Watch out… a chance encounter with one of these charming fuzzy dark-eyed creatures can melt your heart in an instant. More than just an adorable face shyly-covered by an outrageously comical mop top, alpacas are known for their sweet disposition and curious nature. Quickly becoming the more sustainable choice for wool, these long-necked members of the camelid family which are native to the Peruvian highlands, have softly padded feet and graze on tall grasses leaving a very gentle footprint on the environment. Alpaca fleece is hollow and contains no lanolin (which eliminates the need for cleaning with harsh chemicals) yet it is much softer, warmer and more resilient than sheep or goat wool. Alpacas grow enough fleece to produce wool for an average five sweaters per year. It would take four cashmere goats to produce a sufficient amount of wool for just one sweater.
Alpacas come in a variety of natural colours ranging from blue-tinged ebony, golden-brown, honey beige to silver and creamy white, a surprising twenty-two shades in all, with the white fleece being in greater demand for it’s ability to accept dyes.
There are two types of alpaca, the Suri breed (shown above), easily recognizable by their long spaghetti-like locks that grow up to six inches per year and produce a luxurious fine fibre with a polished sheen. Suris make up less than twenty percent of the worldwide alpaca population.
The Huacaya (shown above), the more common and hardier of the two breeds is otherwise known as the South American teddy bear for the rumpled, cuddly appearance and springy fleece which differs greatly from that of a sheep. Not only is it highly rated for its thermal value, alpaca fibre has a lovely soft drape and blends smoothly with silk, merino, linen, cotton and bamboo.
In limited release and at the head of the queue for fall knitting projects, look for Alpaca Gold, a softer handle in comparison to cashmere and with much more gloss. Make no mistake, this is a hand-sorted premium fibre which accounts for only ten percent of all combed baby alpaca. Exclusive to Diamond Luxury Collection in a dozen richly-dyed shades. Truly decadent! Mallard (shown above).
Alpaca Blush will put a rosy glow on your needles with eight semi-solid lollipop colours ideal for mixing it up in fairisle cowls or striped gloves and matching caps. This new quality from Diamond Luxury Collection is a superfine alpaca spun in a dk weight. King Crimson (shown above).
Also in the mix for fall knitting, Alpaca Peru Heather has subtle highlights in a pleasing palette featuring both prominent hues and demure washes of colour. Cerulian (shown above).