When you think of Royalty you probably picture Prince William and Kate, or maybe Harry and Meghan. But England isn't the only country where kings and queens ruled, and ancient South American Royalty was every bit as fascinating and luxurious as European Royalty.
History of Alpaca Wool Use
It is widely believed that alpacas were utilized for their wool as far back as 4,000 BC. These animals were extremely prized, especially by the Inca people, because they exchanged woven goods as a form of currency. The finer the material and more beautiful the product, the more valued. Alpaca wool was regarded as the best available. It was worn by Royalty and was a sign of wealth and prosperity.
Why Did They Love it? (And Why You Will Too)
Alpaca fibers are often compared to cashmere in terms of softness. They have straight and smooth hair shafts which makes them comfortable to wear, even directly against the skin. There are several types of alpaca wool, each has their own benefits. If you are looking for the ultimate option for softness, baby alpaca products are sure to fit the bill.
The fibers are naturally hypoallergenic, because they lack lanolin. Alpaca wool also is known for being breathable and wicks water away from the body - keeping your skin warm and dry. This wool is not a good conductor of heat, what this means is that it takes a lot of energy to force the wool to change temperatures. This is a great quality, it means that if it's cold outside, your sweater, scarf, or mittens will stay toasty and snug. On the other hand, if it was a cool morning but is warming up in the afternoon, the heat doesn't transfer either, so you stay comfortable all day. Very few materials are as versatile as alpaca wool for this reason.
Alpaca wool clothing items are also very water resistant, this means that they are unlikely to get and stay wet for long periods of time. This doesn't mean you can weather a hurricane in alpaca wool unscathed, but you can expect to stay warm and dry if the weather turns on you.
The structure of alpaca wool fibers is fairly unique. Like polar bears, the shafts are hollow. This means that there are tiny pockets of air within each shaft, that allows air to be trapped. This keeps warm air close to the body and keeps you feeling snug. This structure also makes clothing items made from alpaca fibers light weight - which means they are as warm as heavier and bulkier clothing items.
Alpaca, like many other types of wool, is a sturdy material. In fact, it is even believed to have been used to build bridges in the ancient Andeans! It is long lasting, and resistant to many types of wear and tear. Alpaca wool specifically is resistant to the following:
This means your clothing items will maintain their shape well over time. It also means that it can generally withstand changes in temperature well.
Wrinkle resistance makes alpaca wool a favorite for those who travel often. It also means that it stands up well to being in storage.
Is there anything worse than putting on a piece of clothing and realizing it smells mildew=y? Alpaca wool is not likely to pick up smells, become moldy, or develop odors over time. This makes it an excellent sock option!
Part of this resistance is due to its water resistance, and is a huge benefit because it keeps your clothing or household items looking new and beautiful longer. (Strangely enough this doesn't apply to initial coloration, alpaca wool holds dyes extremely well, the colors are vibrant and long lasting.)
Alpaca fibers are one of the only naturally occurring fibers that does not melt easily. This can actually be a protection for anyone who is at risk of getting burned because the fibers will not melt onto the skin and cause additional damage.
Alpaca Wool Use Today
Alpaca wool is commonly used today. Many of the companies and items created are considered fair trade items and are sustainable and environmentally friendly. These items are durable, beautiful, warm, soft, and extremely comfortable. Some of the most common items available are: scarves, mittens, socks, hats, coats, and ponchos. But you can find almost anything made from alpaca, from home insulation and rugs to baby toys.