred in South America for thousands of years and their fiber has been called "the fiber of the gods", being reserved for the clothing of royalty.
I hope you enjoyed learning something new.
PS: Did you know alpacas are in the camel family?