Alpaca wool is extremely eco-friendly!
We’re very well-informed consumers these days and most of us are looking to buy sustainable products that we can enjoy while knowing they’ve had minimal impact on our incredible home planet.
Good news: due to their durability, alpaca wool products last a very long time! In fact, we’d go so far as to say that their durability is unmatched.
Alpacas themselves are free-grazing and live on land free from pesticides; they’re not fed with hormones and don’t even know what a chemical product is. This contributes massively towards the sustainability of their wool products.
The wool itself doesn’t have as many fibres as, say, sheep’s wool, which means that you don’t need anywhere near as much alpaca fleece to create a nice cardy. Besides being a big part of alpaca wool products’ eco-friendliness, this also means that alpaca wool clothing is very light to wear.
It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?!
Cashmere’s better than alpaca wool, though, isn’t it?
Our one-word answer to this would be: no! But there’s no need for you to take our (one) word for it…
Cashmere is actually very destructive to the environment. Largely produced en-masse in China, the eastern country’s grasslands simply can’t support the immense number of goats it takes to satisfy the world’s cashmere demands. The grasslands generally used for goat-farming in China are quickly being stripped of their natural abundance by the sheer number of goats; they’re becoming deserts.
In order that the goats’ fleece become as soft as possible, they’re purposefully kept in very cold surroundings. That does mean that their cashmere is particularly soft – but it also means that many goats suffer from the cold and even die on the icy slopes during harsh winters (Mongolia, for example, lost 20% of its livestock during one of these particularly freezing periods over the winter of 2009).
As the Chinese landscapes reduce in abundance, farmers prefer goats to sheep because they’re much hardier than their woolly cousins. This is great for the farmers’ businesses, but goats are much more thorough grazers than sheep; they eat plants right the way down to the root, which means that those plants never recover. Goats’ hooves also destroy topsoil, making it very difficult for the land they’ve grazed to recover.
Alpacas are much more efficient than goats; they drink less water than goats and produce enough wool for four or five sweaters in a year.
In a nutshell: it’s the best there is!
Compared to other types of wool, alpaca yarn is almost unbelievably soft. Around the world, it’s used to make the highest-end products, from cosy scarves and gloves to suits and even carpets – and if you don’t believe us, check out the price tag on those products! Alpaca yarn’s non-abrasiveness is such that it contends with mohair and cashmere; its thickness gives great stitch definition and works particularly magnificently for textured knitwear and other products.
Better still, alpaca yarn doesn’t have lanolin, which means that it’s hypoallergenic (so it’s perfect for people with sensitive skin). It’s also breathable and doesn’t mat, and, due to its hollow fibres, is much warmer than many other types of wool – three times warmer than sheep’s wool, in fact. Oh, and it’s also completely wrinkle-free, making it not only wonderfully luxurious to wear but easy to care for, too!
As if that wasn’t enough, alpaca fibre is more water-resistant than most wools and comes in a dazzling array of natural colours. There are 22 internationally recognised official alpaca yarn colours, ranging from snow-white to night-black, and including a fabulous variety of natural brown and tan hues along the way. These days, of course, we can have any colour we’d like.
To add to their luxury status: did you know that alpaca fibres must be sorted and classified for thickness and colour by hand. Using machines for this part of the production process wouldn’t be viable because the fibre’s various characteristics can only be identified by experienced eyes and hands.
Alpaca wool: the gold of the Andes
All of this means that the luxurious garments and other products made from alpaca yarn are not only warm and wonderfully soft to the touch, but they also drape magnificently and any wrinkles just drop right out! And that’s why alpaca yarn used to be reserved purely for the use of royalty – to the extent that, over the years, it’s been commonly referred to as ‘the gold of the Andes’ or ‘the fibre of the gods’. We wonder if that’s where those rumours of the legendary City of Gold, El Dorado, came from…