All About Fiber
Llama and alpaca
fiber is a luxury to work with and a favorite
of fiber artists.
With the improved breeding and care of
llamas and alpacas here in North America over
the years, the difference between working with
their fiber is merely in the name of the
animal, not in the fiber.
Many llamas have fiber
superior to alpacas and many alpacas have
fiber superior to llamas.
It just depends on the individual
selective breeding and good nutrition, the
coats of llamas and alpacas have improved
immensely and both type of fiber (referred to
as wool) is soft and luxurious.
For pieces of clothing, both fibers are
extremely warm and do not have the “prickly”
quality as does wool from sheep.
In South America,
where both the llama and the alpaca
originated, fiber is still an industry and is
graded by quality, not by the origin of the
best quality fiber is called “alpaca”
regardless of the animal it was harvested from
and the lower quality fiber is called
“llama” even though it may actually have
from an alpaca.
So when you see a garment made in South
America labeled as “alpaca”, it very well
could actually be “llama”.
This labeling in
South America has wrongly labeled the llama
fiber second place to alpaca fiber in this
However, if you have ever sheared both
llamas and alpacas, you’ll immediately
recognize that llama fiber very often has the
same soft and luxurious quality fiber than
alpacas are known for.
How often llamas and alpaca are sheared
determines the length of the staple on each
individual animal. On an average, alpacas seem to exhibit more denseness in
their fiber, however, when spinning, both the
llama and the alpaca fiber are spinner’s
The very finest
fiber known comes from a cousin of the llama
and alpaca, the vicuña.
produces a small amount of extremely fine
fiber which is extremely expensive because the
animal can only be shorn every three years.
In 2009, one kilogram of clean Vicuña
fiber was priced at US $650.00.
"Current prices for vicuña yarns and
fabrics can range from $1,800 to $3,000 per
yard. Vicuña fiber can be used for apparel
(such as socks, sweaters, accessories, shawls,
coats, and suits) and home fashion (such as
blankets and throws). A scarf costs around
$1500 while a man's coat can cost up to
$20,000." It is reported in
history that the Incas highly valued the vicuña
for its wool and that it was against
the law for anyone but royalty to wear vicuña
Luckily, with the
increased population of llama and alpacas in
this country, and with the many people who
enjoy working with their fiber, we can all
enjoy the elegance of a garment made of llama
or alpaca fiber.