Alpaca is a luxurious, soft, and aesthetically pleasing wool that comes from the alpaca, a domesticated ungulate resembling a small llama. On average, the alpaca is 1-2 feet shorter than their llama cousins. But there are a few other differences as well. The alpaca's ears are straight, while the llama's ears are more oval (some say banana) shaped, and overall, the llama is proportionately bigger than the alpaca. Alpaca wool comes mostly from herds of alpacas in Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Chile.
Alpaca as a textile is often a blend of the wool of the alpaca animal, as well as mohair, sheep wool, and sometimes even high-quality English wool. It is incredibly soft to the touch, lightweight, with a silky feel. Alpaca also has a relatively low percentage of lanolin, which make this fiber hypoallergenic. As the alpaca animal is a domesticate breed, most alpacas are white, as this fiber is easier to dye into popular bright and vibrant hues.
Alpaca, as a wool, is a particularly fine fabric that is ideal for knitting blankets, scarves, sweaters, socks, and other cold weather garments that offer a cozy and warm feel. Many vendors, stores, and home knitters offer a wide variety of garments that get an added touch of luxury being made with alpaca. Generally, alpaca is more costly than some other wools because of it's appealing qualities.
Caring for alpaca is similar to that of caring for other fine-fabric sweaters and garments. If the alpaca in question is a store-bought item, the instructions on the tag should be followed carefully. If it is a homemade alpaca garment, it should be hand-washed, following these steps:
- Fill a clean sink with warm-cool water and a natural detergent.
- Soak the alpaca sweater in the water. Rinse with cool (not cold) water of until all the soap is rinsed out.
- Do not wring out the sweater. Press excess water from the alpaca garment, and lift out of sink, supporting from the bottom.
- Lay the alpaca on a dry towel. Roll up the towel and gently press out all water. Unroll the towel, and shape the garment with your hands until it is in it's regular shape.
- Allow the alpaca to dry overnight, or until completely dry.
- Never hang alpaca (or any other sweater for that matter!). Fold the garment, and store in a cool, dry place, like a closet shelf.