Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012 | 1
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ON THE COVER: Spindle of black alpaca wool, Perú.
Executive Editor Jared Johnston Writer/Copy Editor Meyla Bianco Johnston Advertiser Relations Mitchell Fullerton Art Production Ryan Price Imagery/Databases Brooke Stebbins The material in Alpaca Culture is for information purposes only. Although the news included is believed to be reputable and every effort has been taken to collect it from reliable sources, no guarantee is given as to its completeness or accuracy. The opinions expressed in the magazine in interviews, letters to the editor and elsewhere are not necessarily those of Alpaca Culture, its staff, readers or advertisers. Alpaca Culture does not take any responsibility for these views. No material from the magazine may be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted or distributed in any way without the express written permission of Alpaca Culture. Modification of the materials or use of the materials for any other purpose is a violation of copyright and other proprietary rights. Letters to the Editor: Alpaca Culture requires Letters to The Editor to be signed and include a return address. All letters are subject to editing for clarity and length. To submit letters to the editor: email@example.com Alpaca Culture Letters to the Editor P.O. Box 111 Kootenai, ID 83840 Subscription Inquiries/Address Changes: Alpaca Culture Subscriptions Department P.O. Box 111 Kootenai, ID 83840 http://www.alpacaculture.com firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Inquiries: email@example.com Alpaca Culture Advertising P.O. Box 111 Kootenai, ID 83840 (208) 610-3161 Alpaca Culture, Inc. 2012 All rights reserved.
82 The wonders of natural dye. What makes color?
VOLUME 1 ISSUE 2 FEATURED ARTICLES 10 Fiber-Producing Animals 20 Vicuñas and Alpacas: Linked Through the Ages 34 Gaining Momentum and Changing the World Fiber Market . . . One Superb Bale at a Time 48 Perspectives The Alpaca Fiber Supply Chain
68 Moving Towards a Universal Grading and Classing System for Alpaca Fiber
September 2012 SECTIONS 2 Editor’s Note 3 Our Elite Sponsors 6 Letters Hollow Fiber?
8 Online Up to the Minute News and Video
105 Innovations Introducing New Alpaca Products
112 Spotlight Vintage Vicuña Coat
74 Alpaca Fibers A Textile Processing Perspective
78 A Rainbow of Colors
82 Color Me Natural 86 What’s So Great About Alpaca Fiber?
Editor’s Note Taking the time to develop an idea is always a fun and interesting process. Implementing that concept into a real, existing entity takes courage and determination to see it through. Immersing yourself into the idea you developed with passion, no matter how much others may caution, gives it personality and staying power. All of you who have taken the time to participate in an industry that demands forward thinking have gone through this process. The worldwide alpaca community has come a long way since the first exports of alpacas from South America. We have seen a dramatic improvement in the animals through selective breeding to the point where we are reaching the quality of the ancient herds domesticated from the vicuña. Think about that. The alpaca is a direct decendant of the animal that produces the finest fiber in the world! What a great building block to work with. Alpaca fiber, though not as fine in micron as the vicuña, has many similar traits that give this fiber a quality unmatched in the textile world. Through domestication of the vicuña, ancient peoples were able to produce a vicuña style fiber on a larger scale through alpacas and this gift has been passed down to all of us. In this issue, we will explore fiber and the many qualities alpaca fiber has to offer. From hand-worked artisan pieces to larger production fine garments, alpaca fiber is coming of age and producing some of the most beautiful textiles in the world. It is no surprise that the ancients used the cloth made from wild and domesticated camelids as currency. It truly is some of the most magnificent material known to human kind.
Jared Johnston - Executive Editor
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Alpaca Culture: A Bit of Philosophy Alpaca Culture was created to bring the alpaca industry into the mainstream of popular society while simultaneously helping unite and educate those who are already involved in the community. Why is it important to reach out to all segments of the industry? Newcomers: It is important for those who are viewing the alpaca industry as a possible business to receive background information and pertinent information to help them make a decision about whether or not alpacas may be right for them. A business needs people to participate to move forward. We already possess a great and valuable resource; alpaca fleece. All we need to do is complete the infrastructure and educate the rest of the world. Textiles: Textile manufacturers need to understand the benefits of alpaca fiber — where the material comes from and why it is so exceptional to work with. Also, they need to know who the designers are, what they need and where they can market their creations. Designers: We need to educate designers that may not currently work with alpaca about the benefits of using this material. By featuring existing designers who use alpaca, we can influence other artists, whether emerging or established. Retailers: Retailers have their finger on the pulse of what is selling and what people want. Because of their knowledge of trends, they are a valuable source of feedback. It is not only important to listen to what retailers who deal in alpaca products say but to educate retailers who do not carry alpaca products about the appeal of alpaca textiles and the opportunities they may be missing. Breeders: Breeders can benefit from the input of all of the above. They need to know what the market demands from fiber. What are the important things to breed for to create exceptional textiles and garments? Alpaca Culture exists to report on the entire alpaca community and to unite this industry so it can move forward. It will be through a united cooperative effort that the alpaca industry will thrive.
Elite Sponsors Amber Autumn Alpacas www.amberautumnalpacas.com - (541) 604-5277
Our world-class collection of alpacas is the result of our belief that the future of the alpaca industry lies in the acquisition of the world’s finest genetics. Because genetic breeding value is what will determine the market value of our alpacas as the industry matures, Amber Autumn Alpacas has purchased herdsires and breeding females well recognized in the North American alpaca industry as elite. Page 16.
American Alpaca Textiles www.americanalpacatextiles.com (724) 421-6995
American Alpaca Textiles is going global and green with commercially produced alpaca blended fabrics the world will sit, stand, and sleep on. Our product line includes upholstery fabric, carpeting, drapery and home decor items utilizing American sourced alpaca fiber and blends. Page 44.
Applewood Lane Alpacas (800) 303-6393
Genetics With Purpose. Committed to beginning with a seed herd made up of the best genetics available, Applewood Lane Alpacas believes in quality first. By establishing themselves as a farm stocked with the finest animals anywhere in the world, they are poised to increase their numbers and take the industry by storm. Based in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, their latest project includes building a state-of-the-art facility for the remarkable alpacas they’ve collected. Within three years, their breeding results have already produced 2012 color champions. Page 84.
Quechua Enterprises www.quechuaenterprises.com (208) 263-3300
Dedicated to the Production, Collection and Processing of Super Royal Alpaca. Page 32.
RobAsia Alpaca Ranch www.robasiaalpacas.com (920) 901-5901
RobAsia’s breeding program has evolved into one of the best in the country by using objective, measurable data as well as critical visual assessment. RobAsia maintains a vast database on each alpaca’s production information. Understanding an alpaca’s lineage is one of the cornerstones of the breeding program at RobAsia. Information is shared openly, which sets them apart from competitors and accelerates their clients’ breeding programs to the next level. Page 76.
Snowmass Alpacas www.snowmassalpacas.com (208) 263-3300
Snowmass Alpacas has worked for over thirty years to scientifically breed the world’s finest alpacas. As a result, the reputation Snowmass has earned for their quality genetics reaches well beyond the borders of the United States. Today and in the future, Snowmass is dedicated to the development of alpaca textiles and the advancement in the art and science of breeding alpacas. Page 110.
Tripping Gnome Farm
www.cas-cad-nacfarm.com (802) 263-5740
www.trippinggnomefarm.com (207) 865-0677
CCNF currently has over 200 alpacas in residence covering most colors of the alpaca fiber rainbow though with a decided emphasis on the white/light end of the spectrum. In the 15 years since Ian and Jennifer Lutz started their farm, they have bred and bought the best alpacas they could find, resulting in a herd that both reflects their high standards while also continually striving to push the development of the North American alpaca and its exquisite fiber. Page 4.
Cloud Hollow Farm/Maine Top Mill www.chf1752.com / www.mainetopmill.com (208) 258-8155
Our breeding program is focused on breeding for Longevity Royal Grade (count 90’s to 64’s) fiber with the goal of creating the highest quality commercially processable end products. The Maine Top Mill was established to process natural protein fibers within the 15-20.9 micron range. Both Cloud Hollow Farm and the Maine Top Mill are committed to providing the highest quality product, be it alpaca or top, for our valued customers. Page 66.
E N T E R P R I S E S
One of the leading alpaca breeders in the United States, TGF has achieved incredible success in the show ring including winning the prestigious Breeder of the Year Award three years running (2010-2012) at the All American Futurity Show. The program has been crafted with world class, proven genetics and highly selective breeding practices for elite fleeces and consistent results.TGF is constantly working towards producing the ideal alpaca to meet the growing commercial demand for Royal Grade fiber and the breeding stock that can produce it. Their 12 years of alpaca experience, along with backgrounds in investing and medicine allows them to provide full service and support to both new and experienced alpaca breeders. Page 46.
Executive Sponsors: Andean Royalty Celebrity Sales Pacific Crest Accoyo America Selle Design Group
Snow Diamond Alpacas Suri Paco Unicorn Fibre Products
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 3
4 | Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012
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Letters Hollow Fiber?
In our first issue, we published a microscopic view of an alpaca fiber to show that some alpaca fiber can be hollow. Upon reading this, Stephen Hull of TimberLake Farms, Inc. wrote to us questioning the correctness of this statement. Over a few e-mail exchanges about this subject with Stephen, I was inspired to explore this subject further. I researched text from Cameron Holt and Eric Hoffman and have had many conversations with fiber experts including Holt and Angus McColl concerning this issue. The conclusions I have formed: 1. Alpacas have two types of follicles — primary and secondary. 2. Primary follicles can produce guard hairs or primary fibers. 3. Secondary follicles produce (finer) secondary fibers. 4. Guard hairs are completely hollow with a wide medulla taking up 80-90% of the fiber in a lattice-like structure. Guard hairs are undesirable for the fiber market and breeders have worked hard to selectively breed them out. 5. Primary fibers can contain hollow pockets or they can be solid. The lower the micron the more chance the hair will be solid. Breeders are working to reduce the micron, of these fibers to be more in line with secondary fibers to create a more uniform fleece. 6. Secondary fibers are generally finer in micron and are often solid, but some do show hollow pockets even in the very low micron range. 7. Generally, fibers lower in micron display less medullation (or areas that are hollow) than do higher micron fibers. I want to thank Stephen for contacting me on this topic as it has led me down a path of discovery, which is always gratifying. I would also like to thank Cameron Holt for the detailed help on this issue. ~ Jared Johnston
Fiber Structure Helical arrangement of protein molecule
Medulla Macrofibril Cuticle Fibril (cortical cell)
The cuticle, or outer sheath of the fiber is made up of small scales. Alpacas have a relatively smaller scale relief which makes the fiber feel smoother than sheep’s wool.
"The cortical cells in Alpaca fibre constitute a variable fraction of the fibre mass, being lowest in coarse and highest in fine fibres where the fraction may be as high as 90%. Cortical cells are the load-bearing elements of the fibre, whereas the cuticle imparts the inherent aesthetic qualities of the fibre such as softness of handle and lustre. Other functions of the cuticle concern water repellence, felting during washing, and resistance to chemical and physical attack. The entire assembly is held together by a glue called intercellular cement." Stapleton – (1992)
Fiber Cross Section Huacaya Fiber Bilateral Cell Structure Medulla
Fiber that is crimped consists of two subcategories of cortex cells: the orthocortex and the paracortex. Research in 1953 by Japanese scientists found the orthocortex was always observed on the outside of the crimp. Huacaya fibers display this bilateral formation of cells but Suri does not. It is possible the orthocortex cells grow faster thus producing a crimp.
Follicle, Fiber & Medullation Paracortex Medullary cells are formed at the dome of the papilla and are confined to the central region of the fibre as it develops up through the follicle. The medulla cells may break down before the fibre emerges, and if so, the center of the fibre will be empty (hollow). This phenomenon can be continuous or partial.
Figures are sourced and adapted from Cameron Holt: www.cameronholt.com.
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Orthocortex Partial Medullation
Dermis Medulla Origin
Follicle Bulb Papilla
Alpaca Breeding More Than Just an Alpaca Breeder SuriPaco strongly emphasizes natural fibers and color. We now offer unique and luxurious alpaca yarns and textiles for sale both in wholesale and retail markets. Please visit our website for more information. Coming soon . . . the SacoRiver Dyehouse. www.suripaco.com
Online Alpaca United 2012 Fiber to Market Days Alpaca United has adopted a series of nationwide collection days as its 2012 industry project. Each will be hosted at a different alpaca farm for the purpose of selling and buying raw alpaca fiber. Alpaca Culture was at Pucara International in McMinnville, Oregon in July, covering the story (right). On our web site, you can see two videos about the Fiber to Market Days. Go online to see Alpaca United fiber expert Frieda Schieber of Frieda’s Fiber explaining sorting and grading techniques to attendees. See the recap video and the grading video now by snapping the QR codes (right) with your smartphone. Photos courtesy Al Cousill, Pucara International. Recap Video
Alpaca Culture is Online, All the Time We strive to keep you up to date on all things alpaca on our multiple online platforms. With its pulse on the heartbeat of global alpaca news, our online information is frequently updated and rich in pertinent content and visuals. With flexible and ever-improving technology, Alpaca Culture can more readily educate the public about the value of alpacas as well as get valuable information to those in the community instantly.
Visit AlpacaCulture.com for:
• A comprehensive glossary of alpaca terminology • Biographies of many alpaca show judges • One of the most comprehensive Breed Registry and Organizations listings online • Videos on a wide range of topics
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Pacific Crest Accoyo America Home of the Parade of Champions
Accoyo America Siddhartha 2012 International Alpaca Odyssey Supreme Champion Huacaya Male 1BDJรถD$SFTU"DDPZP"NFSJDBt)JMMTCPSP 03 t"DDPZP"NFSJDBDPNtBMQBDBT!UFMFQPSUDPN
FIBER PRODUCING ANIMALS For as long as humans and animals have co-existed on Earth, we’ve had symbiotic relationships. Some animals such as llamas, burros and donkeys were put into service for humans to carry our loads as pack animals. Others, like dogs and cats, became beloved domestic companions. Goats and cows provided precious milk. Horses changed the landscape forever, allowing people to penetrate lands formerly too vast to conquer. Many wild animals like deer and elk provided meat. Some wild and domestic animals are the bearers of wool, fleece, fiber and fur so irresistible that humans have used it to clothe their comparably bare bodies for eons. Here are some of those creatures.
Alpacas bear fine, strong, soft, semi-hollow, fiber with superb insulative properties, meaning it keeps the wearer quite warm in winter and cool in summer. It is often said to be free of grease or lanolin, though some parties argue that it does contain some. Most agree that the amount of lanolin is far less than that of sheep’s wool. Fineness ranges between about 15-24 microns. Fine alpaca has very little prickle factor. Growth averages 5-10 inches (12.7-25.4 cm) per year and fleece grows more quickly in younger animals. Fleeces, shorn annually, typically weigh from 1-8 pounds (0.45-3.6 kg). Between 16 and 52 colors of alpaca fleece are recognized depending on country. Alpaca fleece is naturally flame retardant and its fibers do not easily absorb water. It has very high tensile strength, soft handle and feels wonderful. Each fleece can be 100% wholly utilized in different applications. About 7,000 tons (5,443 tonnes) are produced each year with the majority of the fiber coming from the alpaca industry in Perú. Around 80% is shipped as tops (see inset p.11) to textile makers in Italy, Germany and China, the latter being the main consumer of alpaca fiber. Export income adds up to about $50 million a year. Huacaya: Often crimpy. Held perpendicular to the skin. Suri: Forms locks with curl that hang down from the body. Very slippery and lustrous.
Red Deer (Cervelt)
10 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
Guanacos are the wild predecessors to llamas, with fleece that averages 14-18 microns and comes in shades of grey and black. It is extremely sought after for scarves, shawls and other goods. Average fleece weights from free-ranging, live-sheared Patagonian guanacos averaged 0.31-0.38 kg (0.68-0.84 lbs) for females with males yielding the most. Farmed guanacos in New Zealand and elsewhere can yield 1.0-1.5 kg (2.20-3.30 lbs) of fiber if properly fed. The amount of guanaco fiber available worldwide is extremely limited.
Llama fiber is hollow or semi hollow and warmer than sheep’s wool of the same weight. Fineness ranges greatly — from about 20 microns but more commonly found to be more than 30. Often, llama fiber has guard hair, which can be very coarse.
Vicuñas are the wild ancestors of domesticated alpacas and bear the rarest, most expensive natural fiber in the world. It ranges from 11-14 microns with an average of only 12 microns. Vicuña fleece is sheared once every two years as a result of the Chaccu, a tightly controlled ritual shearing controlled by the Peruvian government. Each animal yields between about half a pound (0.22 kg) of fleece to one and a half pounds (0.68 kg) per year. A vicuña scarf costs about $1,500, while a full-length man’s coat can easily fetch around $20,000.
Why Does Alpaca Fiber Feel So Wonderful?
.8 Wool (sheep): Scale relief of 0.8 micron .6
Huacaya alpaca: Scale relief of 0.2 - 0.35 micron
Vicuña: Scale relief of 0.2 - 0.3 micron
Suri alpaca: Scale relief of 0.0 - 0.08 micron
.08 0 Source: Hoffman, Eric. “Fiber Processing, Characteristics and Nomenclature.” The Complete Alpaca Book. 298. Print.
HOW SMALL IS A MICRON? 1 micron = 0.001 millimeters 1 micron = 0.00003937 of an inch
All Camelids generally boast a lower fiber scale relief than most other fiber bearing animals. Scales, formed as the fiber grows, create microscopic edges that have a significant impact on how the fiber feels to human touch. When magnified, the importance of the scales becomes crystal clear: the lower the relief, the smoother the hand. This is where alpaca fiber shines. Both Huacaya and Suri alpaca fiber have a lower scale relief than sheep’s wool and many other fibers. This gives fine grades of alpaca a smooth texture more suitable to producing luxurious, next-to-skin garments.
FIBER PRODUCERS - TONS ANNUALLY Alpaca (Perú) .................................................................... ≈ 6,500 Alpaca (USA) .........................................................................≈ 240 Cashmere (China-Iran) .............................. ≈ 15,000 – 20,000
The diameter of human hairs measures between about 30-181 microns but varies between people according to genetics, age and hair color. Black hair is thicker than red, and as animals and humans age, each hair gets thicker. There are 25,400 microns in one inch. This dot (.) is approximately 1/64 of an inch wide and equals about 615 microns.
Angora Rabbit (China) ....................................... ≈2,500-3,000 Angora Goat (South Africa)......................................... ≈ 5,000 Llama (Bolivia) .....................................................................≈ 600 Vicuña (Perú, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia)..............................≈ 5 Wool (New Zealand-Australia-South Africa) .......... ≈1,851,000 1 ton = 1.1023 metric tonnes
Tops: In wool and other natural fibers, a continuous, untwisted strand of wool fibers from which the shorter fibers or noils have been removed by combing. A long assembly of staple fibers, mostly parallel, without twist and capable of being drafted (reducing the linear density of an assembly of fibers). The package of slivers is the starting material for worsted yarns. Source: Resil Textile Dictionary, www.resil.com/textile_dictionary
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 11
Photo: Ian Lutz of Cas-Cad-Nac Farm
Merino sheep (below) have long been associated with fine wool products. Icebreaker brand, based in New Zealand, is even making underwear and other next-to-skin garments from Merino wool. Alpacas (left) possess fleece with a smaller scale relief on the fiber. This makes alpaca wool smoother and reduces or eliminates the prickle factor associated with sheepâ€™s wool. Through selective breeding, alpaca breeders continue to improve alpaca wool and some are producing a Royal Grade fiber measuring 17.1- 19.9 microns in diameter. A few breeders have even produced fiber in first year animals in the 13 micron range. Ongoing refinements are reducing alpaca primary fiber diameter, creating a more uniform fleece. All these efforts are setting the stage for the return of an ancient textile so revered it was used as currency.
Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012 | 13
Camel down is the soft, warm, inner down of a Dromedary or Bactrian camel with a fiber structure similar to cashmere. The down is usually 1-3 inches (2.5-7.62 cm) long with a micron count of about 15-22 microns. One animal can produce about five pounds (2.26 kg) of fiber per year. It is often made into high quality luxury coats.
Angora from goats is also called mohair and is considered a hair fiber. It exhibits a fuzzy “halo” effect and is long, lustrous and wavy. Angora is sheared twice a year: before breeding and before kidding. Its hair grows about ¾ of an inch (2.5 cm) a month, and adult hair should be 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long at shearing. Mohair’s diameter is approximately 23 microns at first shearing to 38 microns in older goats.
A soft, thin fiber with the same fuzzy “halo” effect as Angora goat hair, it is extremely warm, not very elastic and often blended with sheep’s wool. Angora exists in twelve registered colors and has a fineness of approximately 13 microns. This fiber is the third largest animal fiber industry in the world. In first and second places are sheep’s wool and mohair, followed by cashmere and alpaca. Angora rabbits are farmed throughout the world but China is the world’s leading producer of angora, contributing about 90 percent of world production. Chile is the second largest producer.
Bison carry five types of fiber but the one most sought after is the very soft, strong warm fiber from the crimpy undercoat or down. Difficult to make into yarn and cloth, modern mechanical innovation has allowed the fiber to be used in small quantities. About 10,000 pounds (4,536 kg.) per year are used to make luxury garments. The course guard hair and shorter down are used to make rug yarn.
Cashmere is a fine, light, soft fiber with excellent insulation that can be shorn but is usually combed from the coat of a goat at the annual molting. Only about four ounces (113 grams) is produced annually per animal and it takes between two and three animals’ fiber to produce one sweater. Fiber ranges from about 14-18.5 microns. Pashmina is defined as a type of fine cashmere wool and the textiles made from it. Shahmina is the name for shawls made from very, very fine (13 microns or less) Pashmina fiber. 14 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
This fiber is made from the downy fiber of Red Deer. There are an estimated 2.5 million farmed deer in New Zealand, which equals about half the world’s population. The fiber averages about 13 microns and 25 mm long (¾ inch). It has a wavy curl, is strong, resilient, warm and very soft. Only about 1,000 kg (about 2,204 lbs.) is produced annually by Douglas Creek of New Zealand. Each animal yields only 20 grams (0.7 oz.) of down from the area around the neck, back and sides.
Before sheep were introduced, fiber spun from the fur of dogs was the staple fiber of North America. Dog hair was used by ancient Scandinavian peoples as well as Navajo Indians. It is said to be 80% warmer than wool with little elasticity.
Scottish Highland cattle are an ancient breed that have been in existence since approximately the sixth century. The first herd book featuring Highland Cattle was registered in 1884. They are hardy animals but also gentle and easy to handle. They occur in various colors with most in red and black but yellow, tan, silver and brindle occur less frequently. The hair is wavy, profuse and easily felted.
Muskox or Qiviut
Muskox have a very shaggy double coat with fine underwool called qiviut, which measures about 12-20 microns. It does not felt or shrink and is said to be about eight times as warm as sheep’s wool. It is most commonly used for hats and scarves. Each year, an adult muskox can produce four to seven pounds (1.81 – 3.17 kg) of qiviut.
From the migratory Chiru antelope living in Mongolia and Tibet, the fineness of this fiber makes it very difficult to work into fabric. The demand for Shahtoosh has caused the Chiru to become an endangered species because, unfortunately, to obtain the wool the antelope must die. Selling or owning Shahtoosh is illegal in countries that have signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Tibetan antelope as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Many other countries including China and India are working to protect it through laws that rightly punish poachers severely.
Sheep’s wool is the most widely used animal fiber in the world throughout history and today. More than 100 breeds of sheep exist, each with different wool grades and uses. About two million tons (1,814,000 tonnes) of Merino wool are produced worldwide each year. Some fine Merino wools, often sourced from New Zealand or Australia, are categorized as 1PP, the industry nomenclature for excellence in Merino wool measuring less than 16.9 microns.
Yak fiber is soft and smooth with wonderful hand. It exists in several colors, including shades of gray, brown, black and white. The mean length of yak fiber is about 1.2 inches (3.04 cm) with a fineness of 15-22 microns. It is often blended with silk to enhance spinning qualities. SOURCES:
• “Peace of Yarn.” Peace of Yarn. Peace of Yarn, n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. http://www.peaceofyarn.com/. • “Keep the Fleece.” Keep the Fleece. Keep the Fleece, n.d. Web. 19 June 2012. http://www.keepthefleece.org/. • Lichtenstein, Gabriela. “Vicuña Conservation and Poverty Alleviation? Andean Communities and International Fibre Markets.” Http://www.thecommonsjournal.org. Instituto Nacional De Antropologia Y Pensamiento Latinoamericano/CONICET, n.d. Web. http://www.thecommonsjournal.org/index.php/ijc/article/ view/139/89. • “How Big is a Micron?.” http://www.pacpress.com/. Pac Press, n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. http://www.pacpress.com/. • “Fiber Properties.” Shokay. Shokay, 2012. Web. 13 June 2012. http://www.shokay.com/. • “Animal Fiber.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 June 2012. Web. 13 June 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.
• “Alpaca.” Global Natural Fibre Forum. Global Natural Fibre Forum, n.d. Web. 15 June 2012. http://globalnaturalfibres.org/alpaca. • “Wool.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 June 2012. Web. 19 June 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wool. • “Alpaca Advantage.” American Alpaca Textiles. American Alpaca Textiles, n.d. Web. 14 June 2012. http://americanalpacatextiles. com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=59&Item id=58 • “Alpaca Fiber Production Statistics.” Alpaca Information and Sales: Gateway Farm Alpacas, Scio, Oregon. Gateway Farm Alpacas, n.d. Web. 15 June 2012. http://www.gatewayalpacas.com/ alpaca/alpaca-fiber/production-statistics.htm. • Niranjan, S.K., S.R. Sharma, and G.R. Gowane. “Estimation of Genetic Parameters for Wool Traits in Angora Rabbit.” Http:// www.ajas.info. North Temperate Regional Station, Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute,, n.d. Web. 19 June 2012. http://www. ajas.info/Editor/manuscript/upload/24-161.pdf. • “Fibre Producing Animals Other than Sheep.” Education. Scottish Fibres, n.d. Web. 19 June 2012. http://www.scottishfibres.co.uk/ acatalog/Education.html. • Foulkes, Nick. “Beyond the Cashmere Sweater.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 04 Nov. 2010. Web. 26 June 2012. http:// www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/11/04/fabrics-even-finerthan-cashmere.html. • “The Cervelt Fibre.” The Cervelt Fibre. Cervelt, 2012. Web. 26 June 2012. http://www.cervelt.com/index.php/en/the-cervelt-fibre.html. • Elert, Glen. “Diameter of a Human Hair.” Diameter of a Human Hair. The Physics Factbook, 1999. Web. 06 July 2012. http://hypertextbook.com/facts/1999/BrianLey.shtml. • “Guanaco Fibre.” Clar Innis Guanaco Stud Â». Clar Innis, 2012. Web. 26 June 2012. http://guanacos.co.nz/guanaco-fibre/. • “Wool Facts.” AWI - Grow. Australian Wool Innovation, Sept. 2005. Web. 26 June 2012. http://www.wool.com/Grow. • Faunce, Sue, and Mike Faunce. “Highland Cattle.” Pond View Farm. Blackbird Studio, 2012. Web. 13 July 2012. http://www. pondviewmaine.com. • Hoffman, Eric. “Fiber Processing, Characteristics and Nomenclature.” The Complete Alpaca Book. 298. Print.
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 15
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Amber Autumn Caytlin
Amber Autu Autumn Malachite
Breeding a colorful future...
16 | Alpaca Culture â€¢ September 2012
Quarantine uarantine Servicess Our state-of-the-art facilitiess are a double ble fenced to ensure p proper quarantine tine protocol for animals ani on the he move between en countries. Available at both our ou Oregon, United States and nd Alberta, Alber berta, Canada ranches.
Amber Autumn Marqui
Amber Autumn Kassie
...one champion at a time!
Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012 | 17
Start Fine. Stay Fine. We love ﬁrst year histograms, but it’s not enough for our animals to start with ﬁne ﬁber. To achieve our breeding goals, our animals need to retain ﬁber ﬁneness for years to come.
AFD 18.1 SD 3.0 CV 16.8 >30 0.5
AFD 16.5 SD 2.9 CV 17.3 >30 0.4
We’re proud that 72% of our herd - including all of our older animals and none of our crias - are below 20 microns. In fact, the average AFD across our herd is 19.2 microns. As an example, look at these numbers for Golden Thunder, who is a 4-1/2-year-old, dark-fawn working male:
AFD 18.7 SD 3.9 CV 20.6 >30 0.8
Fineness over time. We're breeding for it and we're achieving it. Ask us for details.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
VICUÑAS AND ALPACAS
Linked Through the Ages
Legend Ancient South American stories tell a timeless tale of how the creator of the Universe, Wiracocha, was unhappy with how the people were not making use of the things he had made for them and were wandering around, oblivious. They did not practice agriculture, wore crude, rough skins and they didn’t want to learn anything besides what they already knew: hunting and gathering. He sent a young, male immortal being (auki) to teach the ignorant people how to live with the agreement that the auki would return after his task was complete.
