Alpacas originated from the western Alto Plano (high plains) of the Andes mountains, which are over 4,000 metres high with extreme climatic variations with hot summer days and very cold winter nights.
Over thousands of years, alpacas have adapted to these harsh climatic conditions, especially with regards to the evolution of their ‘double fleece’.
Alpaca ‘double fleece’ is actually two distinctly separate fibres, an inner fleece and an outer guard hair which work in tandem to protect the animal in all climatic conditions. In summer it provides cooling, in winter it provides warmth.
The excellent thermal properties which have evolved over thousands of years make alpaca fleece unique.
The inner layer of ultra soft, semi hollow fibres next to the alpaca’s skin is exceptionally soft and lightweight. This provides excellent thermal properties to cool the animal in very high altitude hot summer days. For very cold winter nights the inner fleece insulates and warms the animal.
The outer alpaca fibres, guard hairs, are characterized by their high micron (thickness) and little crimp, neither being desirable in bedding products.
After the shearing of an alpaca, the soft inner fleece and the coarse outer guard hairs are intermingled.
Guard fibres add weight without any corresponding warmth and they are the primary cause of “fibre migration”, where the alpaca guard fibres can migrate through a quilts outer cover.
It is therefore very important to remove the outer guard hairs so they are not included in a quilt’s filling.
Kelly & Windsor uses a proprietary “MicroCombed” fibre processing to separate these two fibres. This is a difficult and slow process, but essential to obtain optimal softness, loft and performance of an alpaca quilt.
The manufacture of the highest quality alpaca quilts requires extensive experience to effectively separate these two fibre types, so that only the soft inner fleece is used in filling an alpaca quilt.
I have written several articles about alpacas and their wonderful fleece.
To read more, please click on the headlines below -
I have also prepared two PDF flyers on this subject for further reading -
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