2022/2023 Alpaca Owners Guide

 Fiber Characteristics Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca contains no lanolin, and is therefore ready to spin after only nominal cleaning of the fleece. Prized for its unique, silky feel, and superb “handle,” alpaca is highly sought-after by both cottage industry artists (handspinners, knitters, weavers, etc.), as well as the commercial fashion industry. In the U.S., alpaca fleece is considered to have 16 natural earth-tone colors (white, beige, shades of fawn, brown, black, and grey), with many subtle shades and hues. Blending can produce even more color possibilities. In addition to the rich natural colors, lighter alpaca fiber, such as white, fawn and gray, can be dyed to produce beautiful colors from pale pastels to rich jewel tones. Alpaca fiber can also be readily combined with other fine fibers such as merino wool, cashmere, mohair, silk, and angora to attain incredibly interesting blends.  The Growing Market for Alpaca Fiber Currently, breeders have two options. First, there are mills in both the United States and Canada that process alpaca fiber in both small-and medium-sized lots. The second option is to join a cooperative. These co-ops pool fleeces and collectively manufacture yarn, socks, and other items for wholesale and retail distribution. At present, there are a small number of North American commercial spinning mills available to process alpaca fiber, but the largest manufacturing facilities are located abroad, with the two largest headquartered in Peru. There are several impediments to the large scale processing of alpaca fiber in North America. The pri mary concern at this stage of industry development is the collection of available fleece is still relatively low. The collection of fleece for processing from farms scattered over thousands of square miles is a major hurdle.

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