20 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
“In many ways, the effort to save the vicuña has paralleled the worldwide resurgence of the alpaca. It is only recently that the alpaca’s future has brightened, as herds have been established outside Perú, and international attention has been focused on raising and improving the Suri and Huacaya breeds. There were only a few thousand alpacas outside of South America in 1991, when CONACS was formed and it became legal in Perú to harvest vicuña fleece and export alpacas. Just ten years later there were almost 100,000 alpacas living in the United States, Canada, Australia, England, and the rest of Europe.” ~ Mike Safely, Northwest Alpacas “Mi taku oyasin (We are all related).” ~ Lakota belief
he young god taught the people how to grow potatoes and corn, lucumas and sweetsops (South American fruits). He taught them to spin fiber and make colorful and attractive garments to wear. The people became industrious and clever. The god’s job was complete. Just as the young immortal was preparing to return to the “Hanan Pacha,” or the world of the gods, he met a beautiful maiden, who immaculately conceived two children, a boy and a girl. The young god forgot all about returning. Wiracocha knew he had been disobeyed and to punish the young god, he turned the auki and his beloved young lady into mountains and the children into a “new kind of being which would perpetuate the gracefulness and bewitching eyes of the mother and the golden brilliance of the father’s heavenly origins.” These mystical new animals became the vicuñas. The spiritual and cultural importance of this animal to pre-Columbian peoples cannot be over-estimated. Increasingly, modern humans’ bond to them is growing, too.
The first camelids appeared during the Eocene epoch of the Ice Age in North America, which ended about thirty three million years ago. Look for more on camelid evolution in Alpaca Culture Issue One, where the topic was thoroughly explored.
Vicuñas evolved in the most inhospitable places in South America, and arguably, on earth, thriving there. Most vicuñas are located in Perú but they also inhabit areas of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile at lofty elevations of between 12,000 and 19,000 feet (3,657-5,791 meters). During the day, the sun is harsh and burns through the thin atmosphere, while at night the heat of the day escapes quickly and temperatures dip to freezing. Low temperatures, frequent frosts (320 days per year), low overall humidity, irregular precipitation, poor soil and rugged topography make survival tricky. Vicuñas are remarkably well adapted to this unforgiving environment.
Anatomy/Behavior BELOW: Sweetsops, South American fruit.
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Small, nimble animals, vicuñas are only about three feet tall (0.91 m) at the shoulders and weigh only about as much as a large dog, around one hundred to one hundred twenty pounds (54 kg). They measure about four to six feet (1.2-1.8 m) from nose to tail with long, slender necks and very large almond shaped eyes. Their fleece has been described variously as amber, golden, caramel, coppery or cinnamon color, which varies slightly but is always accompanied by a white apron of guard hair at the chest where the fiber is longer than the rest of the fiber on the body. Their muzzles, the insides of the legs and bellies are also white. All camelids are included in the suborder Tylopoda (Latin for “padded foot”). The vicuña walks on the soft soles of its feet and is able to flex its toes to grab on to the rocks and gravel-covered slopes of the Andes. These sensitive feet are easy on the vulnerable grasses and vegetation of the puna. Similarly, the unique anatomy of their mouths allows them to graze the land but not damage it, keeping plant roots intact and erosion to a minimum. This is key in the high Andean region, where the altiplano (high, dry plains) is fragile. Their split upper lip is somewhat prehensile and allows for selectiveness when grazing. Vicuñas have three pairs of deciduous incisors or front teeth on the bottom and one pair on the top. They chew their food with lower teeth against the hard upper palette. The lower teeth grow constantly and are worn down by the tough grasses they eat.
They also have a three-chambered digestive tract and chew a cud. This helps them extract as much nutrition as possible from sparse steppe vegetation such as Ecuador grasses, forbs and some lichens 2,683 present high on the harsh altiplano of South America. It also helps them digest tough bunch grasses and festuca, their main forage. Vicuñas must drink water daily, especially during the dry season. Elliptical red blood cells allow vicuñas to process oxygen more efficiently than other animals in high elevations where oxygen is scarce. Their hearts are fifty percent larger than most other mammals their size so they can get enough oxygen to their muscles. As herding prey animals, vicuñas are shy and have the ability to run very Chile quickly, up to 35 miles per hour 16,942 (56.3 km). Vicuñas generally maintain a pair of territories: one for feeding of approximately forty-five acres (18 ha) or more and a smaller, more protected area for sleeping. They usually live in herds of about five to ten members, including a dominant male, several females and their cria. Mating takes place only during March and April to ensure that young are born eleven months later, at the time when food is most plentiful, during the rainy season. Vicuña mothers separate themselves and go into labor for about half an hour, delivering babies that weigh about fourteen pounds (6.3 kg). Vicuñas usually give birth in the early part of the day, between about 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. so babies can dry off adequately before cold nighttime temperatures fall. Crias are not licked clean by mothers, as many other mammals are because camelids have an attached tongue that does not allow them to extend their tongues far enough for effective licking. Besides hypothermia, the baby is also vulnerable to the attack of the Andean Condor, Andean foxes, pumas and other wild cats. However, vicuña milk is very rich and vicuñas are
Vicuña Population in South America by Country 2008
Argentina 72,678 to 127,072 (range given due to fluctuating numbers)
The total population of vicuñas is estimated to be around 347,000.
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Vicuñas are a common part of the landscape in some South American countries. The rest of the world is mostly unaware that this intriguing animal produces the finest fiber in the world. Vicuña scarves fetch around $1,350 U.S.D. A full length vicuña coat can cost more than $18,000 U.S.D. As breeders of alpacas (domesticated from the vicuña) improve the quality of alpaca fiber and produce a uniform clip, the price for alpaca fleece could increase dramatically.
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 25
attentive mothers, so the babies grow quickly, increasing their chances of survival with each passing day. As with many ungulates, the young can walk just a few minutes after birth. In Mary-Russell Roberson’s article “Discovering South America’s Camels” William Franklin, professor emeritus at Iowa State University in Ames notes, “If researchers want to tag infant vicuñas, they must do so within the first 15 minutes after their birth—vicuñas older than that can easily outrun a human.”
Indigenous and Colonial Humans Collide: Vicuñas Feel the Blow
By the end of the 15th Century, more than a million vicuñas lived in South America. Only one hundred years later, just a few hundred thousand remained, due in large part to decimation of the herds by Spanish Conquistadores. Spanish slaughter and later, uncontrolled inbreeding irreparably harmed alpacas and llamas. In 1825, the situation had become untenable. Simon Bolivar, the Governor of Perú, issued two decrees to protect vicuñas, which unfortunately had little positive effect for the vicuñas. When the twentieth century increased the number of firearms available, poaching got even worse.
Almost Extinct, Emergency Measures Enacted
By 1960, there were only about 5,000 or 6,000 vicuñas left in the wild. In 1967, the Perúvian government created Pampas Galeras National Reserve, where the animals were protected. Vicuñas gained endangered status only in 1974 when their populations were at dire risk of disappearing altogether. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took place in Washington, D.C. and included the vicuña, among other species. This signaled a seminal shift in world wildlife policy and can be argued to indicate the beginning of global ecological awareness. According to AlpacaLuxe.com, “CITES forms part of the United Nations Environmental Programme UNEP where more than 173 States have ratified the Convention. In 1987, Perú successfully requested that CITES earmark several vicuña populations for the International fabric trade, making available use of the fiber obtained exclusively from live animals. At the same time, many Andean Communities won their lifetime interest in the saving the vicuña and received an income from the legal shearing operations using traditional Inca methods (The Chaccu). In exchange, they shared responsibility for protecting the vicuña from poaching and other dangers. The project was a great success. The vicuña popula26 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
tion rose from 98,000 in 1995 to 121,000 in 2001. For the world, this project has saved part of the Peruvian heritage, a significant natural resource, and offered local Andean communities the hope for a better life.” In the 1990s, it was the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas who posed a temporary threat to vicuña. The vicuña was seen as a symbol of a decadent capitalist state. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the subversives launched waves of relentless, scorched-earth raids on the Pampa Galeras reserve, the main vicuña refuge. And with police and the military busy fighting the insurgents, poachers slaughtered vicuñas by the thousands, brazenly trafficking in the highly prized fur [sic] of this endangered species. By the early 1990s, Perú — home to about two-thirds of the world’s vicuña population — had less than 50,000 of the animals left.” Even today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ (IUCN) Red List, “Vicuña poaching is problematic in [Perú, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile]. The difficulty of controlling it is related to the vast extent of the Puna, its topography and the existence of long international borders. Limited human, economic and technical resources make control ineffective.” The IUCN reports, “Four decades ago, the vicuña was one of the most threatened species in South America. Due to the over-hunting only a few thousand individuals existed. The implementation of the Vicuña Convention was fundamental in the recovery of the species. In 1987, during the Sixth CITES Conference of the Parties, Perú obtained for the first time, along with other countries, the authorization to internationally trade fabrics made from vicuña wool from live sheared animals.” In the year 2000, there were about 125,000 vicuñas, but they were still listed as threatened. In 2008, the IUCN listed them as “of least concern,” which is how they are described now, attesting to the success of conservation efforts. They still need to be monitored closely, however, and their primary threats include habitat loss and poaching. Chile and Perú established protected national parks and put a halt to trade in vicuña wool. Today, the population is steady at around 350,000 and many groups have been founded to protect this incredible animal and ensure a thriving population.
The fleece of the vicuña is simply the finest, most wonderful natural fiber the world has ever known. Humans have sought it since they first spotted vicuñas on the puna in ancient times, captured them and felt the remarkable softness and warmth of their fleece for
themselves. The fleece of vicuñas is commonly referred to as “golden fleece” to illustrate its color, beauty, great importance and extremely high value. Human desire for vicuña fleece has added to the pressure on these animals throughout history. In pre-Columbian times, fabric woven from the fleece was called “campi” and was reserved exclusively for high-ranking, royal individuals. The Inca valued vicuñas so highly for their wool that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicuña garments. Eric Hoffman says, ”Vicuña fleece characteristics are a result of more than one million years of evolution in a cold and harsh environment. The species’ optimum characteristics for survival are genetically assured in every vicuña that is born. Vicuña is world-renowned for its incredibly low average fiber diameter (AFD), 12.5 microns. It is by far the finest and most consistent of all camelid fibers. The fleece from one vicuña to the next varies little in color, length, density, and fineness. Their fleeces range between twelve and fourteen microns, and their bi-annual shearing staple length is about two inches.” Yield of fiber is miniscule compared to alpacas’: a vicuña’s small blanket will yield only about one half to one and a half pounds ( 0.45-0.68 kg) of fiber per year while alpacas’ can yield up to about five to eight pounds, though some breeders claim much larger amounts. A vicuña’s fleece is said to grow only one inch (2.5 cm) per year. Coarse guard hairs, which grow naturally among the soft fleece, must be removed manually. Many Andean women have learned this task from their foremothers and the skill is passed from generation to generation and performed by hand in Perú. Fiber must also be carefully washed and air-dried, as well. Only then is the fiber ready to be commercially processed.
Chaccu – An Ancient Tradition Continues
Vicuñas were not always hunted for meat by native people in history and have been considered sacred for generations. Their fiber was their most important commodity to humans and they respected the right of the animals to be free. Indigenous tales support the traditional importance of honoring and valuing vicuñas. In a fascinating example of interspecies symbiosis, an ancient ritual, the Chaccu, allows for the humans to benefit from the animals and the animals to continue to live in the landscape. First practiced by the pre-Columbian Incans, the Chaccu was then and is now a great round up of the animals, followed by ceremonial shearing and release. In ancient times it was said to take place only
once every four years whereas today it happens every one to two years. A Chaccu involves an enormous, well-organized human chain. The people close in around the herd while playing instruments, waving flags and calling out the cry “chaccu.” The animals are enclosed and herded into ancient stone corrals called canchones. They are then sheared in a complex ritual that is “full of the mysticism, color and magic which such a precious gift from the gods deserves,” according to Michell’s web site. Today, Chaccus are eco-tourist destinations, which benefit the people living in the same area as the wild vicuñas. Native Perúvians are today allowed by the government to capture, shear and release them periodically. The animals are then set free again to roam the puna as they have for millennia.
Modern Regulations and Groups to Protect Vicuña
Each vicuña fiber garment offered for sale today must adhere to the Peruvian government’s labeling system. A CITES export permit or re-export certificate is required by law to accompany a vicuña item. Fiber must be obtained through a government sanctioned Chaccu, which guarantees that the animal was “captured, sheared alive, returned to the wild, and cannot be sheared again for another two years.” This also ensures that profit from the programs returns to villagers. Despite all of these efforts, about 50,000 pounds (almost 23,000 kg) of vicuña wool is exported illegally each year. Many countries have banned the importation of the fiber as a result. International Vicuña Consortium In 1994, the International Vicuña Consortium (IVC) was founded. It purchases, spins and weaves valuable vicuña fiber into quality garments for an international market. Companies involved include: Alpha Tops, Loro Piana, Emenigildo Zegna, and Incalpaca TPX. IVC members were the first companies to process vicuña fiber under the CITIES rules. In 1994, they offered $300 per kilo for the 2,000 kilos (4,409 lbs.) of vicuña fiber already stockpiled. The group also donated $700,000 to local communities to help finance the project. The Sociedad Nacional de Criadores de Vicuña del Perú This group represents about eight hundred farming communities who manage vicuñas as a natural resource. The group works toward preservation, rational handling and utilization of vicuñas in respect to the legal standards in place.
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 27
Consejo Nacional de Camélidos Sudamericanos Exportation of vicuña fiber is subject to strict controls and regulations in Perú under the jurisdiction of the National Council for South American Camelids (CONACS).
The desire for vicuña fiber has been notable for a very long time. In fact, in relatively recent history, Sherman Adams ran into trouble as President Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff as a result of a strong desire to own a vicuña garment. He accepted a vicuña overcoat from favor-seeking textile interests in a U.S. political scandal of the 1950s and was forced to resign. Despite stringent regulations and extremely costly production, many international haute couture companies offer garments made of vicuña fiber. Of the finest quality, they are sought the world over for their buttery soft hand, remarkable warmth and great beauty. In April 2012, a 100% vicuña shawl 79 by 28 in. (2 by 0.7 meters) weighing 6.9 ounces (1.96 grams) could be purchased from Alpaca Collections (a division of Kuna) for $2,250.00. A scarf 71 by 12 in. (1.8 by 0.3 meters) and 4.8 ounces (136 grams) cost $1,350.00. According to Mike Safely, “An ounce of vicuña fleece, unprocessed, sells for five times more than an ounce of pure silver.” Limited quantities of fiber are available each year and demand is always greater than availability. Since 1994, the Italian company Loro Piana has been directly participating with the Sociedad Nacional de Criadores de Vicuña of Perú. Loro Piana’s father Franco had been among the first to import the fiber to Italy. Loro Piana’s web site notes, “The extraordinary characteristics of this fibre justify the legendary aura. The extremely fine, light, soft, and resistant fibre, with an average diameter of 12-13 microns, performs an amazing heat regulating function that protects from the severe winters and the torrid summers.” To give consumers an idea of the rarity of the fiber, Piana’s site goes on to say, “The adult animal produces only 250 grams of coat every two years which is then reduced to 120 grams after shearing and de-hairing. Therefore, to produce an overcoat in vicuña the fleece of 25 to 30 animals is needed. This rarity of this fibre along with the authentic expertise and knowledge of how work it further increases the intrinsic value of vicuña fabrics and garments.” Scotland’s Holland & Sherry, purveyors of “The Finest Cloths in The World,” make note on their web site that vicuña fiber is “thick but soft and the fibre length is rarely more than 25mm making it more suitable for woolen spun fabrics. However, the fibre that has been used to produce this range of fabrics has a staple length greater than 28 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
Haj Designs’ Founder and Chief Creative Officer Elhadji Gueye, known to the fashion world as Haj, travels the world to meet the fashion needs of some of the most celebrated personalities in business, entertainment and sports. He is well known for his imaginative designs and the unmatched fit of his tailormade clothes. Haj is a third generation tailor whose start-to-finish commitment to excellence and high quality fabric is evident in everything he designs. He explains to clients that well-constructed and designed clothes are an investment in an elegant image and stresses the significance presentation has in the business world, whether you are a CEO, sports standout or stage performer. Because of his desire to bring luxury back to clothing, he works in only the finest fabric, including alpaca (right) and vicuña (below). See more at www.hajdesigns.com.
30mm; making it the first vicuña fibre to be spun into yarn using the worsted spinning system.” Ermenegildo Zegna was established in 1910 in Milan, Italy and currently has more than 525 stores around the world. In November 2010, Pablo Zegna, CEO of Zegna Group, said Chinese consumers are the best buyers of Peruvian vicuña wool and are willing to pay up to US$ 20,000 for vicuña garments. “In the United States, a blanket made from vicuña wool may cost US $8,000, a jacket US $15,000, and coats can cost US $18,000,” he explained. Other companies which carry fine luxury goods in vicuña include: Kiton (Italy), Brioni (Italy) and Johnstons of Elgin (Scotland), J.H. Cutler (Australia) and Oxxford Clothes (Chicago, Illinois).
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, vicuña garments were manufactured more frequently, in particular women’s coats. Many of these survive today, but are few and far between. An article from the New York Times dated 1940 marks the “return of the four button vicuña coat” to men’s fashion for Easter. In 1953, another announces a millinery collection featuring the material. Throughout the fifties, vicuña was popular in high-class world fashion. The sixties saw many garments being produced for the fashion world from vicuña. By 1960, vicuñas were seriously threatened and their protection began to be mandated. Many garments were still being manufactured even as the vicuñas faced extinction. By 1970, availability dwindled and the material became rarer and rarer. A good number of retro gems still exist to the collector with a keen eye. Browse eBay on any given day to see at least a few of these beauties from yesteryear. (See Spotlight p. 112-113).
South America has now successfully regulated the way vicuña fiber is harvested, making it less detrimental to the animals. Many modern designers flock to get the material and the clip is sold out each and every year after competitive auctions. Humans are still scrambling, after all these years to put their hands on the remarkably fine, luxe fiber of this marvelous creature. Vicuñas are magnificent unto themselves, fascinating as a wild animal and one of the most exceptional creatures on Earth. Perú values them highly as a national treasure and a symbol of their country, where they appear on the national coat of arms.
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Vicuñas and Alpacas’ Unique Relationship
Vicuñas are irreplaceable because of their magnificent fiber but also because they are a wild population that still thrives and has not been hunted into extinction. In and of themselves, they are captivating. They also provide an example of fineness and potential for excellence that everyone in the alpaca community can look to in a concrete way for inspiration. Breeders who want to see the fiber quality for themselves to infuse their alpaca program with vicuña traits can still visit these remarkable animals in the flesh in Perú, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. Vicuñas are an example of what alpacas came from and can be, only alpacas can produce much more of fiber per animal per year. By using alpacas as modern sources of superb fleece, harvest can take place on a larger scale in a domestic setting. Since alpacas’ impact on the environment is light and sustainable, the world has access to a domestic fiber animal whose fleece is incredible and whose potential for production is exponential. When enough superb alpaca fiber exists in the market, vicuñas are free to increase their populations and thrive within the parameters of protection we have created for them. This is a testament to the enduring admiration of vicuña fiber. But it is also a human reward for having the foresight to care for the environment and to value each creature’s unique niche in it. Sources: • Hoffman, Eric. The Complete Alpaca Book. 2 ed. Santa Cruz: Bonny Doon Press, 2006. Print. • “Vicuña.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki. Version n/a. Wikipedia, 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 2 May 2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicuña. • Lichtenstein, Gabriela. “Vicuña conservation and poverty alleviation: Andean communities and international fibre markets.” International Journal of the Commons 1 Jan. 2004: n/a. http:// www.thecommonsjournal.org. Web. 2 May 2012. • Wheeler, Jane C., and Jerry Laker. “Vicuña in the Andean Altiplano.” SpringerLink - electronic journals, protocols and books. . Version n/q. Springerlink, 2009. Web. 2 May 2012. http://www. springerlink.com/content/g230k66281053118/. • “Vicuña - Vicugna vicugna.” Blue Planet Biomes. Version n/a. World Biomes, 2000. Web. 2 May 2012. http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/vicuna.htm. • “Vicuña.” SOL ALPACA. Version n/a. Michell, 2012. Web. 2 May 2012. http://www.solalpaca.com/vicunia.php. • “Vicugna vicugna.” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version n/a. IUCN/Species Survival Commission, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 2 May 2012. www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/22956/0. • “AlpaLuxe.” AlpaLuxe Luxury Scarves, Shawls, Pashminas & Wraps-Finest Scarves, Shawls, Pashminas & Wraps-Vicuna Scarves & Shawls-Royal Alpaca Scarves & Shawls-Fashion Luxury Accessories. Version n/a. AlpaLuxe, 2009. Web. 2 May 2012. • http://www.alpaluxe.com/alpaluxe-about-fibers.php?id=30http://. • Peruvian Army Gets Lessons On Protecting the Vicuna by Matt Moffett, Wall Street Journal • Shapiro, Leo . “Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) - Encyclopedia of Life.”
ABOVE: Snowmass Chakra, a “vicuña style” alpaca fleece. This fleece’s micron measures | 13.1 | 2.7 | 20.5 | % >30 = 0.3 | via grid sampling with a very high curvature of 62.1 (in range of the vicuña). Snowmass’ herd now contains 90% animals that are in the Baby and Royal ranges of micron.
Encyclopedia of Life - Animals - Plants - Pictures & Information. Version n/a. Encyclopedia of Life, 2012. Web. 2 May 2012. • Faris, Stephan. “Self-Serving Stewardship: How Manufacturers Help the Planet.” time 6 June 2011: n/a. http://www.time.com/. Web. 2 May 2012. • Hoffman, Eric. “The World Fiber Market and why the Vicuña may be the Key to Improving the Alpaca.” The Alpaca Evaluation: A Guide for Owners & Breeders. Version n/a. Bonny Doon Alpacas, 1998- 2005 Web. 2 May 2012. http://www.bonnydoonalpacas.org/ worldfibermarket.html. • Safley, Mike. “Alpacas: Synthesis of a Miracle - Prologue Vicuna By Mike Safley.” Northwest Alpacas - Alpaca Information - Alpaca for Sale. Version n/a. Northwest Alpacas, 2003 - 2005. Web. 2 May 2012. http://www.alpacas.com/AlpacaLibrary/Html/VicunaPrologue.htm.
• Costa La Cruz, Alejandra, and Fiorella Carrascal. “Interview: Luxury Italian outfitter Zegna and Peru’s vicuña wool .” http:// archive.peruthisweek.com/. Version n/a. 2011 Peru Experience, 15 Dec. 2010. Web. 2 May 2012. archive.peruthisweek.com/blogs/ business/archives/import-export. • Roberson, Mary-Russell. “Discovering South America’s Camels.” ZooGoer Jan. - Feb. 2008: n/a. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/. Web. 2 May 2012. • Bowes, Sally . “Vicuña: Maiden of the Heights .” Rumbos n/a: n/a. http://www.rumbosonline.com. Web. 2 May 2012. • “Teeth - Care and Maintenance.” Gateway Farm Alpacas. Gateway Farm Alpacas, 2012. Web. 18 July 2012. http://www.gatewayalpacas.com/alpacas/health-and-wellness/teeth.htm.
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E N T E R P R I S E S
Quechua Enterprises (QE) is a breeding company which is brings a scientific effort to advancing the alpaca breed to produce a finer, brighter, more uniform, softer handling alpaca fibre which will supply a growing commercial demand. QE has the world's finest collection of Elite breeding studs and the only tightly held genetic compilation of Snowmass Quechua sons. These genetics provide the foundation to both the QE Royal and Super Royal Grades of bright alpaca fiber. Quechua Enterprises, hand in hand with Snowmass Alpacas, produced their first ROYAL alpaca bales, which were sent to Grupo Inca and Inca Tops of Peru in 2011. The bales were evaluated by their leading alpaca textile experts, renowned throughout the world for their knowledge and expertise. These experts acclaimed the Quechua Enterprise bales to be the finest and brightest, most uniform lot of alpaca bales to ever come into their sorting house. Please be sure to see the video presentation at www.snowmassalpacas.com. The production of this fibre is underway and we hope to present the results in Phoenix Arizona at the Corona Ranch February 22 & 23rd 2013 The vision of Quechua Enterprises is in "Royal Alpaca." www.QuechuaEnterprises.com
Gaining Momentum and Changing the World Fiber Market . . . One Superb Bale at a Time The alpaca industry is multi-faceted to say the least. Each one of us is taking something naturally wonderful – alpacas – and expounding upon aspects of them with our individual expertise. Breeders are working toward reduction of guard hair, textile manufacturers are looking for larger markets, designers are creating even more beautiful clothes than last season. We are all striving to make alpaca something people are not only familiar with but a commodity they seek out for themselves and their families. The common thread here is producing the softest, most luxurious, most environmentally beneficial and wonderful fiber available, then making it marketable to the world. Alpaca is a material with so much appeal and potential, it is electrifying. From the very finest Royal Grades to fleece more suited for upholstery, rugs and the like, all fiber has value and utility. Lately, a handful of breeders have improved their herds dramatically. Now, alpacas are approaching the fineness and uniformity of the alpaca mummies studied by Jane Wheeler at El Yaral and in some cases, even surpassing the quality of the ancient herds. The people in South America whose cultures have been built around camelids for generations have begun to notice and embrace the accomplishments of breeders from all corners of the world and even seek out the excellent fiber. European fashion houses have also begun to seek fiber from producers in other parts of the world besides South America. The fact that the industry has progressed to that global level since only getting started in earnest outside South America in the late 1980s is astounding.
