Manufacturers require specific standards to develop yarns, fabric and end products. Alpaca can meet those standards in many ways once its characteristics are understood. USAFC hopes to answer those questions about alpaca fiber that help in processing at any level.
Wool has been dressing American families for ages, but with alpaca being relatively new to this country it is not as commonly known that alpacas have been bred for the attributes of their fiber for centuries.
Alpaca fiber is often a softer, smoother option compared to traditional sheep’s wool.
Alpaca fiber lacks lanolin, a substance that causes allergic reactions in many people. That means alpaca requires no harsh chemicals in preparation, which can also cause skin reactions. No lanolin in alpaca fiber means no harsh, hot water washing. Sheep’s wool experiences a high (35% or higher) loss of weight during washing due to the weight of lanolin and debris while alpaca fiber washing only results in about 12-18% weight loss. This is important to know when purchasing raw, uncleaned fiber.
Scale structure characteristics of alpaca fiber reduce its felting propensity in finished garments which may be machine washable, especially in cool water and low agitation. In comparison with traditional wool, the scales on the surface of alpaca fibers are more rounded and closer to the shaft. Allowing them to slide by each other instead of felting.
Other characteristics of alpaca fiber are:
Fire resistant meeting U.S. Consumer Safety Commission standards
Low absorption rate: Slowly absorbs moisture. Similar to wool.
Dries quickly: Good thermal conductivity, permeable, breathable.
Resistant to abrasion: Testing for abrasion resulted in 15,000 cycles.
Resistance to pilling: Rated 3 out of 5.
Alpacas are easy on the environment:
They have soft pads on their feet that do not dig into or compact the soil,
With only lower incisors working with an upper hard palate, alpacas typically do not pull grasses out by the roots, allowing pastures to recover from grazing faster.
Manure management is easier for alpacas (and llamas) because they use communal dung piles and their efficient digestive system produces dry pellets with no weed seeds. Their three digestion chambers (stomachs) and long intestines produce pellets that, when collected rom the convenient piles, do not burn plants.
Not only is alpaca fiber a superior type of wool, the animal as a whole gives us more uses than other fiber producing animals and also is more gracious to the surrounding environment.
LINKS OF INTEREST
Links are provided for your convenience. This does not constitute endorsement of any process, procedure, entity or organization accessed through these links.
NATIONAL MILL INVENTORY
Transforming raw fiber into value added products is a critical success factor for any natural fiber industry. The National Mill Inventory is a project by Fibershed, a non-profit organization working to develop regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers. This effort began with the goal of illuminating fiber milling capabilities across the United States. Reaching out to mill owners and operators at all scales, they sought to understand what services are offered, what supply chains are possible, and what components need fortification to support a thriving domestic and decentralized textile industry. As the alpaca industry continues its development of textiles and supporting supply chain systems, we know that our milling partners are key, and understanding their offerings will allow us to support these endeavors. This interactive website provides great insights into value add processors that can be connected together to create supply chains focused on your product development needs. http://nationalmillinventory.com/explore-mills/
Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit organization that works to make the textile industry more sustainable. The Textile Exchange works with those involved in making textiles, this includes everything from apparel to home goods. The Textile Exchange working hand in hand with the textile industry they are trying to make better decisions that help reduce harm to the environment. By identifying best practices in farming, materials and processing they are helping to reduce the impact on the world’s water, soil and human population.