The long balmy days of summer seem a distant memory as I write this on a rainy and grey Sunday in late September.
The alpaca’s fleece is growing quickly now, with a good couple of inches of growth, preparing them for the winter ahead. By the time we come round to shearing them in May/June, they will have around 6 inches of dense fleece! They do look completely different animals once shorn!
Alpaca fleece comes in 22 officially recognised colours, ranging from white through to black, with shades of fawn, brown and grey in between. On average, an alpaca will produce between 2-5kg of fleece each year, with the first shearing providing the finest fibre.
It’s not surprising that alpaca is known as the Fibre of the Gods, as it is luxuriously fine and soft. Although I have only had my girls a couple of months, I’m already sold on the impressive qualities of alpaca fibre, and the more breeders I talk to, the more I learn. Not only is it exceptionally soft, but it is also hard wearing, yet lightweight, and has superb moisture wicking properties, making it excellent for clothing.
I’ve always had an issue with woollen clothing, often finding it itchy and abrasive against my skin. Alpaca fibre, unlike sheep wool, contains little to no lanolin, which gives it hypoallergenic properties; ideal for those with a sensitivity to wool!
Each individual fibre is measured in micron, which is one millionth of a metre. Generally, the lower the micron, the finer the fibre, and as the animal ages, the micron will increase, giving a coarser fibre. Anything greater than 30 micron will feel prickly and coarse, whereas less than 20 micron will be very fine and luxuriously soft.
So, in a nutshell, alpaca fleece is an absolute dream! An incredibly versatile natural fibre produced by such beautiful and gentle creatures. What’s not to love?!