LEFT: Don and Julie Skinner of Snowmass Alpacas and partners in Quechua Enterprises stand among five bales of Royal and Baby Grade alpaca fiber that were received in Perú in 2011. These bales are being processed by Inca Tops for new Royal Grade textiles. Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 35
learly, South America is the nexus of alpaca development, tradition and productivity. It is also the main location where the majority of commercially viable alpaca fiber is produced, processed and manufactured into material for multiple end uses. For hundreds of years, the textile production methods in Perú and other countries have been successful and somewhat insular. The unprecedented story of American fiber being imported to Perú is an entirely new twist to the yarn of world alpaca fiber. In the past, it was Peruvian or in general, South American fiber that was manufactured into material or fine garments and imported into the United States. Now other countries want in on the action, too, and strides are being made all over the world to make alpaca fiber a household item. Clearly, the recent commercial ventures are a sign that better, more lucrative things are to come.
microns. The average was 16 micron. We had one bale we rated XXXRoyal which was all 16 microns and below and every fleece had a high degree of brightness. Once in Perú, they were opened and re-sorted at Inca Tops by professional sorting women alongside of the #1 wool buyer in Perú and the General Manager of the largest Alpaca Company in the world. The video clip was presented of the unveiling of the Snowmass bales in Phoenix, Arizona at our Making of Champions Sale and is now available on our website, www. snowmassalpacas.com. It was a very proud moment for us to hear of their excitement and enthusiasm of what they described as the most amazing lot of white alpaca they had ever seen. We will be talking more about the progress and advancements of the overall world market of alpaca fiber in Phoenix in February at the Corona Ranch 2013 World Premier Alpaca Sale.” After making the very long overseas trip by cargo freighter, the fiber arrived several months later in Arequipa, Perú at Inca Tops SAA, one of the largest and most recognized Alpaca top and yarn manufacturers in the world. The Peruvians were most impressed with its exceptional brightness and uniformity. This extraordinary fiber is slated to be made made into elite, highend textiles by Grupo Inca. In February 2012, Alonso Burgos of Grupo Inca spoke about fiber in two installments at the Snowmass Making of Champions Winners’ Circle Sale in Phoenix, Arizona. ABOVE: Expert Peruvian alpaca fiber graders closely examine the extraordinary Snowmass fleece in Perú. The first day, Burgos’ presentation Fleece to Textiles American Fiber Travels Overseas focused on what characteristics the industry is looking for in alpaca fiber in general, essential information for to Perú the many quality breeders in attendance. From micron to In 2011, Don and Julie Skinner of Snowmass Alpacas crimp and other aspects of the fiber, the audience heard and owners of a share of Quechua Enterprises, sent several directly from a key figure in the alpaca textile industry and bales of Royal and Baby alpaca fiber to Perú after collecting a top breeder in Perú. it over time. Burgos’ desires as a commercial textile manufacturer Julie Skinner reports, “The five bales that we sent to were exactly in line with the characteristics of the SnowPeru were from our finest white fleeced alpacas. Each fleece mass fiber. Burgos spoke about what the Peruvians saw was individually tested via Yocom-McColl testing lab in when they opened the Snowmass bales. He reported that the Denver, Colorado. The ranges were from 13 microns to 17 36 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
five bales of fiber from Snowmass were spectacular and gave some startling Figure 1: Snowmass Fiber Versus Peruvian Clip numbers on the analysis of them to quantify the results. (Figure 1.) Quality Perú General Snowmass Perú Elite Burgos said “In the more than fifty Royal 0.48% 46% 15.84% years we have in the business, we have never seen a brighter nor a more uniform Baby 27.01% 50.90% 64.68% alpaca lot at the sorting plant. It was Fine* 0.01% 0% 0% a really extraordinary event to see the sorting ladies going over the material Super Fine 31.03% 3.1% 19.48% and being amazed over the brightness of * Fine grade does not exist in Perú. the material.” The audience at the Corona Ranch was truly excited to learn of the Skinof Baby and Royal Fiber and the results are beautiful. Julie ners’ achievement, hard won over more than thirty years of says, “We are presently working on fine woven matehands-on breeding, scientific advancement and a deep love rial from these bales and awaiting samples from the mill for the breed. to proceed. The Super Royal portion of our fiber will be The second day of the Snowmass sale, just prior to the blended with the fiber of the best fleeces obtained during the auction, Burgos detailed the industrial process of creating Peruvian National Contest and will be used to create a new tops and yarns. He played fascinating videos of the methcollection of Premium Alpaca goods.” ods involved, showing the process from reception of the The Skinners have also sent 24 bales to Nepal, India for just-shorn fleeces from the animals to the production of fine processing. According to Julie, they are “in all colors that textiles. The inside workings of the industrial mills in Perú range from 18 micron bales to stronger 24 micron bales, all were shown in the process of splitting, sorting, opening, of which will be sorted, hand-carded and spun in Nepal for washing, drying, combing and carding the fiber. tapestries and rugs. We will be documenting the travel from Burgos emphasized the importance of reducing the mihere to there and the processes. The container is in Seattle cron size of primary fibers so they are nearly undetectable to and will soon be on its way across the sea to Katmandu.” the naked eye. He also noted that the cleaner and more thorThe Skinners also sent five bales of all colors, mostly oughly sorted the fiber arrives, the more cost effective it is of Baby Grade (18-21 micron) and a bale of Suri, to Flaggy to produce a garment. Even something as simple as how one Meadow Fiber Mill. There, they will be processed into yarns folds the fleece after shearing can have a profound effect on for hand woven throws like the ones the Skinners gifted how much it costs to produce something from it and on the to buyers at the February Making of Champions Winners’ quality of the fiber itself. The Snowmass bales arrived neat, Circle Sale in Phoenix, Arizona. Read more about Flaggy tidy and well-skirted. Julie Skinner reports, “This was due Meadow here: www.flaggymeadowfiberworks.com. in part to the Snowmass shearing protocol, which optimizes Julie Skinner says, “The advancements in alpaca are the process to collect only the best and most consistent fiber. extraordinary and Royal alpaca fleece is taking the industry We have always striven to eliminate contaminants and to to new levels across the world. With the struggles of the make sure fiber is high quality and clean to reduce re-sortglobal economy, we have seen some shifts in the industry. ing and minimize processing time.” Struggling breeders need to remain hopeful in knowing that Most evident from Burgos’ presentations and the analythere is indeed a growing demand for fine alpaca and fine sis of the Snowmass fleeces is that commercial production alpaca genetics. As finer and brighter advanced alpaca fiber of alpaca textiles is a scientific process that starts with excomes into play, the industry can shift into greater demands ceptional animal genetics to achieve for alpaca. There is a healthy global incentive to continue the highest quality possible. to advance the breed of alpaca so that we can fulfill the Snowmass is also producing growing demand for the finest Alpaca fleece. We hope that textiles here in the United States with the U.S.A. continues to shine and be a leader in this effort hopes of seeing a viable Ameriof creating some of the best known alpaca genetics in the can production run. The Skinners world. Alpaca is not just a fad – it is a global industry of have had handwoven blankets and extraordinary measures and a culture of its own.” bedspreads made from other bales
See the video
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Below: Paul Vallely of Australian Alpaca Fibre Testing (right) congratulates Keenan Scott (left) on the purchase of a 17.8 micron bale sold in Australia on August 3, 2012 for AU $7,000.
Australia’s Ultrafine Bale Scheme
Now in its fifth year, the intent of the Ultrafine Bale Scheme is to push into the world’s premium apparel market with the highest quality alpaca fleece being produced anywhere. The goal of the Ultrafine Bale Scheme is twofold, according to Paul Vallely of Australian Alpaca Fibre Testing (AAFT). First, it provides an effective medium to showcase all alpaca fibre to the global textile markets. Vallely explains,”Experience has shown that the ‘wow’ factor associated with the ultrafine bales has resulted in key players in the garment industry taking notice of all the other fibre types. In fact, we are using the Ultrafine scheme to open doors to market bales of coloured alpaca fibre for a range of micron categories.” Secondly, the Ultrafine scheme “provides premiums to growers as an incentive or reward” to produce very high quality fleeces and ultimately, enough volume to meet world demand. The inspiration for the project arose when Valley was involved with “a network of Ultrafine Merino sheep breeders who have created a market for their product through strategies of quality assurance, demand driven production and brand recognition.” Key price drivers for the premium fiber market were discovered through an evaluation in 2008 and 2009 by AAFT by consulting four major buyers of fine alpaca fiber: Merino Gold, Australia; Organic Softwears, Australia; Jo Sharp Knitwear, Australia; Ermenegildo Zegna, Italy. The goal was to collect one bale of white alpaca fiber with superb consistency of fineness that measured 75-100 mm long (2.9 – 3.9 inches) with 0% guard hair and containing less than 1.5% vegetable matter. Samples were initally sent to AAFT to determine if they were high quality enough to pass a rigorous screening test. A grid sample as well as other procedures for quality assurance were used to confirm the fleeces’ quality. Australia also runs “Fleece Collection Days” in many states, where fleece is submitted after breeders have attended an AAFT “Fleece Preparation Workshop.” The collection days are run by AAFT until the group feels confident participants have been suitably trained. Experienced breeders at the local level coordinate these activities. Vallely says, “In this case, the grid samples are sent to us for testing with results emailed to a coordinator before they consign the fleeces to respective classing lines. While attendees or regional groups pay our expenses, we do not earn income from running the workshops.” The Ultrafine Bale Scheme successfully produced a bale of 17.8 microns in 2011. The world record bale’s
authenticity was confirmed by the Australian Wool Testing Authority in May 2011 with a series of core samples taken throughout the bale. Vallely says, “The core test system is the certification required before any bales of fibre are sold anywhere in the world. This certification system ensures an accountable, transparent and creditable set of protocols that provides buyers with a high degree of confidence as to what is actually contained in the bales. It also allows some degree of recourse when things go wrong.” Bales from years past have been marketed and sold globally. Products made from the superior fiber included alpaca and cashmere or Ultrafine Merino blend sweaters and men’s suiting. Vallely says, “Fleeces that successfully meet Ultrafine bale criteria are currently earning between $36 to $70 per kilogram.” A strict shearing protocol is necessary for fleece contributors. About 200 farms contribute to the bale now, with some of those farms providing almost 100 fleeces each. Some of the fiber has ended up with legendary firms such as Emermegildo Zegna, maker of high end luxury men’s clothing. Celebrity sponsors such as George Clooney and Benecio Del Toro (the first ever Campari Man) wear the brand. When Alpaca Culture asked Vallely how much the group has put together for the next bale and how long it takes to gather, he said “We are collecting about 250 kg a year at the moment, although we have reduced the maximum micron for fleeces at 18.0. I hope to get bales that average low 17’s. Any fleeces not to Ultrafine bale grade go into Superfine lines.” Vallely reports that the most important factors the group keeps in mind for ensuring fiber is marketable to textile manufacturers include “Low variation in fibre diameter and length, no contamination from foreign articles or problematic fibres, uniform and consistent supply, strict observance of quality assurance protocols and labelling as such.” Paul Vallely announced at the World Alpaca Conference at Keble College in Oxford, England in April, 2012 that the Ultrafine Bale Scheme has been quite successful. As of August 3, 2012, Vallely’s group has sold the “finest bale to date” for the highest price paid for a bale of alpaca in the world thus far. Vallely says, “We sold the bale today for a net price of AU$7,000 ($AU62.50 per kilo or 112 kg). The extra good news is that we have a supply agreement to sell more Ultrafine bales for equivalent price per kilo based on AFD. In fact, I need another 140 kilos as soon as possible.” “The fibre will be used to produce ‘high-end’ luxury garments with some garments being showcased in the coming year,” said the buyer of the world record breaking bale, Keenan Scott of Waiheke Alpaca Stud in New Zealand. Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 39
Scott said the fibre would be processed with other Ultrafine alpaca fleeces to produce luxury “next to skin wear” garments. He reports that he has negotiated with AAFT for a continuous supply agreement for more Ultrafine bales. Scott also stated that the agreement would be exclusively through Premium Alpaca given the high level of Quality Assurance requirements provided throughout the scheme. Keenan said the grid testing of all fleeces, emphasis on close screening for evidence of guard hair and a very high standard of shearing protocols were some of the aspects that attracted him to the Premium Alpaca scheme. When asked if he is hopeful that alpaca can become more viable as a globally traded commodity if more people follow the model you’ve used with the Ultrafine Bale Scheme, Vallely said he is “Hopeful, but a lot of hard decisions to be made by the alpaca industry, followed by a lot
of hard work. The first thing to occur is that the industry has to carry out the debate of where they want their industry to be in, say, 10 years time. A major hurdle to overcome is the need to reconcile the preferred traits for high commercial fleeces with preferred traits in the show ring. At the moment, the two areas of pursuit are in many ways, pulling away from each other.”
Pacific Crest Accoyo America Fiber Fetches Premium Price
At the Parade of Champions auction in Hillsboro, Oregon in July, Pacific Crest Accoyo America Alpacas sold a 105.8 pound (48 kg) bale of alpaca fiber for $6,000 or $56.71 per pound. The final weighted average fiber diameter was 16.4 microns, weighted average standard deviation was 3.5 microns, weighted average of coeffi-
Left to Right: Greg Mecklem of Pacific Crest Accoyo America, Cameron Holt, Lynn Edens of Our Back 40 and Pam Pullins, owner of The King’s Mill, the exclusive processor of Our Back 40 yarn at the Parade of Champions Auction in Oregon July, 2012.
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cient of variation was 21.1% and weighted average of % over 30 microns was 0.7%. To make trading convenient, the standard commercial unit for wool on the wholesale national and international markets is a bale. Alpaca bales are measured based on the standards of sheep’s wool. According to the Australian Government, bales should weigh between 110 kg (242 lbs) and 204 kg (449 lbs), unless the wool is under 18.6 microns, in which case they may be a minimum gross weight of 90 kg (198 lbs). The Pacific Crest fiber bundle was less than half of what a typical wool bale weighs. The fiber was not coretested (a standard method used in the wool industry) but each individual fleece was sampled and pre-tested for fineness to go into the bale by Yocom-McColl laboratory. The results revealed an average measurement of 16.4 microns and this information was included with the bale. The buyer was Our Back 40. Our Back 40 is an American organization based in New York that wants to make fiber artists aware that alpacas can produce fleece as fine as cashmere. Their goals also include increasing prices for alpaca fiber to levels that are sustainable. In addition, Our Back 40 would like to create ecologically sensitive goods produced in the United States and not overseas. By developing, producing and selling yarns that bring together the finest alpaca fiber produced, they want to improve alpaca fiber’s distribution. This will help farmers, local fiber processers, retailers and consumers. Our Back 40 also wants to locate and encourage discerning consumers who value alpaca’s quality and provenance. They anticipate having goods available for purchase very soon and are actively pursuing more alpaca fiber. Read more about Our Back 40 at: www.OurBack40. com. For more from Our Back 40’s Lynn Edens in her own words, p. 96, What’s So Great About Alpaca Fiber?
Australia’s New Commercial Quality Standard
Perhaps it is no surprise that a country so steeped in a longstanding wool tradition is one of the first outside of South America to embrace a standardized classing system. In the Summer 2012 Alpaca World Magazine, Graeme Dickson detailed the new rules Australians are putting into place in order to set up a structure designed to establish unified classification standards for commercial alpaca fleece production. By considering natural color, breed types, micron group and fleece style as well as guard hair, strength, strain and SD/CV and Vm content, a comprehensive Code of Practice has been developed and approved by the Australian Alpaca Association Board. The standard will be applied
to all Australian alpaca wool so that consumers can be assured they are buying Quality Assured Australian Alpaca. Alpaca fiber classers will be trained to the new system. Two levels of competency are proposed, the Professional Classer and the Owner Classer. Professional levels can be achieved through training whereas the Owner Classer allows alpaca owners to analyze fleeces. In order to make sure standards are being upheld, registered classers from the Australian Wool Exchange Ltd will also be put to use. Consumers will be provided “a test result certificate for every bale or lot tested under their supervision.” The consumer will be aware of the name of the producer, gross and net fiber weights, “fiber diameter C of V and the vegetable matter content.” An official logo will be used to identify fiber that meets the standards. Instead of relying on show standards, as many countries outside South America have been, Australia has created standards based on what textile producers want and need. By going to these lengths, the Australians have assured that their alpaca community will continue to grow and develop into an industry where growers and consumers are rewarded.
Other Positive Efforts Alpaca Ultimate
Committed to quality from fleece to garment, this organization is based in Australia. Alpaca Ultimate consists of three partners; Currabungla Alpacas, Daisy Bank Alpacas and Adobe Park Alpacas, New Zealand. Every fleece that goes into Alpaca Ultimate yarn has been thoroughly skirted, grid tested and sorted into bales that vary by only two microns. This uniformity results in high quality yarns and products, each manufactured from the fibre of the most suitable micron for that product. They source all of their fleeces from Australian alpacas and have them processed in Australia and New Zealand so the products contain only 100% Australian alpaca. Fleeces are independently grid tested by Southern Tablelands Fibre Testing, (AWEX- AFFM accredited). This provides an objective means to calculate the payment to breeders and is also a great breeding tool for growers. Many past and present projects are listed on their web site, including the manufacture of fine fabrics and yarns. Read more at: www.AlpacaUltimate.com.au.
Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America
This organization uses regional clip collection sites to take advantage of the reduced cost of larger shipments and freight company rates. The sorting/grading process takes place over several months and can span calendar Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 41
ABOVE: American Alpaca Textiles throw pillows covered in alpaca fiber upholstery. See www.AmericanAlpacaTextiles.com for more styles and information.
years. Each year, the alpaca fiber is collected at a central location. Each farm’s fiber investment is sorted by Huacaya and Suri, color and fineness. This data is recorded in the individual shareholder’s fiber account and will ultimately be used to calculate the distribution of profits that each shareholder will receive. The fiber is then either sold as raw fiber or processed into yarn and end products and sold. The final use of the fiber varies based on the needs of the AFCNA at the time. Read more: afcna.com.
American Alpaca Textiles
American Alpaca Textiles is going global and green with commercially produced alpaca blended fabrics the world will sit, stand, and sleep on. A reputation for sustainability, elegance and durability places AAT as a frontrunner in the world market for alpaca blended fabrics using American alpaca fiber from the American alpaca farmer. Their product line includes upholstery fabric, drapery and home decor items utilizing American sourced alpaca fiber and blends. AAT has aligned with the well-known and knowledgeable textile-weaving firm Thistle Hill Weavers. An exclusive contract enables them to collaborate in inspirational and developmental production opportunities utilizing North American Alpaca fleece in the worldwide textile marketplace. AAT is actively involved in the research and development of additional alpaca 42 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
blends and fabric designs. AAT’s mission is to bring alpaca blended fabrics and products to the commercial textile market using natural and sustainable fibers. Read more: www.AmericanAlpacaTextiles.com.
Alpaca United is a textile fiber company created and funded by North American alpaca farmers and processors to make their fiber more competitive in world markets. Its mission is to continuously and holistically help investors increase their competitive advantage with alpaca fiber by delivering business solutions through research, product development, branding and affinity marketing. Alpaca United is striving to ensure that its investors achieve their tactical and strategic business goals by unifying logistical solutions to reduce costs and seamlessly manage business processes throughout the fiber supply chain. Read more: www. AlpacaUnited.com. 2012 Fiber to Market Days: Alpaca United has adopted a series of nationwide collection days as its 2012 industry project, to be held at hosting alpaca farms for the purpose of selling and buying raw alpaca fiber. As a relatively new domestic livestock to the U.S., this type of selling opportunity for U.S. producers is “the equivalent of a wool brokering day,” an additional step in supporting more than 4,000 alpaca farms
as this lovely, beautiful fiber progresses into the commercial setting. Since alpaca fiber can be used across a wide range of products from carpet to high end luxury textiles, AU believes this project will help spread the word since U.S. alpaca farms have fiber and, as an industry, are ready to sell and expand producers’ roles in the market.
Quechua Enterprises is the world’s finest collection of elite breeding studs and the only (tightly held) genetic compilation of Snowmass Quechua sons available in the world. These genetics are beyond any present model of what an elite breeding alpaca stud should possess. The density and low micron of these studs is beyond refute and the key to bringing alpaca fleece to new levels of excellence. Quechua Enterprises is dedicated to producing the world’s most acclaimed elite fiber herds while working hand in hand with the international community to help advance the science in breeding techniques, elite fiber collections and the finest textile production. In 2011, Quechua Enterprises shipped five of the highest valued bales of Royal alpaca ever baled in the U.S. to Perú. All alpaca fleeces in the XXXRoyal bales were tested via grid by Yocom-McColl and results ranged from 13-17 microns. The five bales weighed approximately 1,400 pounds total (635 kg) and nearly 46% (about 644 pounds or 292 kg) of the fiber rated Royal Grade by skilled Peruvian hand sorters. The vision of Quechua Enterprises is in “Royal Alpaca” and this elite collection of QE studs are the key genetic elements leading the way. Read more: www. QuechuaEnterprises.com.
The Alpaca Blanket Project has evolved from collaboration with an American mill that has a worldwide reputation. Peter and Carol Lundberg have been working with Pendleton Woolen Mills towards creating a North American resource for the alpaca community to have for the use of American-grown fiber. Their goals include enabling the American alpaca farmer to produce a cost-effective American-made product and to bring public awareness to the wonders of alpaca fleece. The Lundbergs consider this project to be another option for the alpaca owner, one that they believe will benefit the industry overall. (Read about the blankets they are making in What’s So Great About Alpaca Fiber? in this issue of Alpaca Culture, page 86). Read more: www. Pendleton-usa.com.
New England Alpaca Fiber Pool
The New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP) is an alpaca fiber processing service. By combining small amounts of fiber from thousands of farms into large lots, they are able to utilize large U.S. commercial manufacturers and take advantage of economies of scale. By doing so, they can offer alpaca farms a wide range of professionally made products, at the lowest possible cost and risk. The New England Alpaca Fiber Pool has been processing alpaca fiber in the United States since 1997, allowing alpaca farms of all sizes to gain access to commercially manufactured finished products. The service combines small lots of like fiber from thousands of farms into large lots, saving a tremendous amount in manufacturing costs at each step of the process. They take pride in offering the widest selection of alpaca products made in the United States at the best prices. From the beginning, NEAFP’s goal has been to make fiber processing as simple as possible on the farmer’s end, so they can focus their energy on running the farm, promoting the lifestyle and animals and successfully running their business. Read more: www.neafp.com.
Alpaca is gaining strength as a globally traded commodity each every day. With South Americans continuing to lead the pack in production and manufacturing, as they have traditionally, other countries are taking note and making their own strides. Many are putting their own spin on the industry and starting new customs and methods meant to make the process more efficient and worldly. Poised on the cusp of successful global trade, the industry is moving forward with measurable results. If you have news about fiber supply chain improvements or innovative alpaca fiber developments, Alpaca Culture wants to hear about it. Please contact us with updates at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sources:
• Burgos, Alonso. “Fleece to Textiles.” Snowmass Making of Champions Winners’ Circle Sale. Snowmass Alpacas. Corona Ranch, Phoenix. 27 Feb. 2011. Lecture. • “Facts and Figures on Sheep and Wool.” Facts and Figures on Sheep and Wool. Queensland Government: Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2010. Web. 20 July 2012. http://www2.dpi.qld.gov. au/sheep/6572.html. • “Wool Bale.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 July 2012. Web. 20 July 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wool_bale. • Dickson, Graeme. “Quality Assurance Fleece Classing System.” Alpaca World Magazine Summer.42 (2002): 30-31. Print. • Vallely, Paul. Personal interview. • Santiago Ortega, personal interview. • Julie Skinner, personal interview. • Keenan Scott, personal interview.
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(per’spek-tivs) Noun: views, outlooks, points of view, accounts, opinions Alpaca Culture asked many industry leaders involved with alpaca fleece all over the world what they’re doing to advance the awareness and distribution of this excellent natural fiber. We wanted to know where the supply chain and infrastructure stand now, if they think it is practical and what innovations or real-world alterations can be made to improve it. Most interviewees represent smaller or developing fiber collectives and producers since the alpaca fiber industry, outside of Perú, is still growing and has not yet reached a fully viable presence in the global market. Perú is the cradle of alpaca fiber and is the leading large-scale alpaca fiber production industry in the world, with Incalpaca TPX and Michell as the two main manufacturers. We were able to include the insights of Juan Pepper, Commercial Manager of Michell, in this article. We thought input from a large scale manufacturer could be very informative and help guide smaller interests. By sharing what these hands-on respondents know and have been involved in, readers can assess the way alpaca fiber is collected, processed and distributed.
Boaz Herzsfeld, Executive Director, Creswick Mill
Juan C. Pepper Michell & Cia. S.A. Graduated from the Philadelphia University with an MBA in Textile Business. He also holds a B.A. degree from Catholic University in Arequipa, Perú. He is a board member of the International Alpaca Association, Board Member of the Peruvian Institute of Camelids – IPAC and has 29 years working in the Alpaca Textile Industry. Currently, Pepper is Commercial Manager of Michell & Co, the largest vertically integrated Peruvian Alpaca processing group. Pepper has broad experience in international negotiations and sales, having traveled extensively to Japan, Korea and China, as well as to all major alpaca consuming countries in Europe, from Russia to Turkey, and the Middle East, promoting and selling alpaca products..
Mary Anderle, President, Malpaca™ Pillows Mary Anderle, a registered licensed Interior Designer, was owner of MAReDESIGN, Inc. for several years before founding Malpaca in 2009. While attending a green building/design seminar, a surprise attendee, a fireman, stood up and alerted everyone about the harmful synthetic toxins in our homes. When firemen go to a fire, they struggle saving the home and its occupants due to the toxic off-gassing from the fumes of man-made materials. Following that day, and after Mary’s determined research on the best natural fibers to use, she discovered alpaca fiber and all the unique benefits it had – naturally. The discovery of this exceptional fiber, which is virtually unknown and unused in the design and textile industry, forever changed Mary’s life path and career. Since bedding is highly toxic, she began there, with all natural, chemical-free, safe pillows made from 100% alpaca, and formed the company Malpaca.
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Boaz Herszfeld has run his family business, Creswick Woollen Mills, established in 1947, since 2002. In that time, Creswick has transformed from a manufacturer of unbranded textiles to a supplier of high quality branded consumer products made in Australia and around the world. Focusing on natural fibres and stylish design, Creswick offers its loyal consumers a range of homewares such as blankets, throws, accessories such as scarves, beanies, gloves and apparel such as knitwear.
Julie Mae Campbell Campbell Fiber Sales Julie Mae Campbell has been involved with animals since she was very young. City born and raised, she’s a country girl at heart. She was involved in 4-H in her youth, got her first alpaca as a gift in 2001 and now has some 45+ alpacas. She has been active on the AOBA show circuit and as a volunteer both at the local and national level. Currently, she is the owner of Campbell Fiber Sales, focused on strengthening the American market for alpaca fiber. She is also working with university professors and orchard growers to develop grazing protocol for California breeders in order to take advantage of the economic benefits of grazing alpacas reducing the reliance on baled hay and increasing the net profit from alpaca fiber. (www. campbellfibersales.com and www.fleecestation.com).
Peter and Carol Lundberg Alpaca Blanket Project The Alpaca Blanket Project is the brainchild of Peter and Carol Lundberg of Elderberry Creek Alpacas in Stayton, Oregon. They proved enough alpaca fiber could be grown in the United States to mass-produce a product, then they coordinated a like-minded group of alpaca breeders’ fiber. The Lundbergs were instrumental in making the Alpaca Blanket Project become reality through Pendleton Woolen Mills.
Don and Julie Skinner Snowmass Alpacas Snowmass Alpacas has worked for over thirty years to scientifically breed the world’s finest alpacas. As a result, the reputation Snowmass has earned for their quality genetics reaches well beyond the borders of the United States. Today and in the future, Snowmass is dedicated to the development of alpaca textiles and the advancement of the art and science of breeding alpacas.
Trish Esson Cashmere Connections Cashmere Connections Pty. Ltd. Is located in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia. Cashmere Connections purchases Alpaca and Cashmere fibre directly from producers. They have established markets for all types of semi-processed alpaca and cashmere fibre, giving value to all of the fleece shorn from an alpaca. The factory at Cashmere Connections houses several de-hairing machines as well an extensive range of top making equipment. Using this equipment, Cashmere Connections’ skilled staff are able to prepare a range of natural fibres for worsted, semi worsted and woollen spinning. They have successfully created a niche for themselves in the production of premium quality fibre products, to service the needs of their Australian and European textile manufacturing clients.
Nick Hahn Hahn International Nick Hahn, founder of Hahn International Ltd, has decades of experience working in the Global Apparel Market, in Textile Fiber Merchandising and in advising third-world farmers on supply-chain competitiveness. He is often engaged as a motivational keynote speaker, and has long been an association executive for non-profit organizations. During his tenure as CEO of Cotton Incorporated (The Fabric of Our Lives), Hahn was inducted into the Apparel Industry Hall of Fame, and was honored as “One of The 25 Most Influential Leaders in American Textiles.”
Keenan Scott, Waiheke Alpaca Keenan Scott’s farm, Waiheke Alpaca, is located on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Scott is a Certified New Zealand Alpaca Judge and full time alpaca breeder. To provide tangible and more predictable results, Waiheke selects animals to be DNA, GIFT and Skin Follicle tested. Waiheke continually sources animals of superior genetics and elite quality to compliment this breeding system. Their unprecedented success with embryo transfer in New Zealand has seen their herd grow from strength to strength. Scott bought the Ultrafine bale from Australia in August 2012. The bale of Ultrafine alpaca is set to be processed in New Zealand alongside the farms’ other fiber.
Patricia Ackroyd, Managing Director, Ackroyd and Dawson Ltd. The Ackroyd and Dawson families have been part of the wool industry since the beginning of the 19th century. Ackroyd and Dawson are names that are synonymous with the wool industry from the time when Britain was the wool capital of the world. The company designs and produces superb tweed, woollen and worsted cloth from the sixty plus breeds of sheep and two breeds of British alpaca found in the United Kingdom. All of their cloth is manufactured in mills located in Yorkshire and other traditional British mills, utilising 100% British skill and talent.
Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco Suri Paco is working on improving access to a U.S. based supply chain for the commercial manufacturing of domestic alpaca and fiber blended products. The company has developed its own line of products and is now expanding into a broader range of wholesale and retail sales venues outside the traditional farm gate model. This effort has involved learning new industries (manufacturing and textiles); understanding production coordination; and product design and marketing. In connection with Suri Paco, Claudia has had the opportunity to work with the USDA and its Value Added Grant program, sit on a task force for the re-establishment of a Maine based textile hub through the Manufacturing Association of Maine and serve on our industry’s trade association Alpaca Owner’s and Breeder’s Association – Board of Directors. In 2010, Suri Paco was instrumental in helping form an L3C, a new for-profit enterprise focused on socially beneficial projects with the purpose of helping U.S. farms move their domestic alpaca fiber into a commercial market.
American Alpaca Textiles Four alpaca farms in Western Pennsylvania form American Alpaca Textiles. In addition to their long-standing success in the breeding and sales end of the alpaca business, the owners represent a variety of talents that have driven the success of the business in the last three years. This woman-owned business is headed by Alma Gelorme (Heaven’s Hill Alpacas), Wini Lebrecque (Star Weaver Farm and SWF Fiber Innovations), Christine Scheer (WestPark Alpacas), and Fay Steving (Highland Alpaca). They are in their second year of fabric production with their focus on upholstery fabric, drapery, and home décor fabrics. Fabrics are custom made with alpaca fiber sourced in the USA and blended with other natural fibers. Their products are entirely made in the USA.
