Alpaca should be cared for exactly like wool. They should be stored neatly folded, not hung, in a moth-proof environment. They can be hand-washed in cold water and laid flat to dry, or dry-cleaned. With this care, an alpaca sweater should stand up to years of everyday usage with few signs of wear.
If someone were to tell me they had found a fiber that was silky and soft, yet never pilled nor showed its age, I would be skeptical. Yet these characteristics perfectly describe Alpaca, making it the darling of foreign fashion designers. Exported from only two countries, Peru and Bolivia, we travel to South America year after year to offer this rare and valuable fiber in the form of sweaters, hats and more. While typically more expensive than wool, Alpaca’s silky feel and amazing durability make it a great value that will stay beautiful for many years to come.
Alpaca is a durable fiber that comes from a New World branch of the camel family that lives in the Andes Mountains at altitudes of 11,000 to 16,000 feet.
Alpacas, however, are anything but wild; they have been bred over the course of millennia, probably from their smaller cousin, the vicuña. Their fur has been a trade item in the Andes for thousands of years, as high-altitude cultures like Tihuanaco and the Incas traded it with hotter coastal cultures below.
During the Inca Empire (1200 AD-1532 AD), only the royal family could use clothing made of alpaca. In those days, alpaca was woven into tight rectangles of colorful cloth, which were in turn draped or wrapped around the body, or sometimes joined into tunics. Knitting did not exist, but examples of masterfully crocheted four-cornered hats are still found in Inca graves.