There are twenty-two natural colors of alpaca fleece. These colors can be blended into more colors, and alpaca fleece can also be dyed to practically any color. The fleece can also be blended with other fibers, such as wool or silk. Alpacas are shorn for their fleece each year, which will produce 5 to 10 pounds of soft, warm fiber per animal. In colder climates some breeders may shear their alpacas every two years to produce a longer fiber, but one year is normal. Hand spinners and the commercial fiber industry eagerly seek the fleece.
Alpaca fiber is stronger, more water-resistant, and a better insulator than conventional sheep’s wool although it is as soft as cashmere. It is ecologically friendly, lightweight, breathable, hypoallergenic, silky soft and smooth to the touch.
The fiber is classified manually according to its fineness and sorted into different qualities such Royal Alpaca (less than 19 microns), Baby Alpaca (22,5 microns) Super Fine Alpaca (25,5 microns) and other less fine.
Each quality is employed to create different products such as cloth, scarves, sweaters, blankets, carpets and so on. The alpaca may also be blended with other fibers, generally of natural origin, such as Silk, Angora and Cotton.
The following are some of the textile properties of alpaca:
* The fiber will not easily burn, only in direct contact with a flame.
* Alpaca fibers have relatively high elasticity and strength, comparable with those of sheep wool and other animal fibers.
* Low absorption of ambient humidity.
* The fiber is an efficient thermal insulator, useful in different climate conditions.
* Alpaca does not felt as readily as other animal fibers.
* This fiber is very soft to handle. Alpaca clothes show an excellent drape, and keep their natural luster for a very long time.