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What does a comparable luxury fiber like cashmere have that alpaca does not in terms of infrastructure or supply chain? Juan Pepper
There are very similar characteristics between alpaca and cashmere, as far as breeding and sourcing practices are concerned. Both animals are bred in very rugged terrains, one in the Andean Highlands and the other in the Mongolian, or Afghan Highlands by local breeders. Both types have as their daily diet, grass, roots and pastures only grown in these terrains, which do not represent a cost for the shepherds. Also, both fibers are subject to fashion high and lows in the marketplace, which directly affect the price of their fleeces, and have a direct impact on the number of animals being bred in each region. I do not know how the buying for cashmere operates, but presume it is quite similar to alpaca.
Julie and Don Skinner, Snowmass Alpacas
Cashmere comes from a goat, which has a two-coated fleece. The down is produced by secondary follicles, the guard hair by the primary follicles, similar to alpacas however the alpaca has been selectively bred to reduce the number and size of the primary follicles so that the fibers align to grow and be similar in kind and quality with the secondary, creating a more uniform fleece. The approximate number of cashmere in China alone is 123 million goats and they are the largest producer of cashmere down. Local breeds are dominant. In the past decades, breeding programs have been started to develop productive breeds of which there are at least ten recognized. The alpacas’ number is at least 168,000 (registered) in the U.S. alone (2012). The main difference is numbers in supply and manufacturing infrastructure. Cashmere can be de-haired as its primary fiber is a guard-type hair which grows longer and stronger, allowing it to be removed readily via mechanical equipment (de-hairers) from the short, downy secondary wool much like vicuña. However there are even fewer vicuña in the world than alpaca to ever compare to the supply of cashmere. Alpaca, which has been domesticated from the vicuña, has been selectively bred to reduce the primary fiber to be equal to that of the secondary. This makes alpaca more of a one-coated fiber. Fleeces are longer in staple, brighter and heavier than cashmere yet almost 50 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
equally as fine. Again, the problem is numbers of these selectively bred alpacas to produce the volume of fiber to meet the supply and or to get better organized for collection infrastructure. The global alpaca nations are breeding them as best and fast as we can, however it is more of a developing breed than established in comparison to cashmere. I would like to add that alpaca is a much more eco-friendly fiber bearing animal and one that will sustain, not destroy the environment, which goats are notorious for.
Mary Anderle, Malpaca
I will best be able to answer this question from my background in textiles and design. Cashmere goats, along with alpacas, were introduced into the U.S. in the 1980s, and both are still in their infancy here. Most cashmere is produced and available from a very limited geographical area—China, yet more structurally available and in higher demand than alpaca. The majority of cashmere needs to be imported here to the U.S., whereas alpaca is not available in China, and is obtained from our pooled cottage industry here in the U.S. Commercial demand of alpaca is basic business practice and is what will drive the advancement of the supply chain.
Patricia Ackroyd, Ackroyd and Dawson
In the niche luxury noble fibre market, alpaca stands proud. It is durable fibre and can be blended successfully with wools of like staple length and micron. Cashmere, while also a noble luxury fibre, does not have the same durability as alpaca. Through Ackroyd and Dawson’s program, the entire fleece of an alpaca is utilized—from the saddle outwards—and there is more fibre available to the market per animal. The alpaca firsts can be spun from tops into knitting and weaving yarns, and from there, woven into cloth. The seconds can be used for bedding and the thirds for insulation and linings. There is a demand in the general market for luxury fibre. The complication is that to stretch what fibre is available to meet this demand—rather than keeping it luxury or blending it with a quality noble fibre-processors in China and elsewhere have bulked up the tops with synthetic nepps to, in essence, make one kilo into three. When the yarn is spun it is inferior; knitted into garments it will pill badly and wear poorly. When cashmere sweaters appear in supermarket clothing sections it is an indication that the quality has been seriously under-
mined. The true amount of cashmere to the amount of bulking fibre is very low. It is not possible for there to be that many cashmere-producing goats on the planet to create as much fibre as there is on the market today. We are determined that alpaca does not go down the same road. We have already heard reports that some of the South American countries have had unfortunate experiences with sending fibre to China and receiving the fibre back bulked up with synthetics, the result being inferior. The U.K. is now being considered as a better destination for processing. As an aside, my great-grandfather, Samuel Dawson, was the youngest brother of Joseph Dawson, who owned the Cashmere and Vicuña Works at Bradford, in Yorkshire. Joseph went to Nepal in 1897 and sent back some cashmere fibre to his sons to see what could be done with it. They developed the de-hairing machine for cashmere in the late 1800s, the patent for which remained a secret in the family business until 1939.
Keenan Scott, Waiheke Alpaca
Although cashmere (originally Kashmir) has been woven for thousands of years, the establishment of a serious global trade has been in place from as early as the 15th Century. The British then expedited and expanded this trade in the 18th Century into Western Europe’s luxury markets. Ultrafine alpaca fibre has had a more recent arrival globally and as a consequence, does not have the established comprehensive and extensive supply chains. With a cohesive effort from grower to manufacturer and through to luxury end-user, this is all changing rapidly. You have to remember Ultrafine alpaca is a very rare fibre even within the realms of the luxury natural fibre industry.
American Alpaca Textiles
It would be inappropriate to comment on infrastructure of other luxury fibers when we are not involved in their production or marketing efforts. U.S. alpaca fiber production is still growing and developing in terms of collection, grading, sorting, baling and marketing. U.S. alpaca fiber producers have an uphill climb to create awareness and recognition as a prime player in the luxury fiber market.
Peter and Carol Lundberg, Alpaca Blanket Project Cashmere has more recognition, even though alpaca has some great qualities not found in cashmere, such as
being flame retardant, the ability to wick water, high tensile strength and air pockets in the fiber giving it a great warming ability.
Boaz Herszfeld, Creswick Woollen Mills
Modern luxury products rely on brands like never before. The Cashmere Brand is unique in world textiles and readily available – never heard of a poor cashmere clip. The growing strength of the Chinese supply chain and distribution around the world will continuously impact the major buying decisions of luxury global retailers, making cashmere supply consistent. The diverse source of yarn strings available ensure a huge level of choice, product diversity and supply-led popularity.
Trish Esson, Cashmere Connections
I would argue that cashmere, although it has some properties which are similar to alpaca, is really not comparable. Both cashmere and alpaca are beautiful natural animal fibres and each has its own unique properties. Each is special in its own way and has its own niche in the textile world. As such, they don’t compete as each has its own special place. Our company, Cashmere Connections Pty Ltd, buys both raw cashmere and raw alpaca directly from producers. We de-hair both cashmere and alpaca, selling both fibres either in the de-haired form or further processing through to top (sliver form). The infrastructure employed by us to collect, class and process the fibres to produce our cashmere and alpaca products is very similar for both fibres. Raw cashmere contains more guard hair than alpaca, so requires more de-hairing. Being a shorter, finer fibre than alpaca, cashmere requires more skillful attention in order to produce quality cashmere top. Hence, cashmere costs more to process. Our alpaca products are all sold within Australia to other Australian textile companies. We also do quite a lot of contract processing of alpaca fibre for both individuals and companies. The contract processed alpaca also goes to produce Australian alpaca textile products. Whereas only a small amount of our processed cashmere is sold in Australia, the bulk of our processed cashmere is sold to textile companies in the U.K. Prices that we can pay for cashmere are therefore very much dictated by world prices as we are selling into a world market. The textile companies in the U.K., although they like the Australian cashmere, can ultiAlpaca Culture • September 2012 | 51
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mately buy cashmere from anywhere in the world. The same is true to a certain extent for alpaca. The Australian companies can, and often do, buy in processed alpaca from South America cheaper than we can buy and process alpaca in Australia. Most of these companies, however, are trading on the Australian grown, Australian processed fibre branding so can afford to pay a little more for this assurance.
Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco
I am not sure I am qualified to comment on this question. If I had to speculate, it is not so much infrastructure or the supply chain that is the issue, rather branding and recognition of alpaca fiber by designers as to its value in a textile setting. As compared to sheep’s wool, all of the specialty fibers face the challenges of small volumes that prevent the leveraging of better production pricing and a consistent production flow. Some of the other fibers, however, have a much greater presence in the market through branding and, perhaps, a higher degree of private investment on the textile side.
Julie Mae Campbell, Campbell Fiber Sales and Nick Hahn, Hahn International Julie Mae Campbell, Campbell Fiber Sales
The necessary infrastructure does exist here in the United States if you know what you are looking for. All the critical elements, once identified, are in place. The question is not whether we lack infrastructure but rather do we have visionary leadership within the industry to propel us from a cottage industry into competitive players in the global commercial textile industry through innovation and technology. Our blind reliance on the same systems used in South America will continue to result in missteps and failure. We are not a developing country; we are the most technologically advanced country on earth with the necessary resources to advance this industry way beyond what the South American business models can offer us. We can however, compete by developing our own business models utilizing the resources available to us here in the U.S. and supported by the commitment of passionate alpaca breeders to succeed. The American Cashmere Industry or the American Mohair Industry have little advantage over the American Alpaca Industry other than the ability of goats to reproduce at a faster rate and an American appetite for goat meat. The 52 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
potential for rapid growth for the American Alpaca Industry is greater than for mohair or cashmere because both those fibers have limiting factors. Cashmere must be under 19 microns to be labeled as cashmere and mohair has little value or demand as it coarsens and tends to fall in and out of favor as a textile component. Cashmere goats average four to six ounces per goat, per year whereas alpacas average 2.3 pounds annual fiber harvest. The U.S. is the third largest global provider of mohair, but as of January 2011 there were only some 172,000 Angora goats in the U.S. With an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 alpacas in the U.S., there is no reason why we can’t begin to supply the world market and feed the existing unmet demand for alpaca fiber. (Julie Mae explained to Alpaca Culture further that this number is approximate based on the knowledge that not all alpacas are registered and deaths are not recorded. She pointed out that AOBA estimates that the average American herd size is ten. When you do the math, a clearer picture of the actual number of alpacas in the U.S. emerges in contrast to the registered number). Alpaca, like wool, is alpaca at any micron and has uses at several grades. In effect, this allows us to subsidize our industry with average animals while developing herds of alpacas with finer, more consistent fleeces with greater fiber value. As the alpaca industry grows, producing more alpaca fiber, it will put a strain on our existing infrastructure. We have a limited mill capacity in the U.S. but there is a greater available mill capacity outside our borders. As raw material becomes increasingly more obtainable, taking advantage of existing infrastructure elements on foreign soils will allow the American alpaca industry to continue to grow. There has to be enough raw material within this country to justify and provide incentive for the needed cash outlay for equipment, personnel, training and real estate to expand our infrastructure and process more alpaca fiber in the U.S. With continued growth, alpaca fiber volume will achieve the critical mass to warrant expansion of the different tiers of the infrastructure here in the United States. The biggest challenge to the American alpaca industry is on the supply side. It is not for a lack of fiber that we cannot be players in the world market and supplying the global textile industry, it is our steadfast refusal to acknowledge that we are by and large hobby farmers. (Lest the readers bristle at the term “hobby farmer” it should be noted that it denotes a part time farmer or an amateur farmer. Dan Glickman, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Clinton, defined hobby farmers as “men and women who
farm on the side while earning their living doing something else.” It is not intended to mean people that are farming as a “hobby.” I think most of us take this pretty seriously!) As such, (myself included) we have high overhead costs and require a much higher return on our fiber in order to achieve a profit. This is best achieved with a vertical integration model adding value to the raw fiber to increase the return to the grower. Essentially, we are competing with ourselves in getting alpaca fiber into the commercial textile industry. We will need to transition into a more traditional agricultural business model with alpaca herds that graze in order for the fiber alone to support an alpaca business. I am not suggesting that the small alpaca breeder will disappear, to the contrary, I think that the small breeder will have a better chance of survival with a combination of fiber end product sales and animals sales because there will be a stronger demand for fiber producing animals and a wider buyer pool albeit at a lower price point than alpacas were selling for five years ago.
Nick Hahn, Hahn International
Cashmere and mohair: two very different fibers with different end-use potential. Cashmere is the universally known and accepted luxury fiber used extensively in sweaters, socks, hats, scarves, and tailored clothing. Cashmere is the standard by which other luxury fibers are measured, you can argue whether or not this is fair or realistic but the indisputable fact remains that in the eyes and hands of the consuming public on all ends of the retail spectrum the come-to-mind fiber for high-end luxury apparel and home textiles in both pure and blended form remains cashmere. Mohair has its place in men’s suitings and some other products like throws and scarves but its appeal at retail is limited and the product offerings across the retail spectrum are thin. Alpaca, on the other hand, has intrinsic value as a viable commercial fiber with appeal as a “super” luxury product in blends and in pure form, in other words alpaca has the potential of carving out a unique niche, becoming the “in” product, the “buzz” product. Think Patagonia for “technical textiles” with its emphasis on the environment and their unwavering commitment to quality, not price, this branded company is one of the most important success stories in our industry in the past 50 years. Alpaca has its challenges, to be sure, but the fundamental characteristics of the fiber are like none other, which sets it apart and gives it potential to recalibrate the luxury fiber market.
As Julie Mae tells us here, we now have the basics, if not full blown commercial scale logistics, to collect, sort, grade, bale, package and ship alpaca fiber to both domestic and world markets while at the same time remaining viable for a strong cottage industry which remains a profitable bulwark, if not sufficient, to support a growing U.S. herd. Alpaca should be positioned in the minds of luxury apparel buyers as the “special” high-end product; the Hermes or Gucci of fibers, very expensive and very high quality. At a certain level in the market, price is no object and that is exactly where alpaca needs to be if you’re to drive value down the chain from the retail counter to the individual farmer. Infrastructure costs money and the notion of raw fiber sales as compared to value added yarn, fabric or manufactured product sales requires analysis. In my view, both are necessary, with the raw fiber auction being the logical channel to commercial scale volume. The individual links in the chain from farm to retail (shearing, collecting, sorting, grading, baling by grade, weighing, shipping, spinning, weaving, knitting, felting, dying, finishing, cutting, sewing, labeling, packaging, shipping, retailing) are all in place, what’s needed is industrywide leadership with vision and the ability to articulate the message. So many have heard it all before and are just ready to drink that Kool-Aid again. In my short, but intense, term with Alpaca United, I met several people who could fill this bill; people who know the industry as producers and processors and have a genuine interest in making U.S. alpaca fiber a competitive product in world markets. The bottom line for U.S. alpaca fiber producers, wool producers, cotton producers, cashmere producers etcetera is, in my view, the age old challenge of any fledgling industry: leadership-leadership-leadership! This takes courage. “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” — Rosalynn Carter U.S. Alpaca needs a great leader!
What efforts do you employ in your business model to help advance the alpaca fiber supply chain? Juan Pepper
Alpaca Breeding Ranch: This is a very sensible area in the supply chain. There have been several projects Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 53
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which have taken place over the years, all focused on improving the genetics of the animal, and the fiber sourcing, mainly driven by foreign NGOs, however, sadly, very few have really become self sustainable. Michell & Co. started a genetic project in the mid 1980s by acquiring a very large ranch in Puno, which was named Genetic Alpaca Center (CIACSA). Regretfully in 1989, three of our genetic engineers were killed by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Guerrillas and we were forced to close this ranch. Later in the mid 1990s, we bought another ranch in the Puno area, which we called MALLKINI, and today we have 3,000 alpacas, two genetic engineers and an ongoing program, for artificial insemination, embryo implants, among other initiatives which will benefit the breeders once we transfer this to them.
Julie and Don Skinner, Snowmass Alpacas
First, we breed for consistency and uniformity of desirable commercial alpaca fiber traits throughout our herd to be able to supply larger and more uniform amounts of alpaca fiber. This is in fact the main need in creating a supply chain. We also employ a very efficient system of shearing, sorting, grading, and then baling of the fiber so that it is readily available to the commercial market.
Mary Anderle, Malpaca
Being fairly new in the alpaca field and manufacturing the first Malpaca™ Pillow, the first year 1,000 pounds was collected for product from local farmers. The second year, 10,000 pounds was sought from expanded collective farmers from across the country. Now in the third year, 20,000 pounds has been collected so far to date for pillow orders, and more orders keep coming. When retailers first feel the pillow and then hear the advantages of alpaca being the fill, they are hooked, and then want to incorporate it in their product sales. There’s an immediate need to supply the high demand for fiber needed to fill product orders retailers are asking if they can be filled both now, and for future orders. I would say this amounts to the beginning of demand.
Patricia Ackroyd, Ackroyd and Dawson
Our company originated as producers of 100% British tweed, woollen and worsted cloth that, from clip to cloth, never leaves the British Isles. We began to encounter the demand for a new British luxury cloth, and discovered that there was enough quantity of alpaca 54 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
in the country to make a niche luxury fibre blend. Our research showed that nearly half the country’s clip was stockpiled in barns and not being used. There were no serious outlets for it at the time. The fibre is offered to the public and we also offer a buy-back program to the breeders for their own projects. We can arrange for it to be made up for them as desired. Since we began our efforts, the interest in alpaca has accelerated here in the U.K. and businesses are producing knitting yarns. The interest in alpaca on the global textile stage is incredibly exciting news and is an incentive for alpaca breeders looking to the future.
Keenan Scott, Waiheke Alpaca
Within our business model, we start right at the growing phase, which includes a regimented, selective breeding program. Blood stock utilised for breeding is carefully selected for its repeatability and propensity to produce offspring that are fine in micron with low micron variation and carry good fleece weights. It is imperative within our breeding program to select alpacas that produce offspring with low primary diameter, low standard deviation fleeces, which equates to a soft handle carrying through to luxury wear. This of course will equate to higher yields through the processing chain due to less losses from unproductive fibre and a more uniform outcome. We expedite this breeding program through the utilisation of embryo transfer, which in turn provides greater numbers of offspring than which would occur normally in any given timeframe. This in turn also allows us to make breeding selection decisions earlier upon a great representative group of offspring from any given pairing of stud and donor female. A positive spin-off from this program is that it enables us to utilise alpacas with undesirable fleece traits to be recipient of embryos of our best stock and removes their genetics from the breeding pool. A win/ win scenario. Upon producing the fibre, it is then the challenge of collecting enough fibre from like-minded growers and processing together or purchasing outright to accompany our own clip. This is being formalised under contracts to Australian collectives and locally through emerging co-operatives in New Zealand.
American Alpaca Textiles
American Alpaca Textiles has developed specific criteria for fiber purchased for use in our textiles. We purchase fiber from individual farms as well as from groups hosting grading/sorting events or sort-a-thons. We purchase both Suri and Huacaya, offering the same purchase price for either. One of our partners, Wini Labrecque, holds educational seminars and workshops focusing on the importance of uniformity in textile production. This uniformity includes fineness, length, color as well as minimal presence of guard hair. Education to breeders on basic farm grading and sorting aids in the understanding of what they are currently producing. By utilizing this type of education, breeders can make more informed breeding decisions to help improve the quality of the fiber being produced and made available to American Alpaca Textiles for purchase.
Peter and Carol Lundberg, Alpaca Blanket Project
We offer free shipping from collection centers and cash payment for fiber. The ability to purchase products at cost without having to wait a year or more after payment for them to be made. We also sort for many uses and the fiber not meeting the requirements for Pendleton goes to other American users of fiber. We make annual trips around Washington state and Oregon to pick up fiber at no cost to members.
Boaz Herszfeld, Creswick Woollen Mills
Creswick has always worked from a demand led perspective. Ranges are created, customers place orders and we source the fibre. Creswick’s Australian made alpaca blankets and throws combine a unique range of designs and textures. Each year, Creswick creates a unique catalogue in order to promote the latest collection. Orders placed by Creswick’s Australian and International customers are collated and orders are then placed to source high quality alpaca fibre. Creswick’s unique place in the Australian Alpaca Industry has revolved around assisting breeders and the wider fibre sourcing supply chain to continuously improve the quality of the fibre supplied. By attending a variety of shows, working with various regions, Creswick has been one part of the Australian push to improve the quality of the alpaca clip. This leadership in demand led requirements over the past ten years has helped set a benchmark for fibre requirements throughout the industry
motivating all levels of the supply chain to keep improving breeding stock and fibre classing.
Trish Esson, Cashmere Connections
Cashmere Connections Pty Ltd., working with Bacchus Marsh based transport company Graeme Spargo Transport, has set up a network of transport depots around Australia. If producers deliver bales weighing 75kg or more, Cashmere Connections will pay for the transport costs of the fibre to our factory in Bacchus Marsh in Victoria. We are happy to accept joint consignments, that is, more than one producer’s fibre in one bale, providing it is clearly labelled who owns what fibre. In this way, smaller growers can join together to take advantage of our free transport offer without losing ownership of their fibre. We also accept deliveries to the factory in Bacchus Marsh should people wish to drop the fibre off themselves. All bales are labelled with the growers name and contact details on arrival at the factory. This establishes ownership of the fibre. Only once the fibre is classed out and the fibre payment initiated does the ownership of the fibre become that of Cashmere Connections. Cashmere Connections Pty Ltd. will accept deliveries all year round and are trying to establish a twoweek turnaround time between the arrival of fibre at the factory and payment to the growers being initiated. There will be times when this cannot be done, though. At least once a year, we will be taking in cashmere clips. When we are assessing cashmere, no alpaca fibre will be classed and assessed, as we do not want to risk any cross fibre contamination. We realise that growers find it convenient to be able to send their whole clip off to one buyer. We therefore accept all types of alpaca fibre. We have uses for most types of alpaca fibre and are working to establish markets for the one or two that we do not as yet have a market for. We can use alpaca pieces; these are de-haired and go into alpaca quilts, so are happy to receive and will pay for pieces.
Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco
Suri Paco’s focus is twofold – moving domestic alpaca fiber into the market and, wherever possible, employing U.S. resources for production. To accomplish these objectives, developing an understanding of the capacity and learning how to navigate the manufacturing Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 55
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and supply chain in the U. S. were our first steps. These steps have been significantly enhanced by working directly with other producers, networking through Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association and now working in collaboration with Alpaca United to the point where we have a very good grasp on the challenges producers face in trying to obtain maximum value for their fiber. Our industry already understands the need for standardized breeding practices that would, in turn, create increased market opportunities for the fiber. Developing and mastering an efficient collection model “to feed” this market, however, is a little like “running the New York marathon” – getting started is the first hurdle but reaching a sustainable pace becomes the next biggest challenge. From a business perspective, we are delighted that more and more farms are looking at options for using their fiber – be it at an individual level or working within the increasing number of collaborative opportunities. Our hope is that we can continue to grow the number of success stories in our fiber industry by employing the strengths of public/private partnerships and maximizing the value each one has to bring to the table. Improved networking and sharing of resources internationally would also increase our domestic opportunities.
Julie Mae Campbell, Campbell Fiber Sales
Currently, there are a few options for alpaca owners to sell their fiber. Fiber can be sold by the ounce to hobbyists, doll makers, hand spinners and fiber artists. Fiber can be sent to a co-op and the grower receives a return in the future in the form of payment or alpaca product at wholesale and they profit by selling at retail. There are a handful of companies in the U.S. buying alpaca fiber for projects that have been developed. These are all good options. What is lacking is a vehicle to get alpaca fiber in quantity to the commercial textile industry. This provided itself as an opportunity for Campbell Fiber Sales to connect fiber off the farm to commercial buyers that have a protocol for buying fiber. The process on its face is simple, fiber is collected from the grower, it is sorted, graded then baled and sold. But the devil is in the details and depending on how the fiber is sorted, graded or classed can impact the final dollar amount the fiber is purchased at and the net to the grower. There is a buyer and a use for virtually all the fiber off the alpaca so currently, Campbell Fiber Sales 56 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
will consign most fiber. Growers need to be able to identify which fiber traits command a higher dollar amount than others. You can’t change the fiber on the alpacas in your pasture but you can breed for changes in future generations. By selling fiber of all grades in a competitive bid environment, we will all know as an industry what the different grades will bring in dollar amount, we will be able to produce business projections and modify our breeding programs to maximize profit accordingly. For example: • A bale of Grade 3 (23.1 - 26 microns) white Huacaya fleece with a CV of 22 sells for $3.00 per pound. • A bale of Grade 3 (23.1 - 26 microns) white huacaya fleece with a CV of 18 sells for $4.25 per pound. • A bale of Grade 2 (20 - 23 micron) sells for $8.00 per pound. Now, a grower has actual profit potential to work with when making breeding decisions. It may be that with the alpacas they currently own, they could breed for and achieve animals that produce more fiber, or more consistent fiber or finer fiber or any combination of those three traits in one or two generations where it might take twenty years to get their herd to under 18 microns. Or they make no changes at all and make adjustments to their overhead. Either way, it brings a more predictable revenue stream than currently exists with other selling opportunities. At Campbell Fiber Sales, we have a very interested buyer pool and strong demand for alpaca fiber, all fiber, the question is at what price point. Part of what we do at Campbell Fiber Sales is to determine the traits buyers desire and sort the fiber accordingly. To borrow a phrase from Peter Lundberg of the Alpaca Blanket Project, we “sort with purpose.” We have developed a sorting protocol that combines efficiency with speed to keep costs down and profits up for the growers. We make it our responsibility to know what buyers want and how much they want. We feel that breeders should focus their time and energy on their breeding objectives and have a reliable market for their product, alpaca fiber, without having to reinvent the wheel and develop products that may or may not sell. We have developed an automated system for data entry that starts at the farm. Utilizing existing technology
and the wide distribution of smart phones, the grower that consigns fiber to our auction will be able to print and apply a barcode to the fleece bag, scan the bar code with their phone, access a database for that animal and enter in all the relevant information, fleece shear weight, date of shearing and download this information at a later date into their existing herd monitoring software. No more paper bag tags! While Campbell Fiber Sales is a for profit company, it is our objective to maximize profits for the growers. We do this by adding value to the fiber through the sorting and grading process and marketing. We charge a consignment fee rather than a commission fee. We want sellers to be able to estimate costs before the sale. In our fervor to keep costs low, we do not offer growers the same educational aspects as some other fiber initiatives. We do not provide detailed reports of each fleece sample. We are not in the business of education but we recognize the value of knowledge and have teamed with Hahn International, Ltd. to develop industry pertinent seminars for alpaca owners. The focus of our first seminar is to share with alpaca growers how alpaca fits into the global economy and the U.S. textile industry. Currently we offer “Alpaca: Growing in a Global Economy.” Interested parties can contact Nick Hahn directly for more information.
If you have a specific fiber collection or processing protocol developed, can you give a brief explanation of your methods? Juan Pepper
The aspects which we take into consideration when buying fiber are: origin of the fiber (which breeding area the lot comes from) fiber length, micron, color, brightness and moisture content. We pay more for certain lots— not all are paid equally—and the above criteria is most important when making a buying decision. Our buyers are experienced personnel very knowledgeable in the field. There are too many tricks today at the supply side, since we pay for weight (kilo) of fiber. Some middlemen have learned very creative ways of “maximizing” weight. We have found fleeces with abnormal moisture content (water), or with heavy (metallic) powder content, or even rocks or stones inside the blanket fleeces. In reality, anything that can augment the weight 10-20% counts, so for us, it is most important to verify the lots before we pay.
Julie and Don Skinner, Snowmass Alpacas
The collection starts at shearing. The protocol starts with the shed, which must be completely cleaned of dust and debris. It is then set up to be able to sort all the alpacas to be shorn by color starting with white to the darkest of the alpacas. We have cement flooring, which allows for easy vacuuming and cleaning during the time that the alpacas are in to be shorn. We have stations to clean the alpacas before they are shorn of any excess hay or debris, which is also cleaned from the floor as they move into the area to be shorn. We have a solid wood shearing station set up with a vacuum system, and two tie-down stations, so there is no time wasted in moving from one animal to the next station. We have two rotating, large, commercial skirting tables and many grades of wool bins to the side of the tables for sorting various grades of alpaca. We have a documentation table where specific information on each alpaca and its fleece is recorded and sampled. These samples are then sent to the testing lab for both genetic selection purposes as well as for helping to direct the proper grades in baling. The shed is very well lit so each station can see during the shearing process. The fleeces at the end of shearing are all sorted and graded in bags ready for baling and the select fleeces we hold aside for show are stored in another area. The 3rd and 4th grades of our alpaca are vacuumed up during shearing so there is no contamination to the prime fiber as its being shorn. This fiber is blown into an area where it is baled for strong fiber end product use such as felt, pillow stuffing or rugs and rope. We have less than 5% waste material from our shearing using this method (Snowmass Shearing System).
