How to recognize real alpaca fabrics?

How can i recognize real Alpaca Wool fabrics?

What would Peru be without alpacas and alpaca wool? The alpaca is the emblem of Peru, the symbol of the mythical cultures, and one of the finest and noblest fabrics in the world. The fleece of the animals has different wool qualities, the quality of the fibers depends on their length and thickness.

If you ever go on vacation in the former empire of the Incas and buy alpaca clothing on one of the numerous markets around Cusco, you will learn here – how to distinguish real alpaca from fakes.

Recognize real alpaca wool - Based on the optics

Nevertheless, there are a few points you can orientate yourself on: Already, the appearance reveals quite a lot about whether you are holding a product made of genuine alpaca wool in your hands.

One thing in advance: Alpaca wool cannot be identified by its color because there are about 22 different shades in which the fine fabric presents itself. At the same time, alpaca wool in Peru is often dyed with natural colors.

But: alpaca wool has an exceptional glow, by which you can determine the authenticity of this exclusive fabric. The silky shimmer of the fabric is unique. Less high-quality wool can be quickly recognized as such by the trained eye.

At the same time, the individual alpaca fibers are very fine, which explains the high wearing comfort. Thick threads you will not find in a high-quality alpaca garment.

Haptics: How does real alpaca fabric feel like?

Colorful Alpaca Cloth at Mercado San Pedro
Colorful Alpaca Cloth at Mercado San Pedro
Traditional Alpaca Weaver - Peru
Traditional Alpaca Weaver - Peru

Alpaca wool feels very soft and smooth on the skin – rub the fabric on the skin so you will not feel any unpleasant scratching.

You can also recognize genuine alpaca wool by the fact that the fabric does not become electrostatically charged. If your hair stands on end after a friction test, it is a sign that this is not real alpaca fabric or at least alpaca wool with synthetic fiber content.

Do a little more research before buying alpaca products. You can distinguish fakes and determine the grade and quality of alpaca fabrics because here, too, there are differences.

There are three different varieties, which differ from each other in their softness:

  • Raw Alpaca Wool: Stronger yarns are often used for raw wool, for example, for knitting. Here the thickness is more than 30 microns – which is still a very fine fiber.
  • Medium Alpaca: Is often used for garments that are not worn directly next to the skin (coats jackets) 22- 30 microns.
  • Baby Alpaca: The Baby Alpaca quality grade with a maximum of 23 microns also feels very soft and gentle on the skin.
  • Royal Baby Alpaca: The finest alpaca wool is the so-called Baby Royal class. The fibers are particularly fine, with a thickness of only 19 microns.

Alpaca Throw Blanket - Hypoallergen

Alpaca Throw Blanket - Hypoallergen

Alpaca - Sheep Wool Blanket

 * Disclosure: Links marked with Asterix or some picture links on world’s-finest-wool are affiliate links.  All our work is reader-supported – when you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. The decision is yours – whether you decide to buy something is entirely up to you.

Detect counterfeits with synthetic fibers

The Burn Test:

With the burn test, you can tell if it is real alpaca hair or if synthetic fibers have been added. All you need is a few fine fibers from an alpaca textile, a lighter and a “good nose”:

Pluck out a few fibers. Light them with the lighter. Viscose smells like burnt paper. Polyester burns in a bright and large flame.

Alpaca, however, is not very flammable and smells rather sweet. You can rub the resulting nodules very easily between your fingers – like ash.

With the burning test, you can only tell if synthetic fibers have been added. Whether other types of wool are contained cannot be determined with the burn test.

Textile Fibers Burning Test by: chemixish

More details about the Burn Test you will find here!

Be careful with bargain offers

If you look for cheap alpaca wool products in retail stores or online shops, you will be quickly disappointed. The prices are not really among the lowest – for a quality alpaca sweater, a price below 100 euros is simply utopian, mainly due to the rarity of the material.

One alpaca provides wool for one sweater per year. The price simply can not be less than three digits.

However, a comparison shows that prices vary widely – and not without reason: often, garments are branded with the term “alpaca,” which contain only a tiny proportion of the noble twine.

It is often advertised as “sweaters made of alpaca wool” and an unbeatable price – but a closer look at the label reveals disillusionment, as often only about one-third of the material is actually made of alpaca wool.

Only if the garment really contains 100 percent alpaca wool, it may also say “100 percent alpaca wool” on it – if you buy from a trustworthy retailer, you may also trust this label.

Process of natural dyeing of alpaca and llama wool - Cusco
Process of natural dyeing of alpaca and llama wool - Cusco

Why are alpaca fibers so valuable?

The real value of the alpaca fiber is in the alpaca itself.

Alpacas have their home in the Andes. They live at an altitude of over 3000 meters, close to the equator. The sun burns intensely during the day, and the alpaca’s fleece must protect the animals from UV radiation and overheating.

At night, the temperature drops below freezing. Then the wool must warm the body and avoid hypothermia. In the monsoon, thick clouds move from the Amazon basin over the mighty mountains. It rains heavily or snows. The fleece must not clump and must keep out bacteria.

The alpacas live in an extreme environment with significant temperature differences, which has led to an exceptional wool quality with excellent thermal properties.

Quality Factors:

  • Fleece density
  • Fleece weight:  Fleece that is obtained from the neck, chest, belly and legs of alpacas. Animals with a higher fleece weight are better protected against the weather and show less dirt in the fleece. They also produce a greater yield.
  • Staple length (hair length): Fiber growth varies from 70-200 mm per year. Therefore, hair length shortens in older and pregnant animals. 
  • Uniformity of color
  • The shine of the fibers: Due to undersupply of nutrients, stress, or disease, fibers lose their unique shine.
  • Variation in the fineness of the fibers: The more uniform the fibers, the more valuable.
  • Comfort factor: The comfort factor indicates how many fibers over 30 microns are present in a sample. Fibers above 30 microns cause the “tingling effect” and are thus perceived as uncomfortable on the skin.  With a Comfort Factor of 100, there are no fibers above 30 microns.
Alpacas in Cusco
Alpacas in Cusco

Recognizing genuine alpaca wool is certainly not always easy and evaluating the quality is probably even harder. Hopefully, this article could help you a little in a purchase decision for a garment made of alpaca!

As always, an essential point of reference is the price. If an offer is too tempting, it is rarely a product made from 100 percent alpaca wool – which, of course, does not have to rule out the odd bargain completely.

However, it is always worth looking twice.

Related Topics: 

The Mystery of Alpaca: Ancient Inca Civilization and Modern Luxury Fiber

Popular Markets in Bolivia – Where to buy Souveniers and Alpaca Cloth?

Care for Alpaca Cloth Properly

Knitting with Alpaca Wool

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