Friday, April 9, 2010
Alpacas are not always "Baby"
One of the most luxurious wools is the one that comes from the alpaca, a camelid native to the South American Andes. Out of the four native camelids (the others are the llamas, vicuñas and guanacos), alpacas are the most widely known. Vicuñas are an endangered species and its wool is extremely expensive.
Baby alpaca wool is quite soft. So when shopping for Alpaca goods—scarves, hats, sweaters, ponchos, you name it—beware of the vendors who will try to convince you that their goods are “baby alpaca.”
You don’t need to be an expert to notice what is baby alpaca or not. Adult alpaca wool can be a little thicker and itchy. It also comes blended with synthetic materials, so if you see that the garment is a little shiny that means that it’s not pure alpaca wool. A textile artist told me that real alpaca feels cold when you touch it.
Once when I was shopping a vendor kept saying that his goods were baby alpaca. I responded with a smirk: “I think these are from the grandma alpaca.” Fortunately he had a good sense of humor.