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By Echoview Fiber Mill News 28 comment03/November 5 More Reasons Why Alpaca Products Will Be Your New Favorite
6. Alpacas are gentle on the environment.
Not only are alpacas gentle animals, known for their sweet faces and unusual sounds, they are also naturally eco-friendly. They have soft, padded feet that are easy on their terrain, and their gentle grazing habits do not destroy grass root systems. They drink less water than goats, and can grow enough wool for 4-5 sweaters per year. It would take four goats that same amount of time to produce enough cashmere for one sweater. Since alpaca fibers do not contain lanolin, it is possible to process them without the kind of scouring and chemicals that sheep’s wool requires. “Superwashed” is a term used for treated wool so that it feels softer and more comfortable against the skin. This “superwashing” process uses chemicals that contribute to many environmental problems. Alpaca fleece is an eco-friendly alternative option for clothing manufacturers.
Cashmere, however, is a different story. As demand for this high-end fiber grew in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, cashmere products became cheaper. As popularity soared, China (where most of the goats are raised) was unable to sustain a suitable population to keep stock on the shelves. The goats themselves destroyed the grasslands they needed to survive with their sharp hooves and destructive eating habits, and harsh winters killed many herds. Keeping up with cashmere demands has literally destroyed parts of the Mongolian ecosystem. Adding insult to injury, as the price has dropped, in many cases, so has the quality.
7. Alpaca is waterproof.
Of course, alpaca can get wet. However, it has great wicking abilities. In comparison, wool will absorb up to 50% of its body weight in moisture, but after this it reaches a saturation point and the moisture can sit next to skin, increasing discomfort and potential for blisters. Because alpaca is hollow, it traps in more heat and mechanically pushes the water away, never having a saturation point on the skin. Essentially, the water evaporates because of the warmth of the alpaca. This keeps the wearer warm and dry. Happy feet!
8. Alpacas are rare.
As of fall 2015, there are roughly 4 million alpacas worldwide, while there are around 450 million cashmere goats. Being the proud owner of perhaps a luxurious black alpaca shawl puts you in pretty exclusive company! (That’s only if you care about bragging rights over having the most amazing finds in your closet!)
9. Alpaca products support fair trade.
Alpaca products are made with respect to people and planet, using sustainable methods. While the alpaca industry in Peru is a multi-million dollar export, it is also part of a $2 billion dollar textile and garment industry. This includes at least 50,000 families from the Andean highlands who depend on the alpaca herds to support their families. These sustainable methods have been used for centuries. The process begins with shearing day, which only happens once per year. The fleece is shorn and divided into thirds, seconds and firsts (essentially good, better and best). Next, the fleece will be cleaned, where vegetable matter can be picked out by hand or a mill. Then the fiber is carded either into a batt or roving, and then spun into yarn. Now, it’s finally ready to be knit, crocheted, felted or woven into a finished product. Each step mentioned here is, and still can be, performed by the native Peruvians just as they’ve done for centuries. It doesn’t get much more sustainable than that!
10. Alpaca is fit for a king!
Dating back from the ancient Peruvians, alpaca is a fiber once reserved for royalty. The Incas actually valued alpaca fiber more than silver or gold! Experts on Incan culture and Peruvian history tell us that an Incan man’s wealth was counted in textiles made from alpaca fiber. On a more modern note, the First Family of President Obama even gifted the Royal Family with a pale blue alpaca blanket upon the birth of Prince George!
Since alpacas come in 22 natural colors, with over 300 shades, you’re sure to find the right one for you. No matter your style, you can choose from true blacks, browns, fawns, whites, silver-greys and rose-greys. Alpaca is a versatile fiber, being used to create items like sweaters, shawls, hats, mitts, socks, scarves and gloves, blankets, rugs and toys.
If it’s good enough for royalty, but accessible to us all, why wouldn’t alpaca be your new favorite? Head over to our shop to find the most luxurious new addition to your home! (You’ll be in good company with the Royal Family, so what are you waiting for?)