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What is baby alpaca wool?

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Baby alpaca wool is a luxuriously ethical natural fiber

Baby alpaca wool is a luxuriously ethical natural fiber

Baby alpaca wool is one of the most luxurious eco-friendly fibers you?re apt to find in the world. Hailing from both North and South America, this is the wool of kings and connoisseurs. The Incas considered alpaca the ?fiber of the gods.? And only the finest, softest alpaca fibers get to be called ?baby? alpaca, which was seen fit only for the emperor. 

But don?t let the name fool you ? baby alpaca is cruelty free and blissfully sustainable. 

Baby, Baby

When you picture a baby alpaca, most likely you are thinking of a calf, half the size or less of its mother and brimming with cuteness, an infant. This is not the animal that is shorn for baby alpaca wool. Baby alpaca wool is shorn from the neck and nape of the animal, and usually comes from the alpaca?s very first shearing, when it is just under a year old. 

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Alpacas are only shorn once a year, it is done by hand, and is in preparation for the warm summer months, when they could do with a lighter coat while grazing under the blazing sun. The term ?baby? comes from both the fineness of the wool and its rarity, since you can only get it from certain parts of the animal, and often only in that very first haircut. 


Oh, but the luxury of that gorgeous wool. The requirement for baby alpaca is that the fiber must be 21-23 microns (the smaller the better), which is what accounts for its softness and light sheen. It is comparable in feel to cashmere, but hypoallergenic due to its lack of lanolin, and less likely to pill. It comes in as many natural colors as there are colors of alpacas, from milky white to dark chestnut brown and jet black, and can also be dyed a wide array of beautiful hues. 

The Amazing Alpaca

The sustainability of this fiber cannot be understated. As far as animal-derived textiles are concerned, you cannot choose a kinder option with a lower footprint. Alpacas are generally raised cruelty-free as they are low maintenance, friendly, and only need shearing once a year. No one is slaughtering alpacas for their fur, and many live a long happy life in peace. Some people even keep alpacas as pets! 

These sweet camelids (in the same family as llamas and camels) produce more wool than most sheep, and outstrip the fiber production of cashmere goats by a long shot (one alpaca can produce enough fiber for five sweaters, whereas it takes four cashmere goats to produce enough for one). Alpacas graze without pulling plants out from the root, keeping grasslands trimmed without destruction (so long as the farmer rotates grazing land), while their soft hooves cause minimal damage compared to other herd animals, and their manure fertilizes the land without the need of composting. 

To top it all off, alpaca wool, if taken care of properly, is virtually indestructible. Warmer than its sheep and goat shorn counterparts, alpaca fiber is naturally insulated while still being lightweight (due to its hollow fibers), and has been known to stand the test of time without color fading or weakening in strength. There is Peruvian clothing made from alpaca still in existence from over 2,000 years ago, in near perfect condition. It stands to reason why baby alpaca wool is considered one of the world?s most perfect natural fibers. 


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