Mary Anderle, Malpaca
Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) in Decatur, Tennessee is a main fiber collection site that Malpaca™ Pillows uses, which is collected from farmers and ranchers all over the U.S.A. We also have a few larger individual ranchers that have enough they collect from their own facility that they choose to sell directly to us. This allows us to buy and truck in large quantities of thousands of pounds to ship from farm directly to processing/manufacturing. The fiber collected is an average of Huacaya grades 4-6, or what isn’t currently being consumed by anyone else. Please see www.malpaca.com for more information on how the pillows are designed and made. Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 57
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There are many structured organizations that help the alpaca cottage industry daily, such as local alpaca breeder chapters. The Alpaca Blanket Project has been a solid leader in the moving forward of the commercial industry. Alpaca United has gained the most recent national attention to build demand of the fiber, and simply promote getting alpaca goods on the shelves. It doesn’t take a book of facts to get people to fall in love with this fiber, just put a well-designed alpaca product in their hands. Might I also say here, that it only takes one person to help make a change in an industry, if it is the right idea, the right product, and the right time for change.
Patricia Ackroyd, Ackroyd and Dawson
We began by setting up a depot system in many regions of the U.K., and created a system of breeder and depot identification coding and insurance so that the breeders would be able to get their fibre to us for collection. We have done a number of successful collections now and are in the midst of another. We send lorries down from our central depot in Yorkshire to collect the fibre; it is then properly graded, and sorted for colour and micron. The alpaca is then taken for scouring and combing. We collect fiber in firsts, up to 30 micron with a three-inch staple, and we take seconds and thirds. We see a market for all fibre and do not wish any waste of this magnificent product.
Keenan Scott, Waiheke Alpaca
Ultrafine alpaca fibre purchased by ourselves from growers direct can be in medium or large quantities, but must meet the following specifications: 1. Micron ranges a. under 16 microns b. between 16 to 18 microns c. between 18.1 to 19 microns 2. Comfort factor: greater than 99% 3. Length: 75 to 110 micron 4. Consistent colour, but not colour contaminated 5. SD under 4.2 microns 6. Not Tender 7. Minimal VM Other micron ranges are purchased from growers or co-operatives by the bale for project work or resale. Bale size must be a minimum of 100 kgs and have 58 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
been classed under the guidance of Waiheke Alpaca to a given requirement. Core testing is conducted upon completion.
American Alpaca Textiles
America Alpaca Textiles produces textiles for upholstery and home decor products including drapery. Our lab test results indicate that finer grade fiber is not durable enough to withstand the type of use our fabrics would typically receive. Based on these results, American Alpaca Textiles have focused our fiber procurement on fiber in Grades 3, 4 and 5 (23 to 32 micron). We require fiber to be graded and sorted to standards set by Olds College Natural Fibre Center (Olds, Canada) in their Sorting/Grading Certification Course. Our website, www.americanalpacatextiles.com gives complete details on our requirements for fiber procurement.
Peter and Carol Lundberg, Alpaca Blanket Project
There are two easy methods to improve the value of fiber. First, we recommend using a high-power leaf blower to clean the alpaca prior to shearing. Because alpaca does not have the lanolin of sheep, the debris comes off very easily (except for cria that have the “Velcro” effect). Because we use a wash rather than a scour, dirt and wax comes out, but not all debris, which can then cause a hole or noil in the end product. Second, the shearer should be selected for the ability to shear without second cuts. Shearers should use ¼ to 1⁄3 of a blade on the neck. All cleanup of the alpaca should be done only after the good fiber has been removed. The highest payment Alpaca Blanket Project (ABP) makes is for fiber meeting the requirements for Pendleton which is: Two to five inches (any longer will wrap the smallest roller on the carder which causes major issues). Under 31 micron (we sort in grades 1-5, grades 1-3 [under 26 micron] receive the highest payment). Limited amounts of debris, second cuts or heavy primary fiber. All fiber should be in clear plastic bags (allows for a quick presort). Bags need to have the collection ticket inside the bag. The vital items on the ticket are farm number and color. We provide feedback on every bag of fiber received. This year, we are also paying (at a lower rate) for all fiber without heavy second cuts or debris, regardless if it meets the requirements for Pendleton. This other fiber goes to other American users of alpaca fiber.
Trish Esson, Cashmere Connections
We advise that alpaca producers should skirt their fleeces at shearing time. The purpose of skirting is to leave each fleece as uniform as possible. Therefore all short, hairy or otherwise inferior fibre should be removed from the fleece during skirting. Most people tend to send their saddles in garbage bags with the pieces, legs and necks also in bags within the saddle bag. We prefer to receive fleeces presented in this manner, as we are able to quickly lay out these fleeces and class them. This allows us to maximise the returns for the growers as the higher value fleece can be quickly and easily removed from lower value fleece. Saddles can also be placed directly into a wool pack and separated by sheets of newspaper. Pieces can also be separated by sheets of newspaper in this way. We will accept fibre that is pre-classed, though I would suggest that unless you are really confident that you know what you are doing, you do not class out and therefore mix up all your fleeces. Once fleece is classed out, if not done properly, it is very difficult and timeconsuming to pick through and reclass. In most cases, the whole line would be down graded to the least valuable fleece component in the classed batch. A lot of growers mix up all their pieces and send them in one wool pack or bag. As the alpaca industry progresses, we are finding that some animals have pieces which we can class into our fleece lines and pay the fleece line price rather then pieces price. If the pieces are all mixed up, we cannot do this. We also have different prices for different coloured pieces. Once the colours are mixed, it is almost impossible to separate them successfully. The grower is therefore paid for coloured pieces and any white pieces which would have been paid for at a higher price will lose value both to the grower and to us. We advise alpaca growers not to trim hooves on the shearing board as hoof trimmings become very hard and if left with the fleece can do serious damage to our textile machinery. We are finding this to be a problem within the industry. Fleece stored for several years, even if stored carefully, seems to deteriorate and portions will have to be thrown out, as they are unusable. Most long term stored fibre will have evidence of mice and rats or moth infestations. Some shows evidence of dampness or water damage. It is best to store fibre no longer than 12 months.
For current fleece prices and fibre specifications please visit our webpage: www.fibre.cx/Alpaca/Prices/ index.php.
Boaz Herszfeld, Creswick Woollen Mills
Creswick currently relies on the expertise of Cashmere Connections to develop processing protocols.
Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco
For the last four years, Suri Paco has purchased all grades of fiber from farms across the country for cash. In turn, we have put this fiber into our own collections of yarn and products targeting the outdoor accessories market. With the support of design resources and improved marketing advice, we are now working on better ways to get our products to market. In addition and to encourage farm collaboration, in 2011 we worked with other Maine farms in what we called our “2012 Build A Bale™” project to design and produce a U.S. made throw. The participating farms were able to brand and sell a very nice 100% alpaca throw with a significantly reduced production cost and the opportunity to work with a large textile manufacturer. We are repeating this project and with the benefit of funding through a USDA, Phase 1 Value Added Grant, we are completing a feasibility study to consider how best to grow this effort. In 2012, we also decided that if the cash for fiber concept could be expanded in some way beyond our small effort, this might provide a welcome step towards developing a commercially oriented collection system. To piggyback on the marketing and branding work completed by Alpaca United in 2011 under the direction of Nick Hahn, we decided AU, with the expertise of its membership, would be an ideal partner to pilot what has now been introduced as Alpaca United’s 2012 Fiber to Market Days. Lead by an AU Project Committee, AU is now providing a venue where producers and buyers can “meet” to sell and buy graded fiber. Visit www.alpacaunited.com, 2012 Fiber to Market. In any fiber selling and buying system, ultimately to move to the next step in the market, we need an efficient way for farms to get their “crop” to a centralized collection point, the expertise to evaluate the quality of the “crop” and a method to class and package the “crop” in a manner that can be sold or put Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 59
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into production. Several years ago, in one of my first very naive conversations with a commercial size mill, the statement was, “If you want to work with our mill you need to deliver to us ‘a 200 - 400 lb. commercially ready bale’ for spinning.” If we were doing business in South America – their history, talent and longevity would have made this a much different discussion. For us, and how to do this based on the type and quality of end product we are producing – it has been a longer conversation but one that has helped us define the “what and how” for our fiber buying program. Bottom line – one of our best groups of partners during this conversation has been the textile manufacturers.
Julie Mae Campbell, Campbell Fiber Sales
We do not have a strict collection protocol. We accept alpaca fiber on consignment and accept both leg and neck and blanket. We do require that consignors submit both blanket and leg and neck, we do not accept leg and neck only at this time. We will accept fibers that are either in a clear plastic bag or noodled. We accept fiber that has not been skirted but consignors should be aware that un-skirted fleeces are accepted at a higher consignment fee. We accept fleeces that have been sorted by Certified Sorters® at a lower consignment fee. We try to accommodate the grower. If the grower does not have the time to skirt their fleeces, they should not have to be excluded from the sales process. If a grower only has one fleece to sell, they should be afforded the same chance to sell their fiber as the farm with 100 fleeces. If a grower has only a few retired females with coarse fiber, well, there is a buyer, they don’t pay much but it puts the fiber to use. This option is attractive to a lot of people in the alpaca industry that appreciate the inherent “green” aspect of alpacas and alpaca fiber, using all of the fiber. Campbell Fiber Sales addresses the most fundamental aspect of the supply chain, getting fiber off the farm and into production. Our business model is unique from other existing fiber initiatives in that we do not buy fiber. We consign fiber and add value through sorting, grading and marketing, then collecting fees on the backend. There are no upfront fees, no buyin, no minimum and no maximum quantities. We have created the gateway to the commercial textile industry using existing resources and modern technology to keep costs low for the grower. 60 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
What other organizations exist that you feel are helping to advance alpaca into a viable production fiber and what specifically do you think they contribute? Juan Pepper
The Ministry of Agriculture, under its arm National Commission of South American Camelids (CONACS) which deals with the Camelid’s problems, has been giving support and assistance to breeders in several ways, for the past 30 years. Regretfully, this program was wrongly focused in assisting breeders in times of problems and dangerous situations rather than a sustainable and long term programs to address the problems of the sector. Also, a characteristic of these programs is the ever-changing agenda, each time an administration jumps into power, whatever progress has been made implementing these programs is wound back to zero, as it is changed or sent to “the fridge” by the new authorities. There is an open topic for this ministry: an alpaca census to establish how many animals we have in Perú, what percentage are white and colors, how many Huacayas, Suris, and llamas we have and how many breeders there are in the country. This data is paramount to build up long term planning in the sector that will benefit the breeders and trade for the fiber. Peruvian Institute for Alpaca and Camelids (IPAC, www.ipacperu.org), a private institution, is currently working to improve alpaca breeding and trade. Here are some programs IPAC is currently engaged in: • Alpaca technical norms for greasy and classified fiber, tops and spun yarns. • Alpaca Perú, a Flagship Fiber • Alpaca Marketing Plan • Perúvian Alpaca Genealogical Registry • Alpaca breeding improvement in the Andean Highlands • Fiber gathering and auction system International Alpaca Association, (IAA, www.aia. org.pe), a private institution, with a worldwide alpacapromoting role. Some of the objectives for the IAA are: • Encourage alpaca consumption locally and worldwide • Promote actions that improve alpaca breeding • Supervise and control the proper use of the Alpaca Mark, owned by the IAA
Also, both main Industrial Alpaca Groups in Perú have similar genetic and herd handling programs, which are ultimately aimed at benefiting trade conditions and better prices for the breeders.
Julie and Don Skinner, Snowmass Alpacas
There are actually quite a few in each country that have an active alpaca industry. Here in the U.S., we have North American Alpaca Fiber Cooperative (AFCNA) and there are a number of other alpaca affiliate groups that have classes and literature on better shearing, sorting and grading systems that can be employed for both large and small herds. If you Google “alpaca shearing and sorting” you will see collection methods of many kinds. The Australia Alpaca Association (AAA) has a great shearing code, which outlines this process in great detail as does New Zealand Alpaca Association (AANZ) and British Alpaca Association (BAS), all of which Snowmass Alpacas are members of. The Premium Alpaca group based in Australia, is a group working on Royal Grade alpaca collection and they have an excellent system as well, and are a great model for all. Viable production of fiber starts with breeding and breeding selection to be able to produce the amounts needed. The shearing, sorting and grading is actually the easy part and anyone can readily learn. Then come the buyers, which are growing in number every day so the demand is there, we just need to supply it.
Keenan Scott, Waiheke Alpaca
All processing of our grown and sourced Australasian Alpaca fibre is carried out in New Zealand to maintain complete traceability and quality control. This includes the manufacture of the final product remaining 100% alpaca with all its unique characteristics and attributes. Waiheke Alpaca’s pastures are farmed organically with no chemical fertilisers or sprays applied; this compliments the natural hypoallergenic qualities of our alpaca fibre produced.
American Alpaca Textiles
Many U.S. alpaca breeders have been frustrated by the lack of movement in developing an infrastructure to promote U.S. alpaca fiber. This has created a splintered effect with small factions taking the initiative to develop product, which is marketed on a small scale. Fiber collection entities are cropping up across the country
trying to help develop a warehousing system for collection, grading, sorting, baling and making available for purchase large quantities of uniform batches of alpaca fiber. While we applaud these efforts which will help our fiber procurement goals, we also feel it is imperative that these factions start to work together to build a cohesive system that will guarantee uniformity in bales between all groups.
Peter and Carol Lundberg, Alpaca Blanket Project There are a growing number of American users of alpaca fiber. Two currently bringing great use and value to the industry are Shawn Malloy and Wini Lebrecque.
Trish Esson, Cashmere Connections
Australian Alpaca Association (AAA): The Association is communicating with membership through its website and magazine and informing them who is buying alpaca fibre, the fibre product specifications required by each processor/buyer as well as informing them about the end products for which the fibre is being used. The Association also has the ability to educate their membership in fibre preparation techniques and how these techniques can maximise their clip returns. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC): This organisation has been helping in the past in facilitating research, which has been helpful in finding improvements at various levels in the alpaca fibre supply chain. That is, advances from the animal (better nutrition therefore more productive fleece wise), through to processing improvements. If taken up, the research will lead to efficiencies and greater productivity throughout the entire supply chain. Deakin University Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation: Dr. Bruce McGregor is a Senior Research Fellow with Deakin and has in the past had several research projects related to alpacas and alpaca fleece. Dr. McGregor and another Deakin staff member are still actively involved with research projects related to both the animals and their fleeces. Professor Xungai Wang who is the Director of the Deakin University Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation, has been a long time supporter of research in the area of rare natural animal fibres.
Boaz Herszfeld, Creswick Woollen Mills
Creswick currently relies on the expertise of Cashmere Connections to develop processing protocols. Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 61
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Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco
There are a number of organizations in our industry working on the fiber side – Alpaca United (AU), Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) through its Fiber Committee, Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA), regional affiliates, private cooperatives and private businesses. In addition, the mills – both large and small – as well as other partners such as Alpaca Consulting, Yocom-McColl, the Natural Fibre Testing Lab at Olds College and the Manufacturing Solutions Center in North Carolina are tremendous resources from a testing and consulting perspective. Relatively speaking, however, we are a tiny industry facing a big challenge as we make our way into the commercial textile market. We need “glue,” collaboration, commitment, and, of course, financial investment. From our personal perspective and given the production requests we have received, more industry research for product development is key.
Julie Mae Campbell, Campbell Fiber Sales
I think the Alpaca Blanket Project is the standout in the crowd right now. Peter Lundberg has dogmatically taken existing available raw alpaca fiber, networked with a long established business, developed a viable product then created a revenue stream for growers. His business really proves the point; the infrastructure exists if you are able to identify the components. The Alpaca Blanket Project is in its fourth year and with product improvement and national attention for his blankets, he will be an American alpaca success story. I think that Wini Labrecque and her team at American Alpaca Textiles, LLC is another notable group. They too are buying fiber, and producing beautiful products for the home: tapestries, carpets, upholstery. They conduct product testing and work with different mills to obtain the quality they demand for the market they have targeted. I think American Alpaca Textiles is currently an underdog that deserves a little broader support from the alpaca industry. They are pioneers in the alpaca household goods category. American Alpaca Textiles is another example of a company taking advantage of the existing infrastructure. There are a couple of fiber cooperatives worth noting; The Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA), the oldest Alpaca Fiber Co-op in the U.S. Though 62 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
they’ve had a rough start, I think they will finally be a viable option for small growers. They have shed some of their old liabilities and have fine-tuned their focus on product and market penetration while meeting their original objectives of helping growers make money from alpaca fiber. They seem to have their new systems in place and I think they are poised for growth in the coming years. Natural Fiber Producers (NAAFP, formerly North American Alpaca Fiber Producers) is another entity that I think will benefit the American alpaca industry long term. I think they have a good business model and enough working capital to get through the glitches inherent with any startup company. They have different collection requirements than AFCNA but a different profit model for the grower, as well, with a potentially higher payout. When small alpaca growers can become profitable without relying strictly on animal sales, the industry will be able to expand. NAAFP’s program allows small growers to benefit from the economics of large scale having developed products with enough profit margin to allow selling at wholesale. I think Certified Sorter Systems is truly unique from any other U.S. member based fiber initiative in their absolute commitment to the value of sorting and training sorters all over the country to a specific standard. Their sole focus is training people to sort in a consistent, repeatable manner. Even were this company to cease operations, the value to the North American alpaca industry to have contributed to the pool of trained sorters available to growers and the ability for growers with this training to sort their own harvest for higher profitability is immeasurable. I still use a mini mill! I really like Ranch of The Oaks in Lompoc, California. Tom and Mette Goehring work the mill full time and are passionate about what they do. They do an excellent job of producing fine, lightweight yarns for me that I then use with a knitting machine to make knitted products. What I really appreciate about working with Tom and Mette is that I can discuss weight and twist requirements, whether I want a z twist or an s twist and they work really hard to meet my exacting standards. With a knitting machine, I don’t have the same tolerances for yarn variations that a hand knitter does. So the quality of the yarn is key to a saleable end product. There are mini mills all over the United States now and new ones coming on
line all the time. I think the mini mills will continue to play a vital role in the alpaca industry for many years to come.
Peter and Carol Lundberg, Alpaca Blanket Project
Farm number must be on a paper inside the bag of fiber.
Trish Esson, Cashmere Connections
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS FOR FIBER BUYERS How much fiber did you purchase in the last year? Mary Anderle, Malpaca
There have been 30,000 pounds purchased in the past year for Malpaca™ Pillows fill.
American Alpaca Textiles
Our fiber purchasing is based on product demand and continues to grow as our company grows.
Peter and Carol Lundberg, Alpaca Blanket Project
Alpaca Blanket Project received over 50,000 pounds of fiber in both 2010 and 2011.
Trish Esson, Cashmere Connections
Approximately 13.7 tonnes of alpaca fibre.
Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco
Approximately, 10,000 lbs. give or take a few pounds.
What specific requirements must your suppliers adhere to? Mary Anderle, Malpaca
The fiber must be standard clean for grades 4-6 Huacaya.
American Alpaca Textiles
The less we have to handle the fiber we purchase, the better. We rely on the fiber we purchase to meet grading and sorting standards which ensures that we purchase all useable fiber with little waste. This is the most economical way for us to procure fiber, only purchasing fiber we can actually use instead of having to skirt or sort it out into a grade or batch that we then must find another buyer for or discard.
A consignment note must accompany every consignment. A Recipient Created Tax Invoice Agreement and if required, the Statement by Supplier will be required in order that Cashmere Connections can initiate the grower payment. These documents are available for download from our website. They can be found at: www.fibre.cx/alpaca/ forms/index.php.
Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco
For 2012 – this year’s clip, a dry blanket in a bag at shearing and then to a centralized buying location. An understanding that putting any specialty fiber from cashmere to Merino wool into production is a value added process where selling fiber is only the first step. And, unfortunately – step one typically does not create the economic return any producer wants to see for their “crop” and hard work. (Did we mention that alpaca farming, like any business, involves hard work?) The good news – as the supply in relation to product demand grows, the ability to move alpaca into the market will improve and if we can “lean” out the manufacturing chain, the return to producers should grow.
What is/are the final destination(s) for the fiber? Mary Anderle, Malpaca
The fiber is shipped to Malpaca’s manufacturer in southern Wisconsin where each pillow is filled, sewn, and shipped to customers all over the world.
American Alpaca Textiles
American Alpaca Textiles creates beautiful textiles and home decor products utilizing higher micron fibers in all colors, both Suri and Huacaya. All of our textiles utilize American sourced fiber, are spun at American spinning mills and are woven at a small production weaving mill right here in the USA. We market our textiles and products to interior designers, home decorators as well as the hospitality industry. We are completely made in America.
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Peter and Carol Lundberg, Alpaca Blanket Project
Pendleton Woolen Mills makes blankets from all fiber meeting their requirements. The blankets are then first offered to members at cost (plus 3%). Pendleton Woolen Mills is also purchasing blankets from ABP. Any remaining blankets are then sold by ABP at either wholesale (about 50% above member cost), or retail (about 100% above wholesale). Fiber not meeting the requirements for Pendleton goes to other American users of alpaca fiber and is made into numerous products including socks, scarves, hats, rugs and thermal underwear.
Trish Esson, Cashmere Connections
Our alpaca products are all sold within Australia to other Australian textile companies. The top goes to yarn making, whilst the de-haired alpaca goes to the alpaca quilt industry for filling.
Claudia Raessler, Suri Paco
Products that can be sold in today’s market!
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS FOR LARGE FIBER PROCESSORS: How is fiber collected for processing in your country? Or, what steps take place to get the fiber from the breeder to your facility? Juan Pepper
There are several ways to collect the fiber in our highlands, these are the main ones: Fairs, Middlemen, Communities. The buying season can be split in two: Rainy Season – From October to April. This is the main season, and perhaps 80% of the fiber is being traded during these months. Off Season – From July to September. Leftovers are being traded during these months, and some early shearings as well. Main Fairs: The biggest Alpaca suppliers are in the Puno Region. These fairs are all in this region. Macusani, December 8 – This is the most important fair, and it is widely known that prices for the season are practically set in this fair. Macusani is known as the region with the best genetic heritage in Perú. The best supply of Suri and Huacaya fleeces come from this area. 64 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
Santa Rosa, August 30 – Another important fair, although it takes place in the off-season it is on the calendar as an important sourcing area for both Huacaya and Suri, as well. Pucara, July 16 – Also in the Puno Region, Pucara is an early fair in the off-season, no less important than Pucara. “Dominicales,” (all year round): Throughout the year, and almost in every little town in our highlands, on Sundays, the Dominical takes place. From all the surroundings, small breeders take their fiber to the nearest town to sell. Here, middlemen and independent buyers push for prices, and at the end of the day, most of the fiber is sold. Puno Region represents about 70% of the alpaca fiber supply. The balance is split among the regions of Arequipa, Cuzco, Huancavelica and Junin. We buy from all the above listed sources, direct at the fairs, from middlemen, and also from the communities who have the capacity to put together a sizeable quantity. Middlemen: Middlemen have become, as we say in Spanish a “necessary evil.” A typical middleman is a local person who can speak the language (Quechua) and is able to understand breeders, has the muscle to travel around the little villages collecting fiber, and usually pays with barter trade and/or pays for the fiber in advance, with the promise of assuring the clip from a certain group of breeders. Today, there are a number of middlemen who also have the financial power to buy and hold the fiber, waiting for better prices in the near future. In some ways, they control a large portion of the trade. The down side of them is they usually take advantage of small mom and pop breeders, paying low values for their fiber, and being able to collect a large volume of fleece, to sell to the industry at a big profit. Today, they are very prosperous traders, and play an important role in the supply chain. The sad part is that the small breeders do not see these profits. Communities: There are few communities in the highlands. Two of the most important ones, volume wise, are Rural Alianza in Puno with a yearly output of about 200 tons, and Cooperativa Tupac Amaru in Central Perú with a yearly output of about 50 tons. There are other small ones, which are today being grouped by a Perúvian National Association of Alpaca Breeders, called SPAR, whom are able to offer a sizeable output of fiber and bypass the middlemen, directly approaching the industry to obtain better prices. The alpaca supply market is driv-
ing towards this latest trend, to form associations being able to put out a sizeable fiber offer, thus circumventing middlemen to obtain better prices for their fleeces. We see the ideal sourcing scenario in the future as large scale private breeders, who can handle 50 -100 thousand animals, which can implement genetic programs, badly needed to stop fiber deterioration.
Does your company provide a protocol for collecting fiber to meet any standards that you want? Juan Pepper
There are two buying criteria when sourcing alpaca from the highlands: TUI Fiber: These are fleeces from the first cut of the animal when they are 18-24 months old, and represent the finest fleeces, with the highest yields for Baby Alpaca (Fina) when being sorted into qualities. Higher prices are asked always for this fiber.
Adult Fiber: These are fleeces from second, third and more cuts, or animals older than two years old. These fleeces have much lower yields for Baby Alpaca (Fina), greater yields for 25-26 micron and above. Prices asked here are lower than for TUIS.
Can you briefly explain the standards that are included in any such protocol? Juan Pepper
Once the fiber arrives to our premises, we sort it according to our processing standards, which are the following: Quality BL-SUPER BL FS SU-BL SU AG
Description Super Baby Alpaca Baby Alpaca Fleece Alpaca Baby Suri Alpaca Suri Alpaca Coarse Alpaca
Micron Range 19-20 mic 21.5-22.5 mic 25.5-26.5 mic 22.5 mic 27.5 mic +30 mic
BELOW: A technician makes minor adjustments at Pendletonâ€™s Washougal Mill.
Alpacaa C Al Culture ultu ure â€˘ S September eptemb ep mber e 22012 0122 | 65 01 6
Cloud Hollow Farmâ€™s 1 Fiber Workshop at The Maine Top Mill
On October 13th, 2012 Presented by Wini Labrecque of Star Weaver Farm
The Maine Top Mill & Discussion about
mainetopmill.com - email@example.com
66 | Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012
chf1752.com - firstname.lastname@example.org 208-258-8155
Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012 | 67 PO Box S, Waldoboro, Maine 04572 - 208-258-8150
Moving Towards a Universal
Grading and Classing System By Bob and Erin Weintraub, Maine Top Mill
When Jane Wheeler found mummified alpacas, she proved that the Pre-Incan peoples of South America were able to create alpacas with documented 17.9-micron fiber. By selective breeding, they succeeded in their purpose to create a Camelid that could produce three or more times the quantity of vicuña quality fiber. So here we are in the summer of 2012, trying to figure out what to do with our alpaca fiber in all the current grades and descriptions, such as Royal, Baby, Superfine and more. To complicate this, we want to make commercial and industrial processing from high-end fashions to cottage and boutique processing viable. Currently in North America, Grade 1 fiber is defined as fiber with a micron below 20.9. However, this is too broad a range for commercial class processing mills to work with. Other grading systems use words such as “Royal,” “Superfine” or “Baby” to name micron ranges. As we will see in the Wool Grading System by Count (Figure 1), the micron ranges and the standard deviation of that range have a direct relationship for determining the value of that count.
Figure 1: USDA Standard Wool Specifications Type of Wool
Old Blood Grade*
Variability Limit for Numerical Limits for Average Fiber Standard Deviation Count Grade Diameter (microns) Maximum (microns)
Finer than 80’s
17.70 - 19.14
19.15 - 20.59
20.60 - 22.04
22.05 - 23.49
23.50 - 24.94
24.95 - 26.39
26.40 - 27.84
27.85 - 29.29
29.30 - 30.99
31.00 - 32.69
32.70 - 34.39
34.40 - 36.19
36.20 - 38.09
38.10 - 40.20
Coarser than 36’s
* The blood system for most all useful purposes is outdated and has not been recognized by USDA since 1955.
68 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
The other significant feature of the count system is that it creates a universal textile description that top making, spinning and finishing mills can understand. We all have seen and heard that Royal Grade alpaca fiber is highly desirable, with a micron range of less than 20.9 microns. However, within this micron range, there are three different count grades: 80’s, 70’s and 60’s. The significance is both the value of the fiber to the producer and the end products that can be made from the grades. Though perhaps more important is the relationship between the commercial class processing mills and how they communicate fiber grade. For example, when the Maine Top Mill buys or processes protein fibers in the 13.5-20.9 micron range, we identify each grouping of submicron ranges by the Wool Count System as defined by the United
Figure 2: Definitions of “count” Count: According to the Textile Institute, “count is a number indicating the mass per unit length or length per unit mass of yarn.” For clarification, “mass” can stand for weight and is used in the textile industry. There are several count descriptions of fibers. These count systems have been divided in two ways. 1. Direct System (Length Fixed): • Tex: Weight of yarn in grams present in 1,000 meter length. It is a universal system of counting the yarn. • Denier: Weight of yarn in grams present in 9,000 meter length. It is basically used for man-made fiber.
