What is Alpaca?

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Noble Beasts

What is an Alpaca?

Alpaca is a species of camel which has inhabited the high plains of the Andes of South America for at least 6000 years, spanning the borders of Peru, Bolivia and Chile.  This area, known as the Altiplano, is about 4000 metres above sea level.  Alpacas have adapted to living at such high altitudes, developing a fine micron hair with a hollow fibre which is exceptionally insulating. 

Like Llama, but smaller, Alpacas are gentle and inquisitive by nature from thousands of years of domestication.   There are currently about 4 million alpacas globally with about 95% in Peru.  Their fine fleece occurs naturally in over 22 shades ranging from black, charcoal, silver, sand, brown and ivory, making industrial dyeing unnecessary.  This has considerable benefits for the environment as it saves electricity and water.  

There are two types of Alpaca, the Huacaya and the Suri. Huacaya is the more common of the two, making up nearly 90% of the population and the fleece has a crimped, denser, fluffier appearance.  Suri Alpaca wool / fibre is longer, flatter and silkier. 

Alpacas have a lifespan of 15-20 years and are typically sheared once a year in the spring or early summer before it gets too hot. 

Alpaca are related to other camelids of South America - the guanaco, the llama and the vicuña.  Until the Spanish Conquistadors introduced sheep in the early 16th century, camelid fibre was the only material available to the Andean people. As a result they have a long tradition of knitting and weaving alpaca.  

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The Gold of the Andes

Why is Alpaca Wool Special?

Once treasured by Inca Royalty for its unique strength, lustre and buttery softness, Alpaca wool (or alpaca hair as it is also called) has a hollow fibre which renders it uniquely light and significantly warmer than the same weight of merino wool.

Alpaca wool contains no lanolin, the waxy substance you find in sheeps' wool which is added to a lot of hand creams.  Lanolin is a known irritant to a lot of sensitive skins.  Alpaca does contain its own oil, but it's negligible compared to lanolin in wool.  This, together with an absence of 'prickle factor', makes alpaca wool hypoallergenic and therefore ideally suited for babies and sensitive skins.  It is several times harder wearing than merino wool, does not pill or ball and washes beautifully.    

As a brand, we source our alpaca yarn from 2 well established yarn manufacturers in Peru who sort and grade the alpaca fleece by colour and by micron (the diameter of the hair shaft).  The fleece is shorn from their own farmed alpacas as well as from the harsh high plains of the Peru Andes from farmers whose families have herded alpacas for thousands of years. 

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Ethically sourced

Alpaca Fur

The Alpaca fur used in Samantha Holmes products is 100% natural and ethically sourced from herd wastage in the Andes of Peru. No alpaca has been harmed in the making of our products.

Alpaca roam freely in their natural terrain on the Andean Altiplano.  Each year many alpaca perish in the sub zero temperatures.  

The farmers do not kill their alpacas for their skins because it is not financially viable for them to do so.  Alpacas can live for 20 years, promising a lifetime of shearing potential of far greater value than a single pelt.

Wearing Alpaca

The Benefits

  • Buttery softness – alpaca fibre is uniquely smooth and silkyButtery softness – alpaca fibre is uniquely smooth and silky
  • Hard-wearing and doesn’t pill or bobbleHard-wearing and doesn’t pill or bobble
  • Squashes to nothing and bounces back uncreasedSquashes to nothing and bounces back uncreased
  • Exceptionally insulating hollow fibreExceptionally insulating hollow fibre
  • Natural and Hypoallergenic – Anti-microbial and no prickle factorNatural and Hypoallergenic – Anti-microbial and no prickle factor
  • Moisture-wicking - Keeps you dryMoisture-wicking - Keeps you dry