The raw fleece for our beautifully soft, hand woven Alpaca products comes entirely from within the UK. From an original population of about 150 animals UK-wide in 1989, there are now about 35,000 alpacas in the UK. Many people may not yet have seen one ‘in person’ or know much about them! So here is a helpful introductory fact sheet for the curious among you.
A happy alpaca produces the strongest and most lustrous fleece. Sourcing from within the UK allows us to get to know the breeders we buy from and to see for ourselves that the animals are well cared for, ensuring the best possible products for our customers.
Alpacas are relatively easy and eco-friendly to keep, but as herd animals they need the company of other alpacas and so should never be kept alone.
Alpaca fleece has many benefits compared with other fibres:
30% more insulating than merino, each fibre is hollow trapping warm air, it is therefore also warmer than goose-down or synthetic fabrics such as Goretex
Alpaca fleece is also naturally hypoallergenic as it produces no lanolin (the natural oil in wool). This also makes its production more environmentally friendly as harsh chemicals are not required to wash out any residual natural substances remaining in the cloth.
High quality alpaca fibres are finer than cashmere – average thickness is around 18-20 microns and can sometimes be as fine as 15-16 microns in diameter
Alpaca wool comes in 5 main natural colours: white, fawn, grey, brown and black. Combinations of these can also occur within the same fleece, giving rise to 22 officially recognised colours and many more possible shades through blending. Our fibres and yarns are never dyed, celebrating the amazing depth and range of natural colour available in alpaca wool.
When selecting our fleece we look for a combination of qualities, firstly the length of staple as this has a huge affect on the spinning process, we look for a lovely lustre (shine), a fine micron and crimp can also be an indicator of quality. Also very importantly colour, we like to have a range of colours in our collection and by working with different breeders and the mill we are able to achieve a wonderful range of natural colours in our collection.
There are two types of alpaca: Suri and Huacaya.
Huacaya are the more common, fluffy-looking alpacas (as seen above!) The Huacaya alpaca is sheared once a year in May to July producing on average 2-4kg of fibre, with some exceptional animals producing as much as 5-7 kg.
Only about 5% of alpacas in the UK and worldwide are Suri, and their fleece is of a finer, silk like quality. A blend of Suri and Huacaya fibres is occasionally used within our products, and will add a wonderful lustre to the yarn and product. The Suri is a slower growing fibre with the animals being sheared every 2 years, the fibre is much heavier and one animal can produce on average 4-8kg per fleece.