Posted on February 24 2010
For thousands of years, Alpaca has been a source for fiber in South America. They were first domesticated by tribes in the Andean highlands, most notably the Amerindians of Peru, and were a central component to the culture. After the Spanish conquest, Alpaca was introduced to Europe, but no one was able to successfully spin it into a workable fiber. It wasn’t until 1836, when an English mill used a cotton warp with an Alpaca weft to create a plain weave cloth, that Europe found Alpaca’s true potential. Since then, Alpaca wool has been in high demand. Breeders can be found in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US. The demand continues to grow as more people become aware of its benefits, both in its breeding and in its finished goods.
Alpaca farms have very little impact on the environment, and the animals are treated well (a coworker visited one of the farms we sourced our Alpaca from and noticed curtains in their stall windows!).
As for the fiber itself, it is best known for its softness. Alpaca is a longer fiber than conventional wool and so the finished fabric has a smooth and glossy hand. Its supreme warmth is attributed to microscopic airbags in its central core that trap cold air. When wet, its thermal properties only increase. Just as amazing, it is a hypoallergenic wool since it contains no lanolin, the greasy substance that can cause reactions.
The best way to understand Alpaca is to try it yourself. We at Brahms Mount have been weaving Alpaca for years in many beautiful styles. Just as Europeans first wove Alpaca with a cotton warp, we carry on the tradition with our Herringbone Throws.
By Brahms Mount