Alpaca or cashmere - These advantages have alpaca wool
We love alpaca and have plenty of good reasons for it.
The small camel species was already bred 7000 years ago in the South American Andes. At that time, garments made of alpaca wool were a sign of wealth and prosperity and were reserved primarily for the Inca nobility. And even thousands of years later, the positive properties of the wool are appreciated for clothing and home textiles and represent a high-quality and above all sustainable alternative to cashmere.
Here you will learn what makes alpaca wool so special, what differences it shows compared to cashmere and what the natural material is used for.
Alpaca or cashmere - similarities and differences
Both types of wool are obtained from animals from the highlands. While alpacas come mainly from the Andes, the largest producing countries of cashmere today are Mongolia and China by a large margin. Furthermore, the extraction of cashmere has a long tradition in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal.
At altitudes of over 4000 meters, both animal species must protect themselves from low temperatures. Therefore, the undercoat of alpacas and cashmere goats is shown to be particularly warm, light and flexible.
The sustainability of alpacas
While both types of wool are a high-quality material for clothing and home textiles, the extraction of alpaca wool, however, is much more sustainable than that of cashmere.
One reason for this is the amount of wool obtained from one animal. Only after 4-5 years can be obtained from a goat about 150 grams of cashmere. Alpacas not only produce more wool, but are also sheared every 12 to 18 months. It takes about 16 cashmere goats to obtain the same amount of wool that a single alpaca provides!
The introduction of cashmere into fast fashion has caused demand for the cuddly raw material to soar. It is estimated that 140 million cashmere goats are kept in Inner Mongolia for this reason alone - causing serious environmental problems: Huge herds of cashmere goats lead to overgrazing and clear-cutting, desertification of the barren pastures, soil erosion and disturbance of the ecological balance.
Alpaca husbandry, on the other hand, is environmentally friendly. While herds of goats leave damage in the soil with their hooves, alpacas are equipped with padded calluses on their feet and leave their grazing areas undamaged.
There is also a big difference when it comes to eating: Alpacas do not tear plants out of the ground by the roots, but cut them with their teeth. Thus, no roots are destroyed, but rather the growth of the grasses is stimulated. The animals are also not choosy with their food, but eat, among other things, brushwood and grasses that cannot be digested by other animals. They are not greedy eaters like goats, but stop grazing when their hunger is satisfied.
Species appropriate animal husbandry
Sustainable alpaca free-range farming in the Andes of Peru.
For both cashmere and alpaca wool, special attention must be paid to animal husbandry. Alpacas are herd animals. Therefore, it is important that they are not kept alone and have enough free run. A permanent stable keeping is not suitable for them.
The main producer for the European market of cashmere is Inner Mongolia in northern China, a region with a lack of animal welfare guidelines.
When shearing the wool, care must be taken to ensure that the situation is as stress-free as possible for the animals. Seals such as GOTS or RWS can help to pay attention to appropriate husbandry when buying alpaca wool. And yet: smaller farms can usually not afford these seals despite species-appropriate husbandry. Therefore, before buying clothing and home textiles, ask the manufacturer about the origin of the wool.
Natural material quality
Cashmere and alpaca are equally fine twists that hardly differ in the feel of their wool. But alpaca wool scores not only in sustainability, but also in quality. In direct comparison, the fibers are longer and thicker than cashmere fibers. As a result, textiles made from alpaca wool are much more robust and resistant. Nevertheless, the material remains as soft and supple as cashmere and shows a natural sheen in comparison, which surpasses the matte appearance of cashmere.
Alpaca wool is naturally water repellent and is considered particularly easy to care for. This property makes the fibers less susceptible to soiling and ensures their odor-neutral character. Unlike alpaca fibers, cashmere retains odors and therefore requires frequent dry cleaning.
A special feature of alpaca wool is also the hollow, thermoregulating fibers - ideal for people who freeze a lot, but also sweat easily. The thermal insulation properties of alpaca fiber is unbeatable. Because it doesn't retain moisture, alpaca keeps you warm all year round by adjusting to your body temperature.
What makes alpaca wool even more advantageous is its natural color variety in over 20 natural shades - a big plus when it comes to sustainability, because no chemicals have to be used to dye the wool. The colors offer a wide range from white tones to beige and gray tones to black.
Whether light bedspreads, pillowcases or warm wool blankets for the winter, with the wool of alpacas you bring a luxurious and sustainable material into your home.
Images from By Native and Allpa.