Why Choose Baby Alpaca29th July 2009
In countries such as the United Kingdom, sheep have been used for both meat and wool for generation upon generation, and have played a key role in clothing and related industries. Elsewhere in the world, humans have had to rely on other animals for this purpose, and in countries such as Peru in South America the alpaca, a camelid, still fulfils this role. Like the fibre from many wool bearing animals, alpaca fleece can vary to an extent in texture, feel and quality. Though clothing made from alpaca fibre is universally comfortable and warm, and soft enough for wear even by tiny babies, there are some garments which are softer and more luxuriant even than these – because they are made from baby alpaca.
The finest alpaca fibre is obtained when the animal has its first year shear, as the downier, softer fleece is only available from the youngsters of the herd. Like adult alpacas, juveniles need proper insulation from the fluctuating temperatures of the Andes mountain range, so their wool is made up of hollow fibres which help to retain warmth. This also benefits humans wearing clothes woven from baby alpaca, as does the fact that the fibre shafts are quite smooth, preventing an itchy feel against the skin. Whereas the majority of sheep species produce fibre with a micron count of between 20 and 30 (one micron is a measurement of 1/1000 of a millimetre, the lower the micron count, the finer the fibre), baby alpaca absolutely must be 22 microns or less. Along with the hollow nature of fibres, the small micron count makes for a beautifully light weight and amazingly soft cloth.
Those who are passionate about fabrics and knitwear are only too aware of how precious and sought after baby alpaca products really are. Having said this, there is a kind of alpaca fibre that is deemed even more special – Royal baby alpaca. This also originates from animals at their very first shearing, but is considered the very finest of the finest fibre. Royal baby fibres must be less than 19 microns for ultimate feel and softness. This is the most luxurious of alpaca wools, and accounts for only six tonnes, (around 1%) of all alpaca fibre produced! It is no wonder that so many who have already experienced alpaca clothing wish to experience Royal baby fibre, though for the majority of purposes, baby alpaca is more than adequate. Skilled hand weavers across the globe have taken to producing all kinds of products out of the luxury material, from baby cardigans, booties and mittens to cushion and hot water bottle covers. If a mother to be wants to indulge, there are plenty of items suitable for maternity wear, and for baby, items are available from newborn upwards.
If you are new to the concept of fibre from these charismatic camelids then there are plenty of books and sites devoted to them, which provide a wealth of information. Whether you are looking to keep a herd yourself, or want some comfortable and fashionable maternity or everyday wear, there are numbers of enthusiasts who would provide you with all the facts you need.