The alpaca fibre
Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is light or heavy in weight, depending on how it is spun. It is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite. Huacaya, an alpaca that grows soft spongy fiber, has natural crimp, thus making a naturally elastic yarn well-suited for knitting. Suri has far less crimp and thus is a better fit for woven goods. The designer Armani has used Suri alpaca to fashion men's and women's suits.
Alpaca fleece is made into various products, from very simple and inexpensive garments made by the aboriginal communities to sophisticated, industrially made and expensive products such as suits. The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool.
There are two types of alpaca: Huacaya (which produce a dense, soft, crimpy sheep-like fiber), and the Suri (with silky pencil-like locks, resembling dreadlocks but without matted fibers). Suris, prized for their longer and silkier fibers, are estimated to make up 10-20% of the European alpaca population. The Suri is thought to be rarer, most likely because the breed was reserved for royalty during Incan times.Suris are often said to be less cold hardy than Huacaya, but both breeds are successfully raised in more extreme climates than those in which they were developed in South America.