Alpaca pros and cons

Alpaca pros and cons

{ Planning on finishing this alpaca sweater before winter arrives }

About a year and a half ago I wrote about cashmere pros and cons. Well, mainly about its cons really, because I couldn’t find any pros. Instead I mentioned alpaca. And alpaca has been my go to material for warm, fuzzy sweaters ever since. I thought it was time to give you an overview of why exactly it is my favourite material. Alpaca was incredibly valuable to the ancient Incans who called alpaca fibres “Fibre of the Gods” and valued it higher than silver and gold. The alpacas are sheared once a year, and fibres are sorted by hand and classified in thickness and colour. Alpacas are native to South America, mainly Peru, which hosts about 75% of the world’s alpaca population.

The cons

  • It travels far before it reaches you

This might not really be a con, but I’ll mention it anyway because it has been on my mind. The raw fibres are exported from South America to countries like China, Germany and Italy to be cleaned and spun into yarns, and later made into garments before being sold to you, the customer, wherever you are in the world. Which means, your alpaca sweater might have travelled farther around the world than you have. This is probably the case for most of your clothes.

The reason I’m not sure it is a con is that in spite of fluctuating demand for alpaca fibre it doesn’t seem that we need to worry about it being a problem, since the animals’ population in the Andes are relatively steady. Currently, there’s a worry though that the herds will decline as current generations of alpaca herders and breeders ages, and their children are more interested in finding work in the city instead of continuing their parents’ work. I’m not sure that by keeping the demand up, will help keep this traditional way of life alive, but it might, and that could be seen as a positive thing in my opinion.

The pros

  • One of the world’s most luxurious fibres
  • More than 22 natural colours, which encourages less dying.
  • Relatively high elasticity and strength – stronger than cashmere
  • Does not felt or pill as easily as lower quality wool and cashmere due to the long fibres
  • Is very soft to the touch
  • Alpaca has a great capacity to live on poor pasture. Its cushioned paws do not damage the soil and it grazes without pulling plants up by the roots
  • Can yield four or five times more hair in a year than a cashmere goat.

To me, the pros far outreaches the con. Now, I only hope the popular demand won’t cause it to be too expensive for the locals like it has been the case with both quinoa and avocados. So, consider what you really ‘need’, and only buy what you will love and keep in your wardrobe for years to come. Consider knitting an alpaca sweater of your own before buying one. It’s the best thing to keep you entertained as you cosy up inside on these chilly fall and winter nights to come, and it might make the sweater that much more special to you.

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Hella Lynggaard

One Comment

  1. Thank you, Hella. After having spent a week in Arequipa, I am on the verge of adding alpaca clothing and accessories to my line. Very nice to be informed about the pro’s and con’s in order to assist in providing selling points to my customers.

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