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What on earth is an Alpaca?

Alpacas are descendants of camels and cousins to llamas. They evolved thousands of years ago developing a fine hair with remarkable softness, fineness, length, warmth and strength. This dense fiber is a result of their harsh environment and the elevation in which they originated, the Andes Mountains, Perú. Cared for by Incan peoples, they were a species unable to be self-sustaining without human intervention. Even today, Alpacas need humans to survive the predators and conditions found in their natural environment. In Incan times Alpacas were a valuable commodity. They were the first recorded form of currency. The wealthiest of society were revered for the numbers of Alpacas they owned and Alpacas became the status symbol of the culture. Alpaca is the name as well of fiber produced by lovable creatures. Alpaca became the fiber used to clothe the aristocrats and Baby Alpaca, the first shorn fiber produced by an Alpaca, was reserved for royalty. Punishment for wearing Baby Alpaca by anyone other than the elite of the society was harsh, sometimes even death.

Today we know that the Alpaca fiber is a natural insulator due to a hollow core in the fiber shaft. Without lanolin found in many other fibers, as well as the composition of the fiber, free from cuticle, it is naturally hypoallergenic and organic. Alpacas produce fiber with minimal guard hair, a course fiber, which means a substantial reduction in itch found in wool and other wool-like textiles. Naturally occurring in more than 22 colors, it's versatility is unmatched.

Most people are familiar with luxurious Cashmere.

Here is how the Textile commission equates Alpaca to Cashmere.

Natural Colors: More than Cashmere
Thermal Insulation: Better than Cashmere
Wrinkle Resistence: Better than Cashmere
Tensile Strength: Better than Cashmere
Piling: Less than Cashmere
Water Absorption: Similar to Cashmere

Alpaca's Unique Qualities

Alpaca is comparable to Cashmere when it comes to comfort - with both fibers having a low micron count, however, there is no itching with Alpaca. As Cashmere, Alpaca is incredibly soft and possesses extraordinary shine and texture. The Alpaca Fiber has many unique qualities that make it far superior to other wools:

- Alpaca contains microscopic air pockets that provide excellent thermal insulation making it amazingly warm. 

- Alpaca Fiber is so strong and durable that the resulting apparel is long-lasting and wear resistant.

- Alpaca maintains its appearance over time and pills less than Cashmere.

- Alpaca is much more resistant to wrinkles and traction than other wools.

- Alpaca is lighter in weight than any other wool.

- Alpaca's natural colors range from white to black with up to 22 shades of gray or brown in between.

- There is minimal lanolin in Alpaca making it nearly hypoallergenic unlike most wool.

- Alpaca has great water absorption qualities.

Alpacas are rare and only found in a few areas in the world - while goats and sheep that are the sources of Cashmere are common and plentiful most everywhere in the world.

The Alpaca Fiber offers one of the largest ranges of natural colors in the world with a wide array of colors which vary from black to white, and extend through an ample range of grays and browns. Also, the Alpaca Fiber possesses an excellent dyeing affinity and can be beautifully dyed in an incredible variety of colors without losing its extraordinary luster. Some references indicate over 80 percent of the alpacas world population is located in Peru.

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