2. Indirect System ( Weight Fixed): • Worsted count: Number of hanks of 560 yards present in 1 pound of Yarn. It is basically used for wool. In the textile manufacturing industry, indirect count is widely used. That means the higher the number of yarn count, the finer it is. But in the jute or carpet manufacturing industry where jute is the main raw material instead of cotton, the Direct System of Count is usually used. In the Direct Count System, the higher number of count of the yarn, the coarser that yarn will be. Most of the time, yarn count is expressed in pound units. For example; 10’s, 15’s, 30’s, etc. Here “S” is the symbol of expressing yarn count.
Source: Edited from http://articles.textileclass.com/what-is-yarn-count-how-it-is-calculated/.
Figure 3: Determining the grade of fiber and thread
The grade of a fiber refers to its fineness. The grade of a thread refers to its thickness. Individual fibers (rated 80’s)
1/80 thread (an 80’s grade fiber spun into thread rated 80’s grade thread)
States Standards for Grades of Wool (Figure 1). The next stage of processing is the commercial spinning mill, which expects to see the top defined by count, denier or tex (Figure 2). From here, tops go on to the finishing mills that also want to see the yarns/threads described by count, denier or tex.
2/80 thread (two 1/80 grade threads spun together and rated 40’s grade thread)
Commercial spinners describe their threads by the size of the thread as either singles or more singles in a plied yarn. A 1/80 is a 80’s grade thread in size, while a 2/80 is two 1/80 threads, that is, a 40’s grade thread in size. When adding plies/threads to make a plied yarn, the resulting yarn is thicker (Figure 3). Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 69
As a simplified explanation, woven fabrics are concerned with ends per inch (Figure 4) and the resistance to compression of the threads/ends (warp) and picks (weft) as well as the weave structure to determine the amount of yarn needed for a finished piece. The size of each thread is described in the count system and is critically important to calculate for minimum waste.
Figure 4: Determining value of fiber
1/80 Thread The amount of threads (from a graded lot) it takes to make a linear inch in width gives textile manufactures a mathematical model to determine how much fiber from a particular lot it will take to make a finished product thereby determining the value of the fiber. For instance, 1/80 thread has a known number of thread ends per linear inch and therefore a known value per pound can be equated.
Description of the Wool Grading Systems
So, how does the wool grading system work and what is the count system? Colorado State University Extension came up with the explanation in Figure 5. Hopefully, you will go to the U.S. Standards for Grades of Wool link, (see sources) and as you go through the standards, you will see that in the fine counts (70’s and 80’s) the micron ranges are 1.44 microns with a standard deviation that gets closer as the microns become finer. What you have to look for is the description that each count has in this range because it “is an acceptable tolerance.” The U.S. Standards for Grades of Wool has a micron range within a count grade that represents their tolerance of acceptability of microns within a count grade. 70 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
Figure 5: Grading Systems Three systems that describe wool grades in the United States are blood, numerical count and micron. The blood system divides all wool, from finest to coarsest, into six market grades: fine ½ blood, 3⁄8 blood, ¼ blood, low ¼ blood, common and braid. Originally, these names referred to the fraction of Merino blood in the sheep that produced the wool. Today, blood grades are trade names only and indicate wool of a general diameter range. The blood system, for most all useful purposes, is outdated and has not been recognized by USDA since 1955. The numerical count system divides all wools into fourteen grades, each designated by a number that classifies wool by fiber diameter. Numbers range from 80’s for the finest wool to 36’s for the coarsest. The count refers to the hanks of yarn, each 560 yards long, which can be spun from 1 pound of wool top. A 64’s wool yields 35,840 yards (560 times 64) of yarn from 1 pound of 64’s top. The micron system recognized by law and described in the Federal Register utilizes a numerical designation. Individuals involved in wool trade use the numbers in communications relative to descriptions of wool grade. For example, “62’s” would refer to a lot of wool in which practically all the fibers fell in the range of this grade. “62’s/60’s” refers to a lot of wool in which the bulk grade would be that of “62’s” with a minor and coarser part falling into the 60’s grade. A wool grader classifies the whole fleece according to its grade (fineness) and length. The grader looks at fineness (fiber diameter) and crimp. Crimp is the waviness of the wool fiber and the crimp count per inch (2.5 centimeters) usually will be higher (more) in finer grades and lower (less) in coarser grades. Grading by crimp alone is not encouraged because a perfect relationship between crimp and fiber diameter does not exist. The grader also checks for weak fiber or tender spots along with a wool length determination. Finally, the grader places the fleece with others that have similar characteristics. Colorado State University Extension Sheep and Wool Specialist, Animal Sciences. 9/92, Reviewed 5/11.
Figure 7: Conceptual Grading and Count System for Alpaca
Is a Wool Hank the Same as an Alpaca Hank?
The issue we have concerning alpaca is the number of yards that it will take to make a hank of alpaca fiber. For comparison purposes, we are going to use the same 560 yards per pound for a hank of alpaca as is used for wool. As more information comes in, we can always adjust the number of yards per pound of alpaca but for now we will use the same 560 yards per pound. You can begin to see how important a count system becomes to the buyers and processors of fiber. It gives them a real-time estimate of how much finished product they will be able to produce from a given lot of fiber which, in turn, will assign a value to that lot of fiber. An 80’s count produces 80x560 for a total of 44,800 yards per pound and a 20’s count would produce 11,200 yards per pound. Each type of fiber can be described by its count multiplied
Numerical Count Grade
Limits for Average Fiber Diameter (microns)
Variability Limit for Standard Deviation Maximum (microns)
Ultra Fine Ultra Fine
Medium Medium Medium
60’s 58’s 56’s
23.50-24.94 24.95-26.39 26.40-27.84
6.49 7.09 7.59
Figure 6: End Uses for Wool by Micron Range Range
19mm & finer
Fine Crossbred 25mm 28mm
Medium Crossbred 29mm 32mm
Coarse Wool 33mm & coarser
Men’s Woven Underwear Women’s Woven Outerwear Knitwear Underwear Socks Hand Knitting Yarn
Million Kilos 160 140
120 100 80 60 40 20 0 4 2
New Zealand South Africa Uruguay USA
Micron 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
by the number of yards per hank per pound. See Figure 6 for end use products by micron in wool.
Conceptual Grading and Count System for Alpaca
When we look at the mummified remains from El Yaral, the fiber would have graded as 80’s. As some of us have observed, our alpacas can produce 13.5-16 micron fleeces, which could lead to the creation of the Conceptual Alpaca Grading Standard, Figure 7. Please, before you start to either agree or disagree with this chart, it is based only on conjecture – not on supported, tested data. Further research is warranted to create a correct Standard Grading Chart for Alpaca Fiber that is recognized by the US Government as our Standard Grades for Commercial uses as is Wool. After all, alpacas are recognized by the USDA as livestock, as are sheep, both being fiber producAlpaca Culture • September 2012 | 71
Figure 8: USDA Weekly Wool Report (Example) Fri Jul 13, 2012 USDA - CO Dept of Ag Market News National Wool Review (Condensed). Wools shorter than 75mm typically discounted .10 - .20 clean. Classed and skirted wools usually trade at a .10 - .20 premium to original bag prices. Micron 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30-34
US Grades 80’s 80’s 80’s 70-80’s 64-70’s 64’s 62’s 60-62’s 60’s 58’s 56-58’s 54-56’s 54’s 50-54’s 44-50’s
Fleece States NA NA None None None None 3.53 3.29 None None None None None None None
Territory States None None None None None None None 3.59 2.96 2.92 None None None None None
Texas and New Mexico None None None None None 3.69 3.65 3.58 2.91 None 2.65 NA NA NA NA
ing animals. This will enable the producers to describe their fleeces in a manner that is consistent with how the mills communicate with each other and provide a value chart similar to how the USDA makes their Weekly Wool Reports, Figure 8.
The USDA Weekly Wool Report – Values for Wool in Real Time The significant factors are the price per pound reported by grade, change of price for the previous week and that the prices may vary based on current market conditions, yield, strength, length, class, etcetera. We have to remember that a grade refers to the relative fineness and uniformity of the fiber but not the quality of the fiber, which is described further by Classing (which does consider the Grading and Count System).
Australian wool prices are quoted delivered in Charleston, South Carolina. The current freight rate is .15 cents per pound clean. Schlumberger Dry formula is used for yield determination.
Key Questions for Classing are as Follows:
The 75-80 percent of Australia price range can be used as an estimated value of clean prices FOB the warehouse and gross producer. These are estimated domestic values and may vary depending on current market conditions, yield, strength, length, colored fiber content, poly contamination, and other quality factors. 75 - 85 Percent Change from Clean Del Price US of Australia Last Week in US Dollars Grades Micron 4.66 - 5.28 - .14 6.22 80’s 18 4.40 - 4.99 - .23 5.87 70-80’s 19 4.25 - 4.81 - .23 5.66 64-70’s 20 4.28 - 4.85 - .14 5.71 64’s 21 4.29 - 4.86 - .13 5.72 62’s 22 4.28 - 4.85 - .07 5.70 60-62’s 23 4.04 - 4.57 - .04 5.38 60’s 24 3.75 - 4.25 - .03 5.00 58’s 25 3.37 - 3.82 + . 03 4.49 56-58’s 26 2.30 - 2.61 - .02 3.07 54’s 28 2.14 - 2.43 - .02 2.85 50’s 30 1.82 - 2.07 - .02 2.43 46-48’s 32 2.20 - 2.49 - .02 2.93 Merino Clippings
• What were the environmental conditions during the fibergrowing season? • Did the fiber come from healthy animals? • What nutritional quality was provided to the animals? • What is the grade of the fiber? • What is the fineness and uniformity of the fiber and fleece? • What is the staple length and uniformity of staple length of the fiber and fleece? • Are hairy or medullated fibers present? • What is the fiber style and uniformity of that fiber style? • Is the color uniform? • How much vegetable matter and other contaminants are present? • Is there any felted fiber? • Are there whole, intact fleeces in the bale or pieces?
Source: USDA - CO Dept of Ag Market News Service, Greeley, CO. Randy Hammmerstrom, Market Reporter (970) 353-9750. 24 Hour Market Report (970) 353-8031. http://www.ams.usda.gov.mnreports/gl_Is850.txt.
72 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
Some Old News
In the Summer Issue of Camelid Quarterly, we wrote an article about the importance of histograms and core tests from a top maker’s perspective, while Angus and Margaret McColl wrote an excellent article about fiber testing. This information, in addition to grade and class, is critical for a commercial class processing mill when purchasing and processing fiber and textiles.
Graeme Dickson, of the Australian Alpaca Association (AAA) Industry Development Reference Panel, wrote an article about the Quality Assurance Fleece Classing System in this summer’s Alpaca World Magazine, which is very much on point. Alpaca World describes this article as “A welcome new commercial quality standard . . . being established in Australia, specifically for alpaca fleece production . . .” The combination of Certified and Registered Classers coupled with the Australian Wool Testing Authority Ltd (AWTA) and the IWTO Testing Protocols is a step in the right direction for providing true potential values for alpaca fiber. Since this article just came to our attention, we will have to report back with an update concerning classing after we discuss both the Classing and Testing Protocols under development by the AAA and our primary concerns as a top making mill: • Uniformity of fineness • Uniformity of staple length, length and strength and Huacaya curve >30, Suri curve >15 • Uniformity of crimp style • No hair or grossly dissimilar fibers
challenges to overcome if we want to produce commercial class runs of processed fibers (even if the runs are only 4,000-5,000 pounds for a net of 3,000 pounds). Plus, we must look at the resistance to compression/curve/crimp as being extremely important. Weak fibers are our nemesis, no matter how fine.
Textile Processing Industry Workflow
Producers – Sorting, grading and classing. Please communicate with us in the same textile language. First Tier Textile Processing – Worsted top making, scouring, washing, de-hairing and dyeing. Second Tier Textile Processing – In order to have it spun for knitwear in the 100’s to 70’s count single threads and 30’s to 60’s count single threads we have to talk and describe our top in the same language as the commercial class spinners/dye houses. Third Tier Textile Processing – Finishing mills all calculate threads and yarns by count.
While the major sorting groups have gotten the alpaca industry off to a good start, some producers are interested in commercial fiber processing for alpaca fiber. Unfortunately, the current grading systems are not likely to serve effectively as the scale on which alpaca fiber is processed grows. We present this information regarding the count system to spark conversation and to provide information about how international and commercial textile mills communicate regarding the grading and classing of fiber. We invite you to go to the links we mentioned to learn more about the count system.
Each day, the path to a fiber industry for alpaca hits both speed bumps and the HOV lane. Wool is much easier to evaluate and determine a price per pound, greasy or clean, but we are finding that when we compare North American wools to Australian, New Zealand and South African wools, the length and strength of these non-domestic wools have a processing advantage. When we look at North American 70’s and 80’s Grade Huacaya and Suri alpaca, the fiber is weak, which will lead to low yields, reducing the value of the fiber and potentially reducing how fine the fiber can be spun. Short and non-uniform staple length and nonuniformity of strength with non-uniformity of micron (hair-like, dissimilar fiber diameters) are our greatest
• Bianco Johnston, Meyla C. “Alpacas and People: From PreHistory to Today and On to the Future.” Alpaca Culture 1.June (2012): p. 13. Print. • “United States Standards for Grades of Wool.” http://www.ams. usda.gov. United States Department of Agriculture, 21 Dec. 1968. Web. 25 July 2012. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3062803. • “Wool Grades and the Sheep That Grow the Wool.” http://www. sheepusa.org. American Wool Council, n.d. Web. 25 July 2012. http://www.sheepusa.org/user_files/file_715.pdf.
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 73
ALPACA FIBERS A Textile Processing Perspective By Aditi Shankar
The first time I came across the animals called alpacas was for a literature review I had to do in college on “Fur Fibers.” For the first time, I learned about angora rabbits, llamas, vicuñas, alpacas, etcetera. Six years hence, I find myself at an alpaca farm in Maine researching alpaca fiber and learning how to make top. My first impression of alpaca fiber was that I was surprised that many textile folk seem not to know about either the animal or the fibers, which is surprising given the large number of farms spread out across the USA and the increasing number of designers promoting the fibers through their clothing lines. I see alpacas as a prominent part of the specialty fiber business, and there is more success in it than there are downfalls if one can play their cards right. While the alpaca industry is very new to me, fiber science is not. I tried to use all my previous knowledge and experience in the field of textiles to understand this industry, the people who are part of it and the alpaca fiber itself. One of my first lessons while studying textile technology in India was “what properties make polymers suitable for textiles.” I learned the most important parameter is that for polymers to qualify as fibers they must have a very high length-to-diameter ratio. Also, they must have adequate tensile strength so that they can withstand the stresses of spinning, uniformity in length among all fibers, fineness, color fastness, etcetera. Ease in laundering and dyeing are also important. Comparisons with wool, or some of the other more established protein fibers that we use today, are inevitable while discussing alpaca. However, alpaca has certain obvious advantages that make it unique in many ways. Alpacas are potentially more sustainable, in housing, husbandry and fiber processing than other livestock. Alpaca fiber is stronger and softer than wool, and is also said to be hypoallergenic and water repellent. All these properties and its resemblance to the most exquisite vicuña fiber make it an alluring raw material for textile producers to pursue, despite the hurdles faced in processing it. 74 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
One of the important issues alpaca folk should be aware of today is the lack of a universal grading system, such as exists for wool. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has specified standards for different grades of wool that associate micron ranges and standard deviations (SD) to degrees of fineness as described in the count system (60s, 70s, 80s, and so on). It is difficult to fit alpacas into such data mainly due to the vast variables in fiber quality (staple length, micron, crimp style, curvature). Age, Huacaya or Suri phenotype, environment and nutrition also present unique challenges from a processing standpoint. Secondly, the number of all the alpacas in the United States put together does not provide even a minimally adequate supply of fiber for a commercial scale mill. This also brings me to talk about the breeding practices among farmers. Importance is given to quantity over quality; it is preferred to have maximum fleece sheared per animal. In processing, it is the quality of fiber that is more important. Better to need more alpacas who shear fine, strong, uniform, high curvature fleeces to make a commercial run, than have fewer alpacas with higher shear weights but poorer quality fiber. A better approach would be to genetically select for traits that adhere to a specific type of fiber such as the “vicuña-type” fiber style (extremely high curvature/low micron) and then concentrate on increasing this volume. While there is value in every fleece style, the high curvature should make the vicuña fleece style easier to process. Grading by fleece style is a bit of a moot point with alpaca however, due to the low volume of each grade available. Any commercial textile venture thrives on large quantities and a sustainable supply of fiber for spinners, weavers, knitters, garment producers and designers to
work with. It is very important for the alpaca breeders and textile community to co-exist and coordinate to fulfill each other’s needs and goals. The primary usable product from an alpaca is the fiber, and enjoying this fiber for its luxurious properties is the most natural thing to do. Many breeders today seem to be in a fix regarding what to give importance to: fineness, crimp and curvature, or weight and volume. The global market today demands Royal Grade fiber, which falls in the micron range of less than 20. But low micron with irregular staple length, low crimp frequency and poor tensile strength is useless for yarn productions. A lot has been speculated about the significance of crimp frequency and mean curvatures of the fibers. Cameron Holt’s article in Camelid Quarterly (June 2006) makes some important observations. From a textile production point of view, crimp is a vital factor to select for. Well-aligned crimp makes carding and combing easier, thus minimizing waste and more importantly, improving handle and ease of processing. Hence, crimp cannot be disregarded. The results of various experiments compiled in his paper demonstrated that “good” crimp results, in general, in uniformity of micron and curvature. So consistency would, perhaps, depend a great deal on crimp. Good crimp styles make fiber consolidate better to form yarn. Compared to some wools, Huacaya alpaca fiber has relatively lower crimp. When yarns have low crimp, they require a tighter twist for spinning and tend to become stiffer and less lofty or bulky. As one would imagine, breeding for a greater degree of crimp would result in Huacaya fiber with greater loft and elasticity, making it more suitable for woolen and worsted yarns; here we are referring to applications where fabric elasticity is specifically desired. Suri alpaca, by nature, is a very low crimp, low curvature fiber that presents its own challenges in processing, above and beyond the issues with Huacaya. It is at times crimped by artificial means to overcome the slickness for process ability, or cohesive agents may need to be added to the fiber during processing. Efficient processing begins with skirting of the fleece. Sure enough, efficient skirting reduces the mean fiber diameter (MFD) by giving more uniformity to the fleece, besides of course, giving a good estimate of the fleece weight without the vegetable matter, dust, and unwanted fiber. Sorting and grading of the fleece, which is the next step, needs to be done in a manner that the global textile community can understand.
Today, different organizations have different grading systems. For example, North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP), New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP) and Alpaca Fiber Co-operative of North America (AFCNA). However, for commercial scale processing of alpaca fiber, it is imperative that people communicate in the same language. More quantifiable scales for grading are needed. People in the industry today have different conceptions based on their requirements and goals with respect to the fiber they breed for. But to build a textile industry, much more than the knowledge of genetic selection is required. Since the same machinery is used for processing alpaca and wool, it is crucial to understand their working, production capacities, compatibility with the fiber micron and length, blend analysis, etcetera, since all these factors help make suitable fibers for processing. Once the breeder knows what kind of fiber will be able to be processed, they can use their selection skills to decide how to get there.
About the Author Aditi Shankar, works at the Maine Top Mill in Waldoboro, Maine as an Intern, assisting Bob and Erin Weintraub with their research on alpacas, their fibers and setting up their worsted top making mill. Aditi graduated from the prestigious Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fibers and Textile Processing Technology in 2011. She is now pursuing a Master’s Degree at North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles (Raleigh, North Carolina) and took this unique opportunity to gain some much-needed experience in the real world. She enjoyed her stint with the “cute and lovely alpacas” at Cloud Hollow Farm and considers working at the mill an important learning curve in her career path since she has been with it during its inception. After graduate school, she aspires to enter the Textile Industry and put to use her previous experiences in Fiber Processing and Quality Control. Contact: (919) 348-3776. email: email@example.com. Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 75
RobAsiaâ€™s breeding program has evolved into one of the best in the country by using objective, measurable data as well as critical visual assessment. Our breeding program is producing royal fleeced animals with good structure and uniformity. We are dedicated to the advancement of the breed and producing the best possible fleece. Contact us today to find out more.
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Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012 | 77
A Rainbow of Colors Of all the animals on the planet, alpacas have some of the most spectacularly varied coat colors in nature. A group of well-bred, colored alpacas grazing is a pleasure to see.
78 | Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012
From the brightest white fleece to a gorgeous toasted marshmallow tone to what looks like a rich cup of espresso to absolutely inky black, the choices are virtually unlimited.
rcheo-zoological evidence proves that ancient South American cultures were breeding specifically for color, and having great success. Jane Wheeler’s studies of ancient alpaca mummies at El Yaral in Perú shed the most light on the specifics of pre-Columbian herds. According to Wheeler’s article Pre-Conquest Alpaca and Llama Breeding, “Under Inca rule, animals of pure color were required for sacrifice to particular deities and the shrine herds bred for this demand. White llamas were sacrificed to the sun, red brown animals to Viracocha at the beginning of the agricultural year, and black animals were starved and sacrificed in times of crisis.” South Americans were masters of the alpaca’s variability and bred selectively for color for thousands of years. In 1553, the first European to make note of alpaca color was Cieza de Leon, a Spanish conquistador known for his chronicles of Perú. Today, alpacas exhibit the same wide spectrum of colors as the ancient animals. Depending on which source you consult, alpaca fiber is said to occur naturally in between about sixteen and fifty-two colors. In Perú, the higher numbers are commonly accepted while in Australia, Europe and the United States, the lower counts are the norm. Alpaca fiber color is classified by looking at the fleece near the mid-side skin in the blanket. The outside color can be quite different than that found inside because of exposure to the weather, so fleeces are commonly “opened” or parted to determine the true color. If an alpaca fiber color falls between two shades, then it is considered to be the darker shade. In fact, in the show ring, subtle variations often end up moving at the last moment to another color class, according to the judge’s discretion. Interestingly, color shades for bales of commercially bought and sold fiber are discerned by the closest shade, not the darker shade. The inheritance of alpaca color is a complex study pursued by scientists worldwide. Mike Safely notes in his article Breeding for Color, “Fleece color is generally thought to be inherited according to Mendelian principles, but there may be an exception operating. The actual method of coat color inheritance is in question and issues such as how many color or modifier genes exist or which colors are dominant or recessive are not settled. A number of researchers suggest the alleles of each gene pair interact with one another in a dominant or recessive fashion to determine the color of an individual fleece. One researcher suggests that color is inherited in a more complex fashion, as the result of gene linkage.” The field is vast, complex, not fully understood yet and endlessly fascinating.
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Based on the behavior of enigmatic genes, combined in countless ways, each cria is born with a unique wool color. Though some animals maintain the exact color they arrived with at birth, some alpacas’ fleece color changes as they grow older. The main colors are black and red, with a huge range of other variations of colors referred to as shades. When alpaca fleece is white it is actually displaying a complete absence of color. A great deal of the international market for breeding alpacas is based on the prospect of large, white, commercial herds. In South America and elsewhere, the sizeable herds raised for textile manufacture are primarily white and fawn. This is because these light colors can be dyed any color for the commercial market, increasing value. Many breeders pursue mono-colored herds with gusto, specializing in their chosen favorite. In fact, Wisconsin’s Greenbriar Farm’s tagline is “Where you can get any color alpaca you want as long as it is black.” In Northern Idaho, Quechua Enterprises breeds elite white, light and fawn herdsires. Many other farms and ranches are breeding especially fine animals in specific colors. Multicolored animals are unique and interesting and have their own classes in shows. Some names for these combination colors include harlequin, appaloosa, piebald, tuxedo or caped. When it comes to commercial production of fiber, however, uniform colors are necessary and valued much more highly than novelty colors or combinations. Color contamination, a source of frustration for breeders and textile producers, occurs when an alpaca is mostly one color but also contains darker colored primary fibers and perhaps random spots of other colors. For example, an animal that is mostly fawn with darker colored primaries included over the entre fleece creates a real problem in production. Lack of color uniformity is frowned upon both in the show ring and by textile manufacturers. If customers of textile manufacturers (such as big name design houses) find color contamination in a bolt of fabric, they typically want to return it. If stray colored fibers ever appeared in finished garments, the designer would charge the textile manufacturer for the costs of making the clothing. Buyers inspect the fiber immediately for any stray colored fibers. If any are found, the lot loses value immediately and the textile manufacturer is obliged to offer a discount. Breeding for pure colors is therefore essential. In another of Mike Safely’s articles, Alpaca Fiber: Color Contamination — When Is It A Fault? Safely explains what happens if stray fibers are seen in the factory while the fabric is in the process of being made: “A blow torch
Chromosome Allele (A) Allele (B)
An allele is one member of a pair (or any of the series) of genes occupying a specific spot on a chromosome (called locus) that controls the same trait. Specific alleles are responsible for determining such characteristics as fiber color.
is fired up, burning away any remaining fiber from the equipment: a costly process.” For those who embrace alpaca in its natural colors, the choices are gratifyingly large. A basic design concept of Japanese aesthetics called “wabi sabi” is based on unpretentiousness, plainness and earthiness and revels in the simplicity of unadulterated colors from nature. With so many innate, distinct colors of alpaca wool, it is possible to create intricate works of art with complex color schemes from un-dyed fiber. A large cottage industry thrives on this segment of the market, raising alpacas and spinning their fiber into yarn for their own use. Smaller parts of the larger fashion industry are also embracing un-dyed fiber as part of their eco-conscious and green lines. In this arena, many of the multi colored alpacas’ fleece is prized. Michell & CIA S.A. in Perú offers an eco alpaca collection of yarns called Andean Heritage. They are available in natural colors as well as dyed with eco-friendly colors. Inca Tops, a subsidiary of Grupo Inca, also offers an eco collection in natural, muted colors and blends. Both of these large textile manufacturers are aware of the importance of the green market and are wisely pursuing it. Alpaca fleece occurs with such variation in color due to the caprice of nature. As humans, we can influence
Even a casual conversation about genetics is not complete without Gregor Mendel, 1822-1884, the Austrian scientist most associated with early studies of genetics. He demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits in peas follow distinct patterns. His ideas are often referred to as laws of Mendelian Inheritance.
science if we’re so inclined, edging toward understanding the mysteries of evolution through technology. We can breed for ever-purer colors, striving for perfection. We can create natural colored yarn blends of great beauty and usefulness. Or, we can simply enjoy the broad range of color variation as just another one of life’s delights. Sources:
• Wheeler, PhD, Jane C. “Pre-Conquest Alpaca and Llama Breeding. By Jane C. Wheeler, Ph.D.” Pre-Conquest Alpaca and Llama Breeding. By Jane C. Wheeler, Ph.D. CONOPA, Dec. 2005. Web. 11 June 2012. http://www.conopa.org/publicaciones/preconquest_ alpaca_and_llama_breeding.php. • “Alpaca Colors.” Sweet Creations Alpacas. Version n/a. Sweet Creations Alpacas, 2012. Web. 2 May 2012. http://www.sweetcreations-alpaca-farm.org. • “Allele.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 June 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allele. • Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, D. Phillip. “Some Educated Guesses on Color Genetics of Alpacas.” Yellow Rose Fiber Farm - A North Texas Alpaca Farm. Yellow Rose Fiber Farm , n.d. Web. 11 June 2012. http://www.yellowrosefiberfarm.com/ • Michell & CIA S.A. color chart • Safely, Mike. “Alpaca Fiber: Color Contamination When Is It A Fault?” Northwest Alpacas. Northwest Alpacas, 2011. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.alpacas.com. • Safely, Mike. “Breeding for Color.” Northwest Alpacas. Northwest Alpacas, 2011. Web. 10 June 2012. http://www.alpacas.com/. • “Gregor Mendel.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 June 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Gregor_Mendel.
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COLOR ME NATURAL Thousands of years ago, in South America, alpaca fiber was used in its original state, taking advantage of its fabulous range of colors. It was also dyed with natural materials derived from plants, animals and minerals, thus increasing the color palette from many to an almost infinite number. This allowed for the production of spectacular textiles, some ancient examples of which have survived, amazingly, for modern eyes to admire. More recently, humans have developed chemicals to infuse color into alpaca fiber more cheaply and with fewer associated labor costs. Unfortunately, many of these options are harmful to the environment. In particular, runoff from dye bath rinse water is causing widespread pollution to important water sources, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Chemical dyes are notoriously destructive, creating a big pollution problem for some segments ABOVE: A range of of the textile industry. They contain environmentally colors created with toxic ingredients like plasticizers, heavy metals, hacrushed cochineal, logenated solvents, genetically modified organisms, or cactus aphids. chlorophenols, aromatic solvents and other chemiRIGHT: An cals you most likely do not want to wear against assortment of your skin, much less release into the environment. vibrant natural dyes. The World Bank has estimated that nearly 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyes and treatment. Thirty of these chemicals cannot be removed from water. Natural dyes are a perfect match with alpaca fiber, one of the most eco-friendly fibers on earth. When naturally derived dyes are used instead of synthetics, native peoples and other textile manufacturers are becoming aware that they can command higher prices for fiber goods. As a result, they are able to produce more of them, relying less on chemicals and preventing damage to their countries. In some communities, ancient traditional dying techniques have recently been resurrected to take advantage of the eco-conscious market. This results in a workable business model for underprivileged peoples, some of which are the descendants of the very cultures producing the magnificent textiles thousands of years ago. The importance of bringing hope to impoverished communities, putting food on the table for families and improving the life choices for the surrounding culture is enormous. SOURCES: • “How Textiles are Made - Natural Dyes.” Threads of Peru - Authentic Andean Textiles. Version n/a. Threads of Peru, 2012. Web. 2 May 2012. http://www.threadsofperu.com. • “Indigenous Designs.” Our Finishing and Dye Process. Indigenous Designs, n.d. Web. 11 June 2012. http://www.indigenousdesigns.com/section/garment/. • “Water Pollution, Textile Industry (% of Total BOD Emissions).” Data. The World Bank, n.d. Web. 11 June 2012. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EE.BOD.TXTL.ZS.
