The Alpaca, Gold of the peruvian andes
Since ancient times, alpaca has been part of Andean cultures, as we can tell from arqueological findings composed by different objects, such as ceramics, textiles, metal, and stone where this animal has been represented.
During the Inca empire, alpaca and vicugna were used only by the royalty because it was valued as the finest clothing material.
The breeding of camelids, where alpaca, llama, guanaco and vicugna belong, was part of the daily life for Andean people, especially in the higher altitudes, as these animals were able to live over 4000 meters above sea level, dealing with temperatures that can go from 30°C to 20°C below zero.
There has been always a natural harmony between man and alpaca, being this small camelid (1.30 m high), always present in traditional rituals and offerings for Mother Earth Pachamama. Indian peasants live with alpacas and llamas: shepherds take them every day to where they gently graze the local Icchu with no harm for the soil, and every year they shear their hair for the industry. Icchu is the only edible grass found at very high altitudes and is what alpaca and camelids eat.
Today Peru has 80% of the world alpacas population which is around 4 million animals, and it has been only in the last decades that the world started appreciating the extraordinary value of this material, which belong s to the fine hairs group, together with cashmere, angora, yak, camel, mohair and vicugna.
What makes alpaca so special?
- its fineness, with micronnage starts from 17 mm
- it is hypoallergenic, and contains no oil or lanolin
- it is lightweight, breathable, soft, non-flammable
- It has thermal regulating properties, due to microscopic air pockets
- It durability and softness to the touch
Techniques used in Allpa textiles
They are hand woven in Andean workshops or hand Knitted with domestic machines
A very few are made in Industrial looms
We also Silkscreen print, and dip dye our textiles, and embellish them with embroidery, fringes, tassels, pompons
Which qualities can we find in alpaca?
Depending on several factors, such as age, sheared part of the body and variety, it is possible to find these qualities and fineness in the yarn:
-Imperial, 17 microns
-Royal alpaca, 19-20 microns
-Baby alpaca, 21-22.5 microns
-Superfine, 25.5-26.5 microns
-Baby suri, 22.5 microns
-Suri, 27.5 microns
-Huarizo, 29 microns
-Coarse alpaca, +30 microns
Our textiles are made using mostly baby alpaca and Superfine alpaca, according to our customer`s demand. The thicker quality, huarizo and coarse alpaca can be blend with llama to be used in rugs. Our products are made with the yarns provided by the industry who have the technology to spin also different blends with wool, merino, cotton, silk, etc.
Alpaca breeding has always been an important resource for lower income Andean families, as they benefit not only from the fleece, but also from the hide, fur, meat and even manure to be used in agriculture. Supply chain includes important mills who transform this fleece into rich yarns that are later transformed into beautiful garments and home textiles either hand or industrially made.
Mills have developed a new way of shearing alpacas, much less harmful for the animals, called the Inca shearing, very successful among the breeders because they get more fleece and a better fiber.
The bigger demand alpaca yarn is having today in the global market gives more opportunities for Andean communities to benefit from it. We feel this is just the beginning of a major improvement for all parts of the chain: from the breeders and shepherds, the artisans who participate in the weaving and knitting of throws, blankets, rugs, knitwear, and all types of accessories, the mills who develop better yarns each year and companies like Allpa who produce more and better products each season.
This is already a big industry creating thousands of Jobs in our country and improving life standards among poor communities. But it can grow even more: we are just starting to make a name from the alpaca and there is still a long way to walk together with our clients and those who have learnt to love the alpaca as we do.
We can all be part of the alpaca adventure: let’s start by learning about it and its great virtues, then learning about our people who breeds the animal, the weavers and knitters who do incredibly beautiful products, the mills who we partner with and about us: Allpa is a certified fair-trade company who is permanently looking to bring you the best of this magnificent material.
All this in one country, Peru.
Video by: ALLPA