An alpaca is an animal from the Andes and belongs to the Camelidae family. The first time that alpaca wool was used as a fabric was in 1836 by Sir Titus Salt who mixed it with silk and started to sell it. In 1840 due to the silk-like appearance but cheaper price it became popular. At that time it was used to make external parts and coat linings. At the end of the 19th century, the alpaca started to be mixed with cotton and started to be used more for the production of dresses and costumes until the middle of the 20th century. From then on, in the 1950s, alpaca fabric began to be synonymous of rayon crepe fabric with a firm texture.

Alpaca wool is pure animal fur and can be found in different shades of white, even pure white, and brown. The fiber goes through the combing, carding and spinning process and is finally cleaned. There are two types of alpacas, Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya has dense and curly wool whereas Suri has long, straight and very shiny wool, in addition to being rarer than Huacaya, this being 90% of the alpaca population.

Today alpaca wool continues to be a luxury item, especially wool from Suris alpacas, and can be used for making clothes of all kinds in addition to bed, table and bath items and is also used in tapestry, bedspreads, cushions and upholstery. Since alpaca wool has lanolin, which turns it into a hypoallergenic fiber, it can be used for making baby products.

Alpaca grooming is always done in November, before summer arrives, for the animals’ comfort and hygiene.

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Bibliography: Callan, Georgina O’Hara; Enciclopédia da moda de 1840 à década de 90 / Georgina O’Hara Callan ; verbetes brasileiros Cynthia Garcia : tradução Glória Maria de Mello Carvalho, Maria Ignez França – São Paulo : Companhia das Letras, 2007.

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