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Plants used to produce natural dye, found mostly in PerĂş: Red: Cochineal, Achancaray, roots of Chapi-Chapi Green: Châ€™illca and collpa, a mineral Purple: Awaypili Grey: Tara and Blue Colpa (iron sulphate) Blue: Anil is a plant that makes indigo dye when processed, not found in the region. Yellow: Qolle
Huacaya & Suri Alpacas Wi tten be rg, Wi s co ns i n ( 800 ) 3 0 3 -6 3 9 3 n fo @ A p p l e wo o d L a n e A l p a c a s. co m 84 | Alpaca Culture • September I2012
Blue Ribbon Winner Applewood Lane Superstar Argosy 14.5 3.9 26.7 0.7
Since its incept inception, Applewood Lane Alpacas has put an emp emphasis on acquiring elite genetics to produce hig high quality fleece. Today, our breeding stock is more than 70% Baby and Royal Grade (w (with 33% at Royal). Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012 | 85
What’s So Great About
ALPACA FIBER? By Meyla Bianco Johnston
Alpaca fiber is amazing. Perhaps most incredible is the fact that more consumers are not wearing it or living with it every day. Here, Alpaca Culture intends to explore each attribute that adds to alpaca’s usability and great potential for worldwide use. In this way, people can become aware of the positive attributes of alpaca wool through detailed information backed up with real products as examples. Some of the benefits of alpaca fiber include: • All Fiber Usable
• Low Prickle Factor
• Silky, Lustrous Texture
• Comes in Many Natural Colors
• Resistant to UV Radiation
• Water Repellent
• Little Static
• Drapes Well
• Does Not Pill
• Durable, Tensile Strength
• Warm and Insulative
• Resistant to Dirt
• Wrinkle Resistant
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hile alpaca fleece can be softer than cashmere, stronger than wool and very beautiful, not all alpaca fiber is premium. Generally, only fleeces that average under 22 microns with less than 5% of the fibers more than 30 microns are suitable for wearing against the skin. The very, very fine, grades from prime fleeces go toward next-to-skin garments. However, lesser quality fleeces are very useful and still superior to other fibers in many ways. Coarser fiber from skirting can be used in carpeting, outerwear, upholstery, rugs, as batting and in many other products. The huge variety of alpaca products available becomes most clear when you visit a vendor section of a large show. Alpaca Culture recently attended the Futurity in Grand Island, Nebraska and the AOBA Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. At both of these venues, we found many great products being sold by vendors passionate about alpaca fiber. Garments are ubiquitous, of course, and they should be, because clothing is the end-use many alpaca breeders are striving so hard toward. As breeders select for finer fiber, their top end products will demand a higher price to produce. The resulting higher quality second and third cuts therefore improve and have uses of their own. The highest-end alpaca items are hand-knit by skilled artisans in 100% Baby Grade alpaca (or even finer) yarns. Other garments are blended with acrylics for durability and affordability. From very, very fine examples of hand-knit sweaters to casual, blended tunics made for weekends; you won’t find any fiber more suited for all levels of fashion than alpaca. To navigate the alpaca fiber business as a consumer, visit as many vendors as you can, and literally feel your way through. Once you touch 100% Royal grade alpaca, you won’t soon forget the sensation. Similarly, you can learn to recognize blends by feeling alone. The topic of alpaca fiber is tactile, complex and multi-layered. Even those who have been in the business for years admit it can be a complicated business. By focusing on each attribute of the fiber and following it with examples from actual products on the world market, a clear picture emerges. This allows for talking points to educate the uninitiated and creates a strategy for targeted marketing of alpaca fiber.
Alonso Burgos, Director of the Incalpaca TPX Company says it is important to realize that the complete picture of how alpaca is used can only be clear when you take into account the whole spectrum of grades. Fashion designers with end goals of next-to-skin, refined garments avidly seek the finer grades. Burgos says almost half of 88 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
ABOVE: Latin Collection’s display as seen at AOBA National Show in Louisville, Kentucky.
the alpaca that is sold in international markets is “between 29 and 31 microns,” the coarser end of the spectrum. From a marketing viewpoint, it may be necessary to brand the finest fiber as a luxury material to separate it from the second and third cuts used in non haute couture or high fashion applications. Because all fiber sheared from the animal can be used in one way or another, alpaca fiber is extremely practical because none goes to waste.
MOISTURE-WICKING Socks Socks are the product people otherwise unfamiliar with alpacas are likely to know or have. Thanks to the Sock Brigade, many American soldiers are now aware of how practical and luxurious alpaca is. Between February and June 2012, nearly 13,700 pairs were distributed to enlisted men and women. Often blended with other materials like Lycra, acrylic, bamboo and nylon for strength, stretch and durability, socks are ideally suited to alpaca fiber because of its superior thermic properties. In winter, your feet will stay toasty warm while in summer the natural fiber wicks away moisture, allowing your feet to breathe. Socks are a great gift for someone who has never touched alpaca fiber before. Once they slip them on, you’ll soon have a lifelong alpaca devotee. Ruth Mogrovejo and Samy Cuzmar, owners of My Comfy Socks (a division of Latin Collection) make superb socks in South Carolina here in the United States.
Samy confirmed that it is necessary to blend socks with other fibers for strength and durability so many different blends and knit stitches are used for different styles. Cuzmar says “Latin Collection keeps the percentage of alpaca high at 40-60%, depending on the sock. The alpaca fiber is blended with the acrylic at the yarn stage and later with nylon. This blend results in a sock that provides maximum insulation, for keeping the feet warm. It also means the socks have great wicking properties to keep feet dry. The nylon keeps the sock durable even when they are machine washed. Our yarn is almost threading thin (1/20 metric gauge in some instances) that it makes the sock feel smooth and very soft. This, I believe, is one of the primary differences between our socks and others. While the yarn on other socks may have a good blend but they are usually very thick yarn and this causes the sock to feel rougher and not as relaxing.” For dress socks, the emphasis is on lightweight, smooth silky knits with a luxurious feel and for these, Latin Collection uses a thin yarn with either a ribbed stitch or a stitch with no pattern. For outdoor socks they use “a 3x1 stitch pattern that is reinforced at the foot and heel. It also has a terry stitch throughout the sock or on the heel and foot.” They also incorporate a mesh stitch at the joint of the foot to help them breathe better. For the trekking socks, they use a medium to heavy blend while winter socks use a heavy blend. With athletic socks, the bottoms are often padded for cushiony comfort when playing sports. Latin Collection accomplishes this with a terry stitch at the foot and reinforcement at the heel and foot. See more: www.latincollection.com/.
To begin with, alpaca fiber can be extremely fine with micron ranges of between about 15 and 24 microns for the best quality, rivaling other luxury fibers like cashmere. Very high quality grades like Baby and Royal also have a very low prickle factor when worn next to the skin. The soft handle is something that has to be felt to be believed – words simply cannot do it justice.
Teddy Bears and Other Huggable Animals Steiff is synonymous with the antique teddy bears you may have seen featured on Antiques Roadshow and in specialty shops. With the trademark button in the ear, they are a collectors dream, whether old or new. Today, the company makes heirloom quality bears (as well as other huggable animals) in 100% alpaca from South America. In 2011, the company used approximately 3,200 meters (10,498 ft) of alpaca plush (inclusive of all pile lengths and colors). These soft, lovable creatures are perfect gifts for a baby shower and are sure to be loved for generations to come. Steiff items are able to stand the test of time because they are made in Germany to the strict quality standards established in 1904. Steiff-Schulte is Steiff’s own factory in Germany where they manufacture the fabric for the animals. Dietmar Simon is with the production staff of Steiff Germany. With the translation help of Joel Gorospe, ECommerce Sales and Marketing Manager at Steiff, Alpaca Culture learned about how they work with alpaca. Simon recalls “first working with alpaca plush in 1999,” when he had a few samples to experiment with. It was proposed to be used only for the Steiff Millennium Teddy Bear and only for the head, but the fabric was not approved. In 2001, alpaca was mixed with silk and used to make the black teddy bear in the New Orleans Jazz Band figurines. After that, using alpaca became easier because Schulte developed a wider gamut of colors of material over the years. “Additionally, the density of alpaca plush was a characteristic beneficial to achieving ‘virtually invisible’ seams in products.” Gorospe says, “According to our archives in Germany, the first item that used alpaca was Peter Rabbit from production year 2002; the first Teddy bear that used alpaca was a black teddy bear with a red leather collar from production year 2004.” Simon personally believes that “alpaca material is a viable and sensible alternative to the traditional mohair plush because of its ‘natural look,” its density that provides coverage and invisible seams,
LEFT: Holly Teddy from the Fall 2012 Steiff Alpaca Collection.
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and because it is a material that is as durable, if not more durable than mohair plush.” Gorospe says Steiff “continues to use alpaca because of its inherent beauty and because it provides both flexibility and durability. Alpaca’s flexibility makes it a fabric that is easy to work with, especially with the increasingly intricate designs of Steiff products. Alpaca’s natural look imparts a sense of ‘realness’ to the plush Teddy bears and animals. And alpaca’s durability is not only desired during the manufacturing but also desired for creations that are collected by many – this durability allows for memories embodied by Steiff heirlooms to continue their long journey from generation to generation.” The 2012 Fall Collection of animals has just been released. Many Steiff animals from this collection and others are made with alpaca fiber. Visit www.steiffusa.com and search “alpaca.” Baby Layettes and Clothing There’s nothing softer or more soothing than warm, cozy alpaca fiber knitted with lightweight yarn. Imagine wrapping your little one in the finest, most luxurious fiber on the planet. As she drifts off to sleep, she will be warm, comfortable and enveloped in a completely natural, irritant-free fiber you can feel good about. Many commercially available baby products, particularly sleepwear, are impregnated with chemicals to insure inflammability. Alpaca fiber is naturally flame retardant so nothing needs to be added to help protect your little one. Clearly, that is a benefit when dealing with a sensitive, fragile newborn. In addition, unlike many baby products available today that are lucky to last through one baby, alpaca fiber items will last through many siblings and onto the next generation. Caroline Mixon is the creator of Alpaca4Baby, a group of high quality alpaca fiber items inspired by the birth of her grandson. Her products are carefully woven, crocheted and knitted by artisans to honor the newest member of the household. Mixon explains, “We believe in heritage and tradition. We are so hopeful that grandparents and parents will see the importance of preserving the here and now in some form so that newborns will have a piece of this world in which time they were born.” Mixon offers newborn saques, booties, hats, matinee sweaters and receiving blankets of the highest quality. Booties are handmade and often incorporate a drawstring or satin ribbon tie. Before pajama bottoms with feet, people used baby saques to make sure baby’s legs stayed warm and to make diaper changes easier. Alpaca4Baby’s version includes a hem with a satin ribbon for sweet, secure dreams. Each receiving blanket, usually around 20x30 inches (51x78 cm), 90 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
is hand woven and made to order. The fiber comes from Mixon’s alpacas at Carodel Farms, blending both Huacayaa and Suri fiber for the perfect baby yarn. Learn more at thee Alpaca4Baby site: www.alpaca4babynetwork.com.
LOW PRICKLE FACTOR
Mike Safely’s article The Wool Industry Faces A Prickly Question: Are People Allergic To Wool? states, “ . . . over 30% of American consumers surveyed by the International Wool Secretariat reported that they were ‘allergic’ to wool. After extensive study, scientists have determined that these consumers were not allergic to wool. The perceived allergic reaction to wool was actually a painful response by sensitive skin to coarse fibers. The consumers skin was being ‘prickled’ by coarse guard hair or kemp-like fiber found in the wool. Scientists have determined that it doesn’t matter whether a garment is made of wool, alpaca, mohair, or man-made acrylics, if er over 5% of the fabric is comprised of fiber with a diameter in excess of 30 microns, it will prickle or itch.” Under the microscope, it is easy to see why finer gradess of alpaca are so comfortable. Because the tiny scales on each fiber lay down fairly close to the main fiber shaft, wearing alpaca next to the skin is less apt to be as itchy as other fibers (see page 11 for diagram). With lamb’s wool, the scales stand quite proud to the shaft, initiating itchiness in many individuals. While Huacaya fibers are quite smooth, Suri wool is even smoother. This makes it slippery and more difficult to process because of the extremely slick handle. BELOW: Alpaca Collections Fall 2012 Scarf.
lanolin may be too black and white, the amount present is certainly less than sheep’s wool. Alpaca fiber is also sometimes said to repel dust mites. While this is as yet unproven scientifically, it is reported to be true by many individuals who live and work with the fiber. Since dust mites are the number one cause of asthma and allergies in the bedroom, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give it a try if you suffer from allergies or sensitivities. Despite all the gray areas ripe for debate, it is clear that alpaca fiber’s claims of being non-toxic and chemical free are absolutely certain given that the animals did not come into contact with outside chemicals, pesticides or fertilizers.
Sometimes wrapping your neck is what makes the real difference between feeling uncomfortably chilly and snug. The delicate skin of the neck and décolletage is notoriously sensitive to any prickle factor. Smooth and silky alpaca scarves warm your neck with no irritation and a lot of warmth. At the AOBA Nationals in Kentucky, I purchased a beautiful, brightly colored scarf from Alpaca Collections via LondonDairy Farms, an authorized distributor in the USA. Alpaca Collections is an exclusive distributor for KUNA in the USA and Canada. This bright, woven scarf is created with a weave called “birch,” a double layered textural knit deliberately pierced to create depth, interest and warmth. This style will be available in the fall. Visit Alpaca Collections at www.alpacacollections.com.
HYPOALLERGENIC, NON-TOXIC, CHEMICAL FREE Perhaps two of the most commonly debated subjects regarding alpaca fiber are whether or not it is truly “hypoallergenic” and “free of grease or lanolin.” Maybe the truth lies somewhere between absolutes. Many people unable to wear sheep’s wool are able to wear alpaca happily. Is this because of a sensitivity to sheep’s lanolin, the usually higher prickle factor of sheep’s wool or a combination of both? Then semantics comes into play: what is an allergy – an intolerance, an insensitivity or simply irritation? While saying alpaca fiber is free of
A perfect use of lesser grade alpaca fiber is as ballast or stuffing for pillows and duvets. Pillows made with alpaca fiber great for allergy sufferers and for those with chemical sensitivity. They’re fluffy, soft and comfortable. Malpaca™ manufactures the original, 100% U.S. alpaca fill pillow. President Mary Anderle says, “Alpaca does not contain lanolin like sheep’s wool, or grease, and is cleaned, processed and manufactured naturally.” She continues, “I use grades five and six alpaca fiber, which is usually the fiber that has been left in bags on shelves in barns, or used as wall insulation. The tangled, uneven, varied lengths and grades can be utilized in these pillows, as the cleaning and processing is the most important part of why the fiber works for these pillows. Now we can pay for that usually unused fiber and help support our local U.S. farmers.” Malpaca™ pillows will not release toxic fumes or “off-gas” like foam pillows made from chemicals. According to Anderle, “the non-toxic qualities of alpaca begin with the animal and the way it is raised. The alpaca are raised in a stress-free natural environment free of herbicides. They are not dipped in pesticide baths and no chemicals, dyes, or bleaches have been used during the processing of their fiber. Most other animals’ fiber is basically stripped of its good qualities when chemically cleaned and processed for use – alpaca doesn’t have to be. I make sure the fiber is washed, cleaned and dried naturally, then hand stuffed into the fabric cover. The fabric used in Malpaca™ Pillows, and even the labels and thread are organic, therefore creating a completely non-toxic, chemical-free pillow.” Anderle says “We spend one third of our lives sleeping, inhaling what is next to our nose and mouth.” She points out that if we are using synthetic materials in bedding, which most of us are, “we are not only breathing Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 91
ABOVE: Alpaca Dream Wear felted hat.
in these harmful toxins nightly, but if they ever catch on fire, the fumes will kill us faster than the flames.” Find out more at www.malpaca.com.
RESISTANT TO UV RADIATION
Every year in the United States, almost 3.7 million skin cancers are diagnosed, and the majority of them are a direct result of cumulative solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR). The incidence is just as high in other countries. Many ultraviolet protective garments are available on the market. Some offer UV protection through fiber density and structure, such as thread count per inch. Other garments are pre-treated with UV-inhibiting chemicals. Their effectiveness is rated with a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) number. UPF ratings range from 15 (good) to 50+ (excellent). Products also exist that can be added to laundry and washed-in to increase UV protection. Alpaca fiber is naturally UV resistant, protecting the animals in the high elevations where the air is thin and the UV rays from the sun are at their most direct and damaging. No chemicals are necessary – the resistance is built right in. Could alpaca-based fabrics be the next revolution in UV protective clothing?
WATER REPELLENT, DURABLE Golf Sweaters Alpaca is resistant to external water penetration like wool and can wick away perspiration because of its unique ability to act like cotton in moisture regain. These factors are what makes alpaca feel lighter than wool, but warmer than cotton in cool, damp conditions. 92 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
Traditionally, golfers have worn alpaca sweaters because of their water repellent nature and warmth. Many manufacturers create luxurious sportswear designed specifically for fairways. If it does become wet in extreme conditions, alpaca has the ability to maintain your body warmth despite moisture. Plus, there is no wet sheep or barnyard smell associated with alpaca; it stays odor free. Alpaca sportswear looks great on the course and is soft and flexible – garments won’t impede a golf swing or other physical activity. Because they are also durable, they stand up to hard use over many seasons and stay new looking. Fairway & Greene, Johnnie Walker, Callaway Golf, Jack Nicklaus, Alpaca Golf by Inca Fashions, Hart Schafner & Marx Sportswear, Pringle Scotland and Bobby Jones are popular manufacturers of high end golf wear.
Quality Felted Hats
Tom and Judy Kania are producing super high quality Alpaca Dream Wear hats in conjunction with Resistol, a brand name famous in the western hat world for quality and timelessness. Instead of knitted alpaca hats, they are felted and come in three styles: Western, Outdoor and Outback. They are made with fiber from American alpacas in acorn, black or natural colors. Smooth, soft and lightweight, they are also stain resistant. The fiber for the hats is cleaned and carded at The Shepherd’s Mill in Phillipsburg, Kansas. The hats may be steam fitted for a custom feel or allowed to wear in naturally. Visit www.ourfieldofdreamsalpacas.com for more information.
In a world of cheap, disposable products, alpaca is a luxurious material that is a pleasure to work with, create things from and simply live with. The cream always rises to the top and in fashion, that cream is alpaca fiber. When only the best will do, people have historically turned to alpaca and continue to do so. World recognized fashion leaders such as: Versace, Tom Ford, Beatriz Canedo Patiño, Michael Kors, Loro Piana, Cole Haan, Elhadij “Haj” Gueye, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Liliana Castellanos and many more use alpaca in their finest garments.
Alpaca garments are favorites of business people. Expected to look sharp and professional, many executives put in many hours per day in business suits that need to be remain comfortable and attractive throughout long days. Time is often spent seated at meetings,
followed by getting back up, greeting colleagues and entertaining visitors. Alpaca’s natural wrinkle resistance helps keep them looking freshly pressed all day. Since managerial and office professionals travel so often, wrinkle-resistant alpaca garments are advantageous. When it comes time to check baggage, alpaca garments score points again with their light weight and lack of bulk. They emerge looking excellent from the suitcase ready for another day of brokering power deals.
GREAT DRAPE, WILL NOT PILL Dresses and Couture Wear Extremely fine grades of alpaca are also known to drape wonderfully. When I asked Beatriz Canedo Patiño what she liked best about designing in alpaca, she notes the “beautiful way that this noble fabric drapes.” In haute couture, line is everything and only the best fabric can BELOW: Original design and tailored alpaca business suit by Haj Designs (page 28).
live up the exacting design standards in place. Alpaca does so beautifully. Because 100% alpaca will not pill or create those notorious sweater dingle balls, it stays looking new and high quality for a long time. Many high fashion designers list alpaca as a favorite material. Pure alpaca will not matt, essential in a classically tailored suit meant to have sharp and enduring style.
WARM AND INSULATIVE
Alpaca fiber is semi-hollow or medullated (see detailed discussion page 6), which means it contains pockets of air, giving it incredible thermic qualities. This means it is very warm in cool weather and breathable when the mercury rises, allowing moisture to wick away from the skin where it can evaporate.
Knit Hats We lose a large percentage of our body heat through our heads when we leave them uncovered. Alpaca hats are the perfect foil. Knitted versions are soft, warm, beautiful and lighter weight than similar products made of sheep’s wool. Knit Gloves To keep your fingers warm in chilly weather, alpaca gloves and mittens do the job nicely and feel sumptuous on. Because alpaca wool is generally thought to have 50 degree F comfort range versus only a 30 degree F for sheep’s wool, alpaca hand wear is an ideal choice. For outdoor adventurers, a light pair of alpaca gloves worn under waterproof mittens can make the difference between frostbite and comfort on a winter’s day. When I was very chilly at the Futurity Show in Nebraska this year, I bought a pair of charcoal gray cable knit fingerless gloves from Jose of Everything Alpaca. Though the temptation was to put on a stocking cap, thick sweater, mittens and a swaddling scarf, I chose fingerless gloves to make holding the mike for interviews warmer but to stay recognizable on camera. I was astounded at how much of a difference they made to my comfort. Visit www.EverythingAlpaca.com to see their wide range of alpaca products. Building Insulation Alpaca’s insulative properties don’t stop with clothing. Insulation as a whole is used in buildings to keep heat in during winter and cool them during summer. It also stops sound waves with its mass and absorption. R-value is a way to indicate insulation’s resistance to heat flow. The greater the R-value, the greater the efficacy of the insulation. The recent trend toward green building is simple: use building and construction techniques that minimize negaAlpaca Culture • September 2012 | 93
tive impact to our precious environment and make use of recycled or waste materials when possible. Recycled jeans are being used as insulation after being made into batts. This material, made from 85% natural denim and cotton fiber factory scraps, offers an R value of R-13 rating in standard 2x4 inch (5-10 cm) walls, or R-3.4 per square inch. Rice hulls and cellulose are other green options. However, alpaca’s insulative properties are far superior to these and even sheep’s wool insulation, which has an R- 3.5 per square inch rating. In addition, there may be less of a need to add chemicals to repel fire to alpaca fiber used in walls as insulation as it is for other materials. Alpaca is thought to be about five times as warm as sheep’s wool, so the benefits are clear, though an R rating is not yet available.
RESISTANT TO DIRT Blankets and Throws Because alpaca is essentially lanolin free, it is less ss likely to hold dust. There is just not as much opportunity for dust to stick to the surface and cause se allergies. This means a household item like a blanket will stay y cleaner longer. It is also less apt pt to shrink than sheep’s wool, making it more washable wash waashable when the time does come for launderin laundering. dering.
Pendleton blanket by Alpaca Blanket Project.
This results in far less dry cleaning and saves the environment from the hazardous chemicals associated with it. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Perchloroethylene (PERC), a potential human carcinogen, is the most commonly used dry cleaning solvent.” Clearly, less of this released into the environment is better. Since 1909, Pendleton Woolen Mills has been producing some of the most recognizable woolens in the world. In 2012, it is clear that part of the company’s success historically and today is due to its ability to listen and adapt to the desires of its customers. That’s where the new alpaca blankets come in. The Alpaca Blanket Project is the company’s latest foray into the trends consumers wish for. Peter and Carol Lundberg lead the project. The custom, exclusive Pendleton patterns were designed around the natural colors of the Alpaca fiber and are available in a Balanced Plaid, an all-over Stripe and Houndstooth Check. “Without Pendleton, the Alpaca Blanket Project would not have a business,” said Peter Lundberg. “Pendleton’s commitment to alpaca allows our 500+ members to earn a purc return on their investment and purchase products that they alpac fiber are typically can sell as well. Other users of alpaca smaller manufacturers that do nnot use 100% of the fiber products. products ” All thre ree ee styles are 100% fi ber in their products.” three U.S. raised alpacas, and madee in the USA. Size:
52x70 inches (132x178 cm) plus 5 inch (13 cm) fringe. Navigate to the Home and Blankets section at www.pendleton-usa.com for more.
HYGROSCOPIC QUALITIES Duvets Because alpaca fiber is so insulative, it makes kes warm bedspreads and lofty batting. In addition, alpacaa fiber does not wick as much moisture from the air as other fibers do. Because of this, your bedding will nott develop that musty smell common to humid areas. We’ve all experienced the feeling of wearing ing a very heavy cotton or wool sweater. With cabling or embellishments added to the knit, it typically gets worse. orse These can be cumbersome to wear and feel like a burden by the end of the day. Compared to wool, alpaca is lighter per ounce but also much warmer. This is because alpaca fiber traps air for insulation in each and every superfine fiber. Though alpaca fiber is often referred to as hollow, it is more accurate to describe it as semi-hollow or medullated. “Medullated fibres”, as described and classified by Villarroel, “are fibres with a central core, which may be continuous, interrupted, or fragmented. Here, the cortical cells, that make up the walls of the fibre, are wrapped around a medulla, or core, that is made up of another type of cell. Later, these cells may contract or disappear, and hence the proud reference to ‘hollow fibres’ that was so often heard in the early days of the industry, which in fact was a reference to medullated fibres.” However, this quality is also very often associated with guard hairs, which renders the whole topic rather controversial (see detailed discussion page 6).
BLENDABILITY MAKES IT AFFORDABLE AND PRACTICAL
Not everyone can afford a 100% pure alpaca sweater, but many can and will purchase that garment when it is blended with another material. Since alpaca blends are commonly machine knit, this adds to alpaca’s practicality and across-the-board appeal. Blended Sweaters Acrylic is a manufactured fiber. It comes from polyacrylonitrile, which is a fibrous, resinous, rubbery organic polymer. While acrylic can emulate the feeling of wool, it lacks insulative properties. It is often blended with natural fibers such as alpaca to add durability and machine washability. I first met Mercedes Gamero and Enrique Noriega of Alpaca Lael at the Futurity in Nebraska where we had
ABOVE: Alpaca D’Or Duvet. See page 105.
booths side by side. Their friendliness drew me in as much as the bright, jewel toned colors of their gorgeous knitwear. I purchased my first alpaca garment from Mercedes, the Celosia sweater. In marled purple tones, this long cardigan has ruffles at the edges for feminine flair. The front has a discreet hook and eye closure as well as a knitted tie for secure closure. It is made of an acrylic-alpaca blend. Enrique says “this blend lowers costs on a product and allows for washing in a machine on delicate mode whereas the alpaca only and alpaca/silk garments require dry cleaning. Another benefit is the formation of things like ruffles and other details. Acrylic allows for a more solid structure.” It was affordably priced and is very easy to wear with so many things. Perfect over a tee with jeans for a casual day and over a silky blouse with slacks or a skirt for more dressy occasions. Visit www.alpacalael.com to see their collection of blended and 100% pure alpaca garments.
