Last weekend, we participated in the Fair Trade Holiday Festival here in Madison. One of our perennial best sellers – the Baby Alpaca Scarf – was featured in our booth. More than once, I heard a passersby say something to the effect, “wow, that’s so soft, but I just don’t like the idea of baby alpacas being sheared.”
After politely correcting this misconception throughout the day, it was clear we needed to do some educating on what baby alpaca actually is and is not.
Contrary to what the name might suggest, baby alpaca refers to fleece that is sheared from the very softest parts of adult alpacas (not babies). The parts that don’t come into much contact with the ground, shrubs, or trees – namely the tops of the shoulders and upper back.
Technically, baby alpaca means the fibers are no more than 21.5 microns in diameter. These ultra-fine fibers are stunningly soft and lightweight, but stronger and less prone to pilling than sheep’s wool. It’s also seven times warmer but even more breathable than wool thanks to microscopic air pockets in the fibers.
Many people who have skin sensitivities to wool can wear alpaca without problems. Because it’s free of the lanolin found in wool which can cause a mild allergic reaction.
But wait, there’s more! You know that $50 cashmere sweater you saw at the mall? Yeah, that’s probably environmentally damaging factory-farm cashmere. Our alpacas are raised by small-scale herders and are free to roam far and wide in the spectacular mountains of Peru, like they have for thousands of years since before the time of the Incas. Our production team works closely with the herders to maximize their economic opportunities while also giving support to local health care and education programs. With Fair Indigo Alpaca, there’s a whole lotta warmth to go around.