Frequently Asked Questions
Are Samantha Holmes Alpaca products softer than other Sheep’s wool products?
Yes, our alpaca products are much softer than sheep's wool. We use a super fine grade of alpaca which is less than 20 microns. (Microns are the measurements used to determine the diameter of wool fibre.) If you look at the surface of Alpaca fibre under a microscope, you’ll see that the scales lie tight and flat, which gives alpaca clothing its unique “buttery” softness, a distinctively smoother texture than other wools. The scales on sheep’s wool fibre (even Merino Wool) protrude like little barbs or hooks.
Of course, it ultimately depends on the twist and type of the alpaca yarn, the knit pattern, the knit tension and the finishing. At Samantha Holmes, we favour traditional jersey and rib knits with a looser tension typically achieved on our domestic knitting machines, to maintain the softest handle possible. The best example of this are our best-selling silky soft Alpaca Travel Shawls.
Is Alpaca wool hypoallergenic and therefore therapeutic for sensitive skins?
Yes, Many people who are allergic to sheep's wool or other animal fibres can wear alpaca clothing without experiencing any allergic reaction. We have supplied our 100% alpaca hats, Long Mittens and Bed Socks to people following chemotherapy or immuno-suppressant drugs. Alpaca wool fibres are smoother and less prickly than sheep’s wool fibres, and they don't contain lanolin, which is the waxy substance found abundantly in sheep’s wool and a well known to trigger of allergic reactions in sensitive skins.
Also, alpaca is naturally moisture-wicking and anti-microbial, which means that it helps to keep the skin dry and comfortable by drawing moisture away. This can be therapeutic for sensitive skin, as damp or sweaty clothing can often exacerbate skin irritation. Alpaca wool makes excellent socks and baser layer clothing for sports and outdoor pursuits because of its moisture-wicking and anti-microbial properties.
If you have a wool allergy, we would recommend you consider our 100% alpaca knitwear items rather than our Fair Isle Collection which is knitted using an alpaca lambswool blend. Our 100% alpaca jersey knit collection is our softest purest offer eg 100% Alpaca Jersey Scarves, Alpaca Pom Pom Jersey Beanie Hats
Is Alpaca wool warmer than other wools?
Yes, for sure. It’s difficult to arrive at an exact percentage of how much warmer alpaca is, but there have been laboratory tests which have proven that alpaca has unique insulating properties and indicated that it is up to 3 times warmer than the same weight of merino wool. Alpacas have lived at altitudes of over 4000m in the Andes for thousands of years and their fleeces have adapted accordingly. Basically "survival of the fittest". Alpaca fibre has a hollow core which traps heat very efficiently.
An additional factor is "crimp". Huacaya Alpaca (which is the type of alpaca our wool comes from) has a distinctive natural wave in each individual fibre, which gives it bounce back and elasticity. It adds 'loft' or bulk to alpaca fabric and helps trap air between the fibres. We must concede that fine Merino wool has more crimps per inch than alpaca but this alone does not outweigh the insulating power of alpaca fibre's long hollow fibre.
Customers of our 100% Alpaca items, have commented how quickly they feel warm when wearing our Long Alpaca Gloves or wrapped in our Alpaca Rib Knit Throws. Alpaca clothing is ideal for outdoor activities and country pursuits.
Is Alpaca anti-microbial?
Yes, alpaca wool has natural anti-microbial properties. This makes it resistant to bacteria and other microorganisms. The scales on the surface of alpaca fibre are flatter and less protruding than in other wool fibres, making it harder for bacteria and fungi to attach and multiply.
Alpaca wool is also moisture-wicking, which means it can help keep your skin dry and discourage the growth of odour-causing bacteria. With proper care, alpaca clothing is a therapeutic choice for people with sensitive skin or those who are prone to skin infections. It is also ideal for socks and baser layer clothing for sports and outdoor pursuits. Try our Alpaca Running Socks and see for yourself.
Is Alpaca clothing more durable than other wool clothing?
Yes, alpaca fibre is significantly stronger and more abrasion resistant than other wools. Alpaca knitwear is less likely to pill and bobble. If you compare it with sheep's wool under a microscope, you'll see there that are many tiny little scales forming a smooth surface. By contrast, sheep's wool fibre has bigger scales which stick up from the surface, creating a jagged or "barbed" appearance. This is what causes pilling and bobbling. Alpaca's smooth, silky texture is a double bonus!
Obviously, like with alpaca, there are different grades of sheep's wool and durability of fibre varies from one animal to another. At Samantha Holmes Alpaca, we use a grade of alpaca yarn called Superfine which is typically less than 20 microns. Yes, there are a finer micron yarns than ours, but unfortunately, there is a trade off! The finer the micron, the less durable the fibre, so this is a factor worth considering when considering purchasing very soft cashmere over Samantha Holmes alpaca knitwear. It's also the reason our best selling Hardwearing Alpaca Knee Socks must include some man-made fibres to make them last. Our 100% Alpaca Bed Socks are gorgeously soft, but sadly they will not last if you wear them in walking boots!
What detergent is best for alpaca?
We would recommend Woollite, Stergene or something else gentle like good old Baby Shampoo. You can put your alpaca garment in a gauze laundry bag and wash on the gentle 30 degree cycle on your machine but please follow our product care guidelines.