ENDLESS VARIATION Yarn Yarn is made in many different ways depending on what it will be used for. Weights include: fingering, sock, DK, light worsted, worsted, chunky, bulky, craft, rug, bulky, roving and more. It can be used in dozens of natural colors or dyed. The possibilities are literally limitless. Beth Lutz of the Alpaca Yarn Company stocks many, many different styles. I asked her what the difference between Suri and Huacaya is when you’re talking about yarn. Lutz says, “Huacaya fiber is used in more alpaca yarns than Suri. Huacaya fiber is used in more applications that would be spun in a similar fashion to wool. Because of the rarity of Suri fiber, if a yarn contains Suri it would specify that it is composed of Suri fiber, not just alpaca. Suri is typically used in yarns such as fine lace weight because of the long staple that lends itself to that type of product. Suri is also much heavier by volume, so making a bulkier yarn would be impractical. We have also recently brought out Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 95
a product that is a ‘brushed’ Suri that mimics a kid mohair yarn but it is much softer and less itchy than mohair. The yarn is brushed after spinning so that it has a soft, halo effect. Again the long fibered Suri works very well in this application.” In specialty yarn shops, yarn blends abound. I asked Lutz why. She explains, “Many natural fibers add qualities to alpaca yarns. Bamboo can be added for sheen and luster. Wool can be used to ‘bulk-up’ a yarn without adding a lot of additional weight. Wool will also tend to give the yarn ‘memory’ which will help the finished product keep its shape better. Silk also adds sheen and a lightness to the yarn. Tencel is also a wonderful blending fiber that looks much like silk. Tencel is a cellulose fiber made from wood pulp.” Lutz stocks two Suri specific yarns on her web site, The Alpaca Yarn Company. One is a lace weight and the other is a brushed lace weight. She has three 100% Huacaya alpaca yarns in DK weight. “One comes in 60 solid colors, one in 12 hand dyed colors and the other in nine hand dyed colors.” She also carries “fingering weight baby alpaca, a blend of superwash wool, nylon and alpaca specifically for socks because the superwash wool does not shrink and the nylon gives strength to the yarn. We also have yarns that are blends that contain Tencel, wool, acrylic and silk.” When I asked Lutz, “Why alpaca over any other fiber?” she replied, “With all the fibers out there, alpaca is always the one I come back to both for spinning and knitting. You can’t beat it for softness or warmth. There are so many fantastic things that can be blended with alpaca that almost everything that I use has some percentage of alpaca in it.” “All grades of alpaca can be put to good use in yarn. Using a Royal or Baby Grade fiber to make a lace or fingering yarn will give you a finished product that is heirloom quality. Using midgrade (Superfine) alpaca is like using the workhorse of alpaca fiber – any type of project is suitable to Superfine alpaca. When using a coarser fiber, blending it with wool or making a corespun yarn that would be suitable for rugs or outerwear would be a good choice.” See all the luscious yarns Beth Lutz has to offer at The Alpaca Yarn Company: www.thealpacayarnco.com. Very Fine Quality Yarn I asked Lynn Edens of Our Back 40 what her plans were for the bale her group purchased in July. (Read the specifics in “Gaining Momentum and Changing the World Fiber Market . . . One Superb Bale at a Time,” page 34). Edens says, “Our Back 40 will use the bale purchased at the Parade of Champions auction in the manufacture of its 96 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
signature yarn line, Ne Plus Ultra Alpaca. This worsted weight, cable-spun yarn is designed to compete in the premium yarn marketplace with cabled cashmere yarns, which often command prices in excess of $24 per spun ounce in the retail marketplace. In our opinion, the quality of the finest American alpaca fleeces creates yarn with a superior handle and luster to cashmere, and we are excited to give U.S. consumers a chance to experience what our breeders are producing.” According to Edens, Our Back 40 purchased this particular bale because of its aggregate fineness and consistency. “Both aspects are incredibly important to producing a luxury product that can demand the market premium necessary to support high fleece prices for producers. The appropriate preparation of the fleece, including careful skirting, and the ability to purchase a significant quantity at one time also supported our bid for the bale.” The type of yarn they intend to manufacture with it is a cabled yarn “because of the way this particular type of spinning allows for both control of the individual fibers and the full expression of the fiber’s natural handle. Its a very timeconsuming and therefore expensive type of spinning, but is well worth it when you are working with the finest alpaca.” Our Back 40 chooses to produce 100% alpaca yarn and not blends. Edens says, “The fleece we are purchasing is so fine and consistent that blending anything else with it would reduce the extraordinary quality of the resulting yarn. What’s more, our product’s design will help the yarn command a premium price that reduces the financial pressure to dilute the alpaca with a cheaper blending fiber. Finally, it is our goal to give U.S. consumers a chance to purchase a product that is entirely produced in the U.S., and a chance to connect with and support the small-farming effort in this country.” When asked what sort of end products Our Back 40 believes this bale will produce, Edens continues, “Alpaca has less memory and better draping quality than most wool, and we think many consumers will purchase Ne Plus Ultra Alpaca to make extraordinary scarves, shawls, and blankets. However, the relatively high curvature of the finest alpaca fleeces, combined with the layered tensions of cable-spinning, creates an alpaca yarn with far more elasticity than is typical, and we expect many fiber artists will be unable to resist making beautiful, incredibly soft sweaters and other garments with these yarns. We can’t wait to see the results!” Read more: http://www.ourback40.com.
SILKY, LUSTROUS TEXTURE
Less than ten percent of the world alpaca population is made up of Suris. According to Raul Rivera, Marketing Manager at Michell & Cia of Perú, the most com-
mon qualities or grades of Suri traded are: Baby Suri at 22.5 microns, Suri Alpaca at 26.5-27 microns, Suri Huarizo at 29-30 microns. While Suri doesn’t make up a huge part of the market, it is specifically sought after just the same for its slippery smooth handle and extremely lustrous qualities. Rivera notes that Suri fiber has “become popular for hand knitting, specifically for lace knitting.” He says “England and the United States purchase a great deal of lace weight Suri for hand crafting, in particular to knit or crochet scarves and shawls.”
Suri alpaca fiber leads the pack in women’s coats where texture is of utmost importance. Rivera continues, “Due to the specific weight of the fiber, Suri is highly recommended for weaving, mainly coats. The most classic cloth made of Suri is a brushed coat.”
Italy is a main purchaser of Suri for weaving and it is made into “very high end brands in France, Germany, Italy, Russia and even Korea,” according to Rivera. South Korea purchases a wide variety of Suri grades which they manufacture into large South Korean brands. He notes it is “important to mention that back in 2009 when Suri coats became fashionable, South Korea was by far the main consumer not only of Suri alpaca but also other qualities of alpaca.” Japan also purchases a mixture of grades of Suri alpaca from Perú to manufacture cloth, as does China, who uses it domestically.
Hot in the crafting realm these days, the arena of felting is wildly creative and results in thick, durable fabric. People are hand-making some of the most expressive works of art available and creating new techniques to do so.
BELOW: Commercial felting machines allow artists to create wide material, up to 66 inches (1.67m) on some models.
LEFT: “By applying nuno-felting techniques and refining our needlefelting craft, we have been able to create spectacular soft, supple and drapey fabrics from our alpaca fiber, “says Maggie DiUlio. Her jacket won the Judge’s Choice award in the Fiber Art Competition at the Spring 2012 AOBA Nationals. BELOW: Andrea LeBeau’s Two Tulips scarf made with innovative fusion felting. LeBeau says, “When you hold an alpaca garment in your hands, as opposed to garments made from other wools, it feels light, airy and refined, while the others feel heavy and cumbersome.”
Photo: Marcia Young
Andrea LeBeau, an accomplished Hungarian designer and artist, uses her experience with oil on canvas to create one-of-a-kind scarves, shawls and wraps. She uses a technique called fusion felting she learned in Budapest to create nature-inspired wearable art. LeBeau says, “I work with all sorts of fibers, from Merino to yak wools. But our finest and most luxurious pieces and styles all revolve around alpaca. The properties and the sensation of alpaca is very different and far superior to other premium wools – it is softer, lighter and finer.” Le Beau says she often chooses alpaca over other fibers. She continues, “It is both a practical and creative decision. Because its fibers are so fine, alpaca felts almost effortlessly, making it very efficient and practical to work with. Because it is so fine, creatively, it gives me more freedom to style – to be even more intentional and specific with my designs. In addition, the feeling of the finished alpaca to the touch is above any other wool I’ve encountered, it is very soft and luxurious. When you hold an alpaca garment in your hands, as opposed to garments made from other wools, it feels light, airy and refined, while the others feel heavy and cumbersome.” See more of her work at: www.andrealebeau.com. Needle felting is generally used to create smaller projects. Felting can also be done by machine, on a larger scale. Works are created with units that essentially use 98 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
dozens of needles to felt a lot of fiber at once to create fabric. Many are hand-cranked models but motorized versions are becoming more popular. Felt looms enable you to put raw fiber in one end and get finished fabric from the other. Maggie DiUlio, whose jacket won the Judge’s Choice award in the Fiber Art Competition at the Spring 2012 AOBA Nationals, used the FeltLOOM® to create her masterpiece. I asked DiUlio how she made the prizewinning felted jacket. “The fabric for the jacket is made from alpaca fiber needle felted to a skrim fabric. The skrim is black silk chiffon with a ‘Peacock and Roses’ velvet pattern embossed to the silk. The alpaca fiber felts through the silk chiffon, making it virtually invisible, but the velvet pattern remains visible in the alpaca fabric.” The fabric was constructed on the FeltLOOM®, which makes needle felting a large sheet of fabric feasible in a reasonable period of time. DiUlio continues, “The alpaca fiber that I used for the fabric was 70% super-fine, natural black, alpaca mixed with 30% of our super-fine white. The whole lot was dyed a sapphire blue, which makes the black color super-rich and the white fiber a deep blue. The dyed fiber was then carded into a 60 inch batt. The overall effect is a rich denim-blue batt with very heathered tones. The blending, dyeing and carding was done to specifications by Zeilinger Mill in
Frankenmuth Michigan. The pictured jacket is a custom design based on a commercial pattern with alterations to create an oriental style.” When I asked DiUlio what she likes about alpaca fiber, she said, “There’s so much to like about alpaca fiber, it’s hard to know where to begin. Alpaca fiber ranges from soft to super soft to exquisitely soft (and we use it all, including the seconds/ thirds). The lack of lanolin and ‘prickle factor’ makes it a perfect soft, hypoallergenic natural fiber. The lack of lanolin also makes cleaning the fleece so much easier and less damaging. Then I also need to point out that the superinsulating capacity of alpaca makes it three to five times warmer than sheep’s wool for the same weight, so we can create thin, soft, drapey garments that are a light as air, soft as cashmere and warmer than wool.”
ABOVE: Rafter DS Ranch’s alpaca wool saddle blanket. For more information visit www.alpacasaddleblankets.com.
Rafter DS Ranch in Texas makes one-of-a kind saddle blankets from alpaca rovings. Using only natural alpaca colors, they are popular in the ranching industry where people spend many hours on horseback. Although nobody has asked the horses, the humans seem to love these durable blankets. Rafter DS explains, “Because alpaca fibers are slick (sheep fibers have scales or microscopic barbs) the blankets do not collect horse hair nearly as fast as sheep wool blankets. Equally as important, alpaca wool is so much lighter in weight than sheep wool, alpaca blankets dry much faster than heavy, wet sheep blankets. These characteristics help to ensure your blanket is dry and ready for your next ride. The more you use your blanket, the sooner it will conform to your horse. You will notice it becoming even softer and ‘felting’ a bit as it molds to your horse’s unique shape. It will naturally maintain its compression, thermal and moisture wicking properties.” See more: www.alpacasaddleblanket.com.
Synthetic materials create a great deal of static electricity while alpaca does not create, attract or hold a static charge. This is clearly advantageous with all kinds of garments and home fabrics, especially carpet. No more unpleasant sparks and shocks when the weather is dry!
Flame-resistance is stringently regulated for upholstery, bedding and other common things we live with. Unfortunately, the standards are often met by incorporating chemicals into things like mattresses, upholstery and carpets. Alpaca is naturally flame-resistant. In fact, a field test can be done to determine whether a sample is alpaca: simply subject it to a match flame. If the fiber flares up and fizzles into goo, you’re not dealing with something from nature. If a fiber burns briefly and fails to ignite when removed from flames, produces an orange or yellow flame and does not produce smoke, it is generally Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 99
ABOVE: American Alpaca Textiles uses alpaca fiber to produce a wide range of material, from upholstery to curtain fabric and more. They also offer blends such as alpaca/cotton. See www.AmericanAlpacaTextiles.com for more information.
a natural fiber, and possibly of camelid origin. Alpaca meets the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s testing specifications for flame-resistance—naturally. It is classified as a Class 1 fiber for use in clothing and furnishings.
onds for raised surface fabrics, or 0-7 seconds for raised surface fabrics with no ignition or melting of the base fabric (generally when the fuzzy surface fibers of raised fiber fabrics exhibit a “surface flash”). Class 1 textiles exhibit normal flammability and are acceptable for use in clothing.
From the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Class 1 textiles have a flame spread time of 3.5 seconds or more for plain surface fabrics, of more than 7 sec-
DURABILITY, TENSILE STRENGTH
100 | Alpaca Culture • September 2012
Alpaca has one of the highest resistance factors of all natural fibers, which is ideal for practical items that
must endure hard use. A human hair’s resilience is rated at 100, wool is 122.8 and mohair is 136. Alpaca, however, is rated at 358.5. Clearly, it is a very strong fiber suited to many applications. Rugs Wool is considered the highest quality carpet around, able to withstand the wear and tear of families, pets and everything else daily living imposes on floors. However, alpaca is a newly emerging choice preferred by many consumers because of its superior performance and enduring beauty. Look for it next time you are considering replacing floor coverings. Upholstery American Alpaca Textiles’ product line includes upholstery fabric, drapery and home decor items utilizing American sourced alpaca fiber and blends. AAT’s mission is to bring alpaca blended fabrics and products to the commercial textile market using natural and sustainable fibers. The Earth collection of home fabrics includes Diamond for light upholstery; Strata for draperies and Sequoia for upholstery that must stand up to hard use or traffic. Visit www.americanalpacatextiles.com for more.
Sometimes it is hard to remember that the general public might not be aware of the benefits of alpacas. When you work with them every day as breeders, retailers, designers or textile manufacturers, the wonderful qualities of the fiber become ingrained in you. When the world at large understands this and seeks out alpaca garments, the industry will have achieved its goals. With an improved supply chain infrastructure, strategic marketing and a lot of hard work, we will get there. For now, one of the best things you can do for the industry is to buy alpaca. Share its charms with someone who has never heard of its wonderful qualities. Spread the word. SOURCES:
• Heinrichs, Kara. “The Alpaca Fiber Market.” Great Lakes Alpaca Association . N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2012. http://www.glaaalpaca.com/FiberMarket.aspx. • Weston, Mike. “My Peru - A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru.” My Peru - A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru. My Peru, 2007. Web. 17 June 2012. http://www.myperu.org/. • Tapping, Mercia. “Wool Pillows Review – Hypoallergenic Alpaca.” Allergy Consumer Review. Allergy Consumer Review, n.d. Web. 18 June 2012. www.allergyconsumerreview.com/alpacawool-pillows.html. • “What Are the Differences between Alpaca Wool Sheep’s Wool and Angora Wool?” WikiAnswers. Answers, n.d. Web. 17 June 2012. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_differences_between_alpaca_wool_sheep’s_wool_and_angora_wool.
• “Alpaca Allure.” Alpaca Allure. Alpaca Allure, n.d. Web. 18 June 2012. http://alpacaallure.com/fleece. • “Safety and Health Topics | Dry Cleaning.” Safety and Health Topics | Dry Cleaning. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2012. http://www.osha. gov/SLTC/drycleaning/index.html. • “Why Alpaca Works for Golfers.” Why Alpaca Works for Golfers. Alpaca Golf by Inca Fashions, 2012. Web. 09 July 2012. http:// www.alpacagolfsweaters.com/why-alpaca-works-for-golfers/. • Ryan, Joni. “Insulation Properties of Denim, Wool & Cotton.” EHow. Demand Media, 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 July 2012. http:// www.ehow.com/list_7524927_insulation-properties-denim-woolcotton.html. • Noriega, Enrique. Personal interview. • “Natural vs. Synthetic Fabrics: Ecological Benefits and Drawbacks.” Squidoo. The Green Truth About Fabrics, 2012. Web. 29 June 2012. http://www.squidoo.com/Truth-About-Fabrics. • Strege, John. “Rick Martin Starts Another Golf Apparel Company: New Stuff: Golf Digest.” Golf Digest. Golf Digest, 9 Aug. 2011. Web. 09 July 2012. http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/ blogs/newstuff/2011/08/rick-martin-starts-another-gol.html. • “Understan ding Sun Protection Clothing.” REI. REI, n.d. Web. 29 June 2012. http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/sun protection.html. • Safely, Mike. “The Wool Industry Faces A Prickly Question: Are People Allergic To Wool?” Northwest Alpacas. Northwest Alpacas, 2011. Web. 28 June 2012. http://www.alpacas.com/alpacalibrary/woolindustry.aspx. • “Making The Cut - CNBC Business.” Making The Cut - CNBC Business. CNBC Business, July 2010. Web. 09 July 2012. http:// www.cnbcmagazine.com/story/making-the-cut/1190/1/. • “CRYING OVER SPILT ONIONS?” Illawarra Alpacas. Australian Alpacas, Autumn 2004. Web. 28 June 2012. http://www.illawarraalpacas.com. • “LondonDairy Alpacas - Bamboo Fibers.” LondonDairy Alpacas - Home. LondonDairy Alpacas, n.d. Web. 29 June 2012. http:// londondairyalpacas.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=vi ew&id=81&Itemid=69. • “Craft Yarn Council and Warm Up America” Yarn Standards. Craft Yarn Council, n.d. Web. 29 June 2012. http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/. • “Green Home Building: Natural Insulation.” Green Home Building: Natural Insulation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2012. http://www. greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/materials/insulation.htm. • “Natural Fiber Insulation Materials.” Energy Savers:. U.S. Department of Energy, 2011. Web. 05 July 2012. http://www. energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/ mytopic=11560. • Gromicko, Nick, and Rob London. “International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).” International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, n.d. Web. 05 July 2012. http://www.nachi.org/. • U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION Office of Compliance Requirements1 for Clothing Textiles, 16 C.F.R. Part 1610.” U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION. United States Government, Jan. 2011. Web. 9 July 2012. http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/regsumwearapp.pdf. • Matthews, Merritt. “”The Textile Fibres; Their Physical, Microscopical and Chemical Properties”” Onread.com. Onread.com, 1904. Web. 09 July 2012. http://www.helpyourbodynaturally.com/ page/alpaca_faq. • Also: personal interviews with respondents.
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104 | Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012
Innovations Alpaca D’Or Dreamy. Alpaca D’Or’s pillows and duvets are to-die-for soft and very comfortable. Beautifully made in Germany, these luxury bedding items almost ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. They are filled with high quality alpaca fiber under 28 microns. Owner Robin Näsemann explains, “the finer fibre can take more water in correlation to its weight and also can store more air and can therefore insulate better. With alpaca pillows, the fibre allows a temperature balance and one does not get a hot head.” Both the stepbett (duvet in German) and the pillow have a smooth and cool Egyptian cotton outer surface and are finished with piping. Machine stitching ng anchors the cover throughout the cotton. Näsemann says, “Because the interior rior is removable, one can adjust the height of the pillow to a personal, comfortable different able level. This is important as people sleep on different mattresses.” Professionally made throughout, this pillow and duvet will make you feel like you’re sleeping in the finest European hotel. Comes with a zip-around cover for storage of the duvet during the warmest months. (Alpaka-dor.de)
My Comfy Socks At the AOBA Nationals, I had forgotten to bring socks and since it was 95 degrees outside I was looking for something short. Running from ring to ring to record show results, I needed something comfortable and supportive. Luckily, Ruth Mogrovejo and her son Samy Cuzmar of Latin Collection were ready at their vendor booth. They recommended a pair of short athletic sport socks from the My Comfy Socks line that ended up making my day! They are padded on the bottom for all-day-on-a-concrete-floor comfort. Made of 45% alpaca, 43% acrylic, 10% nylon and 2% Lycra, they are buttery soft, hold their shape and feel great. They are machine washable and won’t shrink. Though I was a bit worried they would be too warm, I was pleasantly surprised — the instep is cleverly stitched to expand when you put them on, allowing your foot to breathe. I happily wore them all day and into the night and later returned and bought three more pair for family members from this friendly mother-son team. Made in Charleston, South Carolina, the sock prices range from $22 to $30! ¡Excelenté! (www.LatinCollection.com)
The Alpaca Breeder’s Terminology Sourcebook by Glen M. Finbow A comprehensive publication. Filled with terminology useful to beginning breeders, it is also valuable to those who have an established program. Finbow’s goal was to create an all-inclusive guide to terms used frequently throughout the alpaca business. Terms from anatomy, breeding, shearing, judging, registries and more are edited to read concisely. Arranged in a linear format with bright yellow dividers between sections, the book is easy to search and suitable for field applications with its spiral binding and compact size. The first part is devoted to terminology with other parts defining acronyms, listing associations and making abbreviations clear. Other sections list suggested reading, research journals, web sites and other resources, including publications. Judges and veterinary teaching universities are listed with contact information. Breed standards are detailed for organizations where they exist. Measurement conversion tables are included with calendars and other tools vital to breeders. Five dollars from the sale of each copy sold is being donated to Casa Chapi, the children’s charity located in Perú. The book is available through Jay Ward at www.lightlivestockequipment.com.
Do you have a product you’d like highlighted? Let us know. We are always on the lookout for innovative, high quality alpaca products to feature on the pages of Alpaca Culture. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 105
Accoyo & Full Peruvian Lines 7JDUPSt.PVTTUBDIJPt3PZBMGBXOtÍƒ#VFOP -FHBDZt$BMJHVMBt)FNJOHXBZ
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Quality bloodlines from across the country
936-870-3988 Navasota, TX
RanchoIncaAlpacas.com ;$1$'83$'2512 Co-Owned With Xanadu Farm Alpacas
www.OutOfSightAlpacas.com t-BDFZ5PXOTIJQ /+
HERD SALE 13 female Huacaya alpacas 3 gelding Huacaya alpacas ÂŁ38,000 or high offer Wrapping the world in natural fiber
Crimping River Fiber Mill
The females are of high quality and have lineage history. The geldings do not have history and will be sold as such. Please contact us with inquiries.
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is dedicated to providing the highest quality processing solutions and innovative services for todayâ€™s fiber producers producers. Our personalized service and attention to every detail of your order will ensure you receive a product that you can spin, knit, or market with confidence and pride. We process alpaca, sheep, and goat fiber.
www.CrimpingRiverFiber.com Info@CrimpingRiverFiber.com $BNBOP*TMBOE 8"t
The British Alpaca Society (BAS) is dedicated to the welfare of alpacas and the education of their owners in the UK. The BAS provides information, support and events for alpaca owners, breeders and those interested in alpacas, as well as maintaining the pedigree register for the national herd. Membership starts from £70 and includes annual subscription to Alpaca magazine, the organisation's quarterly publication. A subscription to Alpaca magazine only is available at £25 per annum. This does not include any membership beneðts. For more information on advertising in Alpaca magazine, email email@example.com. To ðnd out more about joining the BAS and the beneðts of membership, ]PZP[!www.bas-uk.com.
Alpaca Culture • September 2012 | 107
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PROUDLY Y MADE MADE IN IN OUR OUR FACILITIES FACILIT IN CHARLESTON, SC FINALLY YOU CAN GET THE A SOCKS YOU ALWAYS WANTED MADE FROM Y YOUR OWN YARN! LC IS OFFERING THIS SERVICE TO ALL THE ALPACA FARMS WHO WANT MANUFACTU TO MANUFACTURE ALPACA SOCKS. OUR SOCKS ARE MACHINE M WASHABLE!
We also W l have h different diff t designs d i att wholesale h l l p prices i ffor th the Al Alpaca Farm Owners. For more information contact us! 108 | Alpaca Culture โข September 2012
We have raised alpacas for more than 10 years!
Empire’s Justified 4 X Color - Reserve Color Champ
ARI#: 31555197 DOB: 8/8/2010 MFI Brock Sunny Mesa’s Tuscan Gold Lionheart’s Fawn CND Accoyo Bizcocho Empire’s Simone Bizcocho Cinnamon N Sugar
Nick & Mikela Chenoweth Johnson,KS 620.492.3738 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.alpacanation.com/empire.asp
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110 | Alpaca Culture â€˘ September 2012
Snowmass Alpacas - A visionary in royal alpaca production. Snowmass has reached a thirty year goal with over 90% of the Snowmass herd being tested with fleeces in Super Royal, Royal and Baby grade. Super Royal (13-17), Royal (18-19), Baby (20-22.5)
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Snowmass Alpacas will celebrate this achievement by putting on a special auction this February which focuses on alpaca fleece as the future element in the global alpaca Industry. The sale in 2013 will be featuring a select cross section of the finest Snowmass genetic lines in every color, ready to be shown in the 2013 alpaca show rings across the US. Last year’s sale was presented as the “Winners Circle Sale.” After the show season tally, each of the alpacas that were purchased from the sale that were shown, found themselves at the top of their classes, presenting a strong testament of success for the buyers in the alpaca show circuit and more importantly a valued advancement for their alpaca breeding programs. Please see our website for highlights of last year’s sale. www.snowmassalpacas.com For 2013 you have the “Snowmass Promise” of high honor show quality genetics to be present for your selection at the “World’s Premier Alpaca Sale” February 23rd 2013 Phoenix Arizona (Corona Ranch)
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“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.” ~ John Keats
by Meyla Bianco Johnston
I was browsing in a local thrift store on an ordinary snowy day in Sandpoint, Idaho. Nothing struck me that I couldn’t live without. The usual stack of records rested in a corner, the knick knacks and dishes took their places on shelves, looking a little worse for wear. Then I saw it: the coat hung in a rack among all the ordinary London Fogs and outdated neon ski jackets. The color was what drew me first, a gorgeous honeyed amber. When I walked over to look at it more thoroughly, I was smitten. Soft and sumptuous, this was obviously a finely made garment the likes of which you don’t see every day. I took it from its plastic hanger and saw a retro label as I opened it: 100% vicuña. Even the tag was finely made and hand stitched to the garment with spiderweb-thin thread in a particular way. The lining was in terrible shape, shredded viscose or silk of some sort, I thought to myself. After a little wrangling around the lining, I was able to put it on: it fit perfectly. Obviously vintage, it has a platter-style collar and three-quarter length sleeves for wearing with gloves. When it was made, the style was known as a swing coat. From the cut, I guessed it was made in the later fifties or early sixties. The price tag read $5.99; I practically skipped to the counter to pay. When I got the coat home, I began to look closer and noticed a small white tag with faded blue printing with the letters ILGWU followed by AFL-CIO and “workers union.” After some online research, I discovered the letters stand for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which was formed in New York City in 1900. It was one of the most powerful unions and also the first major union to employ mostly women. Because of the specific design on the label I was able to narrow down the date of manufacture to between 1955 - June 28, 1963. Julie Skinner of Snowmass Alpacas suggested we have the fiber analyzed scientifically by Yocom-McColl Testing Laboratories so we would know for sure if the coat was as much of a find as we suspected. I snipped a tiny piece from the unfinished seam edge behind the lining, only about an eighth of an inch wide by maybe an inch long. The exciting results came back irrefutably vicuña. (See micron report, right). Like all the samples Julie has had analyzed over the years, she remarked that the analysis of vicuña has a “fingerprint.”
But I wanted to know a lot more. I sent an e-mail to two Antiques Roadshow appraisers who were listed as textile experts, detailing the coat’s attributes and explaining my excitement. The replies: “This is late 1950’s to early 1960’s coat. I am not sure of the manufacturer. If you wish to go to the expense of relining the coat check out the fiber content of the lining. Most from this period have a rayon taffetta, some have silk or other fabrics. To best store vintage items you could buy an acid free box and tissue to store it in. Thanks for watching our show. “ – Steven Porterfield “The coat looks as though it dates from the 1950s but I’m afraid I can’t help with identifying the manufacturer. I don’t know if any of the information on the ILGWU labels could provide clues, but it seems as though it would be very difficult to figure out which company made the coat.” – Michele Majer With virtually all of my questions still unanswered, I sent a letter to The American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts explaining that I was trying to pinppoint the date it was made and where it was manufactured.
I included photos of the coat itself as well as photos of the labels. I haven’t received a reply. After that, I also tried to contact a few private appraisers but have not had much success. How did a luxury item like this from a long gone era end up in the Panhandle Animal Shelter Thrift Store in Sandpoint, Idaho? My theory is that someone’s elderly female relative passed away and her family, cleaning out her home and closets, simply had no idea of the coat’s value. Because many Americans are often unfamiliar even with alpacas, having an understanding of its more exotic and wild ancestor, the vicuña is probably even less likely. I would like to learn much more about how and when vicuña garments have been made throughout history. Contemporary designers offer exquisite, highly sought-after garments season after season. These expensive garments often fetch tens of thousands of dollars. Many companies offer scarves and shawls, more affordable options. Alpaca Culture would like to know if anyone else out there is in possession of a vintage vicuña fiber garment and what they know about it. Write to us with your special vicuña finds, information, advice or leads. Alpaca Culture Vicuña Garment Research P.O. Box 111, Kootenai, ID 83840
Background photo © 2008 Peter Goodman.
Figure 8: USDA Weekly Wool Report (Example)
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Focus on Fiber: Learn why alpaca fiber is so incredibly appealing through real world examples and products.