This week it is all about the FIBER!
If you have ever visited us on the farm, in our store, or at an event, you know we love to talk fiber, so in this Feature Friday let’s talk about the star of the show: Alpaca Fiber.
We hear it all the time and at every event- “What’s so great about alpaca fiber?” Sometimes you might hear us answer, “what’s NOT great about alpaca fiber?”
Alpaca fiber has been called “The Fiber of the Gods”, as it was traditionally reserved for wear by royalty only in the Inca culture. It is soft, luxurious and sustainable; truly a fiber fit for a king.
In all truth, alpaca fiber has some amazing qualities. Let’s break those down.
Alpaca fiber is warm! According to Yocum-McCall:
“In the Yocum-McCall Testing Laboratories, alpaca was shown to be three times warmer than sheep’s wool. Why? One reason is that alpaca is more heavily medullated: in other words, there are tiny hollow areas in the centers of many individual alpaca fibers. These areas hold the warmth and, in addition, make alpaca lighter in weight than other animal fibers. Another study showed that if worn in a 0 degree F environment, alpaca would give a 50 degree F comfort range. Sheep’s wool would provide a 30 degree F comfort range in the same environment.”
Fiber strength is defined in two ways
- Tensile strength: the resistance of a material to breaking under tension (force is applied parallel to fabric – Think holes in suits due to pressure being applied parallel to the fabric)
- The tensile strength of alpaca is equal to 50 N/ktex In comparison, the tensile strength of sheep’s wool is 35-40 N/ktex
- Shear strength : the ability of a material to resist external load against failure (force is applied perpendicular to fabric -Think holes in socks, due to repeated pressure applied perpendicular to the fabric)
Alpaca fiber excels in both areas! Which leads us to our next category.
Alpaca is extremely durable and low pilling. Alpaca is able to meet 15,000 cycles of abrasion, which meets upholstery standard.
Durable fabric lasts longer! Alpaca fiber will hold up to repeated wearing better, and still look great.
One of the greatest characteristics of alpaca is its ability to be naturally water resistant, no special treatments required! The alpaca fiber is also excellent at wicking moisture, with a water retention rate of 8% vs. most other wool at 16%-20%.
Wool is more likely to become heavy and saturated when wet, as it can absorb up to 35-50% of its weight in liquid. After this saturation occurs, which can lead to increased discomfort, odor, and the likely hood of blisters.
According to the Gaston Fiber College, alpaca wicks, but does not absorb. That makes alpaca more comfortable in ALL seasons. Warmer in the winter, and cooler in the summer. It also makes alpaca fiber naturally odor resistant.
Water resistance also leads to STAIN resistance! Alpaca fiber is less likely to stain because of the unique qualities of the fiber itself.
Yep. You read that right. Alpaca is naturally fiber retardant, meeting the standards of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s rigid testing specifications as a Class 1 fiber for use in clothing and furnishings. (Class 1 is the safest level for flame resistance.) Alpaca self extinguishes, and will not melt or stick to skin during a fire.
Alpaca comes in a wide range of natural colors, more than another other fiber animal out there In the US, there are 16 officially recognized colors (white; beige; and 3 shades of fawn , 3 of brown, 2 of black, and 6 of grey) and a multitude of shades in between.
If you would like a color not found naturally, alpaca readily accepts dye without losing the luster and brightness it is known for.
- Alpaca is naturally lanolin free.
- Some people who where believed to be allergic to wools were allergic to lanolin. Others have been found allergic to the chemicals used to remove lanolin from the wool, and not the wool or lanolin itself.
- The “prickle factor,” where thick and/or hollow fibers of around 30 microns can prick the skin, causing rashes, discomfort, and other reactions, thereby making some wools very uncomfortable to wear.
- Some people who were believed to be allergic to lanolin, were instead reacting to the “prickle factor.”
Although some people who feel they cannot wear wool find that they can wear alpaca comfortably, there is not enough evidence to substantiate a claim that alpaca is hypoallergenic. Alpaca is low-allergenic.
Now that you have the low down on some of what makes alpaca fiber so great, make plans to visit us to see the fiber in person! We’d be happy to show you how we go from barn to yarn, and everything in between.