Alpaca yarn is a natural fiber that is softer and more lightweight than ordinary knitting wool. It is also extremely strong, silky and hypoallergenic, without the itchiness of wool. Whereas wool is constructed with tiny scales that run along the strands that can irritate the skin, alpaca has a smoother surface and is lanolin-free and dust-resistant.
Alpaca is typically spun right after shearing, unlike wool, which requires the application of synthetic chemicals to remove the lanolin.
Alpaca strands are also hollow, making them breathable and giving them the capacity to hold heat and insulate wearers from cold temperatures. Alpaca drapes beautifully and works as a replacement for wool when knitting shawls or accessories. Unlike wool, it is naturally elastic and ideal for knitting. When stretched, it doesn’t shrink back into place, making it perfect for creating stitches in crochet and knitting that are full and open.
Alpaca also differs from wool in that it naturally repels water. It has a higher tensile strength than wool but possesses a very light and fine fleece. Alpaca fibers are predominantly white but come in 22 natural shades that range from black to brown, fawn and silver-grey.
Additionally, alpaca is naturally flame-resistant and has higher anti-microbial properties than sheep’s wool.