Tips for choosing alpaca products
Alpacas have many uses in Finland and around the world today, but originally the alpaca was bred in Peru as a wool-producing animal. Alpaca wool has many properties, due to which it has been considered a luxury material from the time of the Incas until today.
Properties of alpaca wool
It is estimated that there are up to 22 natural colors of alpaca fiber in the world, and it is the only natural fiber from which you can get completely black without dyeing. Alpaca fiber is the third most durable natural fiber in the world in terms of tensile strength, only silk and spider web are stronger than alpaca fiber.
Alpaca fiber has a hollow structure and is therefore significantly more insulating than sheep's wool. It does not absorb moisture and regulates body temperature in a researched manner. It also does not contain lanolin, i.e. fat, which can cause allergic symptoms. Therefore, alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic.
Fine quality Alpaca wool is soft and non-stinging on the skin, but it should be noted that not all Alpaca wool is that way. Many of the properties of alpaca wool are due to the fineness of the individual fibers of alpaca wool. And the properties deteriorate the thicker the fiber is.
What does the quality of alpaca fiber mean in practice?
The primary quality factor is the fineness of the individual fiber, which is expressed in microns, i.e. thousandths of a millimeter. The diameter of the fiber is measured, which is directly the fineness level of the fiber. We also state this value in connection with the product.
To facilitate communication, the different micron levels have been given official names that make it easy to understand how fine the fiber is. The lower the micron number, the thinner the individual fibers and the softer the wool and the products made from it feel. For the sake of comparison, let's say that the diameter of a human hair is approx. 40 - 120 microns.
- Coarse Alpaca: > 30 µm
- Alpaca ≤ 28 µm
- Superfine ≤ 24 µm
- Baby Alpaca ≤ 22 µm
- Royal ≤ 18 µm
- Imperial ≤ 16 µm
With precise processing work in Peru and Australia, a fiber much finer than Imperial (10−12 microns) has been achieved, but it is not yet of industrial importance due to the small amount. Baby Alpaca fiber is the coarsest fiber level that is considered suitable for a baby's bare skin.
As a rule, our alpaca products are made of Roayl Alpaca fiber, i.e. ≤ 18 µm. The yarns we spin are mainly made of 18−22 µm fiber. We have set a goal of 16 µm, which is also the goal of Peruvian alpaca breeding.
The quality is also affected by the fiber crimp i.e. wool crimping, SD i.e. standard deviation, CF i.e. comfort factor and the length of the fiber. The crimping of the wool should be as even as possible. The finer the fiber and the deeper and denser the crimp, the more uniform the quality of the wool.
The SD of the wool, i.e. the differences in the thickness of the individual fibers, also affects the softness and durability of the alpaca wool product. The smaller the standard deviation, the softer and more durable the product is. A longer fiber is easier to spin and also more durable in use and does not pill like a shorter fiber.
CF indicates the percentage of > 30 µm thick fibers in the sample. Fibers over 30 µm feel a tingling sensation on the skin, so the closer to 100% this number is, the better.
The test results of our own alpacas
We test the fiber of our alpacas in the Art of Fiber laboratory , where the properties and quality classification of our alpacas' wool are evaluated. We perform a wool analysis on the wool collected from each of our alpaca, which, in addition to the previously mentioned issues, may also reveal changes in the quality of the wool due to illness, feeding, and age, and thus in the animal's well-being.
At the beginning of December, we received the test results of our alpacas. The test results of an alpaca named Mudcake , who was born in Finland and is now 1.5 years old, seemed to us to indicate what we can achieve with good breeding work. Mudcake's wool quality level was 15.1 µm, i.e. below the Imperial level. In the sample, SD was 3 and CF was 100%.
Overall, most of our alpacas were below 22 µm, i.e. Baby Alpaca levels, which we are very satisfied with. Age affects the wool quality of alpacas in a negative way, but with accurate feeding these effects of aging can be reduced. As an example, let's mention 12-year-old Mayu Darling, aka Reetu, whose wool is still 21.6 or baby alpaca level. You can visit this captivating gentleman here in Mathildedal.
We use fiber with a lower quality classification, e.g. as filling wool, for the manufacture of interior products and for the manufacture of felted products. Our waste rate is 0%.
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