I often hear alpaca being referred to as the ‘Fibre of the Gods’ and I can certainly understand why. The animals themselves are closely tied to cultural practices for Andeans people and prior to colonisation, the image of the alpaca, in the form of canopas (small figures carved from stone and used in traditional rituals), were used in rituals and in religious practices. Since the people in the region depended heavily on these animals for their sustenance, the alpaca was seen as a gift from Pachamama, a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. There is evidence that royal cloth was woven from alpaca.
It is said that alpacas came to be in the world after a goddess fell in love with a man, bringing a herd of alpacas with her, and when he failed to care for a young alpaca, she fled home, through the swamp lands, taking most of her the alpacas with her. The man prevented some of the alpacas from leaving the world and it has been said that the alpacas who didn’t make it back can be seen in today’s alpacas in the swampy lands in the Andes waiting so they can return to their goddess. Alpaca brings with it a very ancient and fascinating history, steeped in mythology, and stories told through history. Alpacas also bring textile tradition that has survived through the ages in woven and hand dyed clothing.
Today there are two types of alpacas – Huacaya (pronounced Wuh-kai-ya) and the Suri. Huacaya fibre is similar to sheep fibre with a crimpy structure to the fibre but without the lanolin. Suri fibre can be described as a flat fibre that handles and behaves like silk when processed and dyed. the fibre hangs in locks from the alpacas and is considered to be a premium fibre.
Suri has a superior handle than other fibres because the scales along the shaft of the fibre have a longer and tighter profile, providing a very smooth surface. Suri also has very little medullation course, hollow fibres which cause prickling and do not process or dye as well as normal fibres). Suri has the softness of cashmere, lustre of silk, warmth and featherweight of goose down and durability of wool.
The image shows the difference between the different types of fibre under a microscope. The reason why alpaca, especially suri, is soft against the skin is the smoother scale surface of the fibre than sheep wool. Suri alpaca is very similar to the image shown as silk, a flat smooth surface.
On our farm, One Tree Hill, we grow only Huacaya alpacas however for our Huacaya Suri blend yarns we source premium Australian alpaca fibre to blend with our Huacaya.
When hand dyed, the suri fibre behaves like silk, making a very silky and shiny end product, that I just love! We now stock a range of natural and hand dyed (by me) 100% suri yarn that is just stunning!! Stunning! It is very beautiful and would make the most beautiful knitted or even woven into a stunning and very soft shawl. Why not try some suri today!