Alpaca: Eco-friendly Wool Alternative
The Benefits of Alpaca Blankets
What exactly is an Alpaca? Closely related to the llama, alpaca are native to South America's Andes Mountain region, where they spend all winter accumulating fluffy fleece and climbing through the cold, windy cliffs the region is known for. Our alpaca blankets have a long tradition.
Alpaca fiber is an amazing natural substance. It carries a lot of benefits that normal wool just can’t hold a candle to. One, because alpaca is flame resistant, but also Alpaca accomplishes what wool does for warmth while being lighter weight and softer. Wool, especially cheaper wool products can be scratchy due to the courser fiber and lanolin coating. Those with sensitive noses will also appreciate Alpaca’s natural hypoallergenic nature. Alpaca wicks moisture similar to cotton, breathes, warms like wool, and can feel softer than cashmere. It's really the best of all worlds. The alpaca fiber makes an excellent material for blankets.
History of Alpaca
The Peruvians and the ancient Incans prized the Alpaca fleece for its fantastic properties in a tradition thousands of years strong. The coat is exceptionally fine and soft. Historically, it was reserved for the Incan royalty as it was too fine a textile for the common folk. The Incan ruling elite placed strict controls on the care and usage of Alpaca ensuring strong herds and careful breeding. The ancient Alpaca were never used for labor, just for their soft, warm fleece.
While some alpaca breeding happens in North America, fully 80% of Alpaca still live in Peru where they are cared for by small independent herdsmen. These animals are treasured and treated respectfully as they are depended on for survival.
Alpaca are getting more popular and farms in North America are starting to see the benefit in raising these gentle animals. If you’d like to meet an Alpaca, you can attend National Alpaca Farm Day. They like to be petted and stroked, but please don’t grab at their coat.
Alpaca's Impact on Local Communities
Alpaca are raised by small herding communities in the Andes. The yield is low, but the fiber is one of the most amazing luxury textiles obtained naturally. These small independent herders are able to exist peacefully with their animals following traditional practices by the sale of the alpaca fleece. We carry alpaca blankets from our fair trade partner Shupaca. They work closely with independent Alpaca herders in South America. If you want to get something for yourself, or someone you admire, you can make a good impact on your environment and help out developing communities with alpaca fleece blankets.
Alpaca with Fair Trade and Sustainability
Alpaca fiber has been ranked higher in sustainability than that of traditional sheep wool. It requires less processing as sheep produce fatty lanolin that has to be chemically processed out of the wool before commercial use. The fleece of the alpaca is fully renewable of course, truly eco-friendly, but Alpaca are shorn just once per year typically. Unfortunately, smaller yields, typically 2-4 kilograms of fiber per alpaca, are the price to pay for gentler treatment of the animals. This makes Alpaca fleece especially rare, but well worth the cost. Alpaca fleece also comes in 16 tones (as classified in USA only), but take to textile dyeing well.
Compared to their sheepish cousins, Alpaca also have a far smaller impact on their environment. Vast herds of sheep common in the wool industry tamp down the fields they graze in rendering them unsuitable to grow anything. Alpaca require less food than sheep and can live in areas at 10,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level that competes less with agricultural land. They also have wider hooves that leave the soil looser and able to keep growing the grass they feed on, being more eco-friendly to their environment. Another difference to sheep is that they use a communal dung heap which keeps the spread of parasites to a minimum. They're quite considerate animals really, never bite, and only rarely spit.
Care of your Alpaca Fleece Blanket
To properly care for blankets made from Alpaca, and ensure that they will last a long time, they should be carefully treated. Dry cleaning is preferred, but you can hand clean it yourself. Alpaca fleece should be hand washed in gentle detergent and dried flat, no wringing, and no heated dryer. Once dried, you can use a light steam iron to get out creases and brush in the direction of the fiber to restore softness and sheen.
Explore our hand picked selection of beautiful Alpaca Blankets by clicking HERE.