The alpaca and its relatives, the llama, vicuna and guanaco are part of the camelid family and have for thousands of years been important to the people of the ancient South American Andean civilizations. They played a vital role in the daily life of the Andean people by providing fleece and wool for clothing and blankets, but also for their meat.
During the ancient Inca times, alpaca fibre wool was highly revered, and reserved for use only by royalty and the nobility. These enchanting animals were said to have been created by Inti, the Sun God, as a gift to the Inca people of Peru. Alpaca fleece, Fibre of the Gods.
In the mid 1800’s, the Europeans started to import alpaca animals and their fibre wool soon became very popular in high end fashion apparel. The commercial importation of Alpacas into Australia commenced in the late 1990's. The Australian animal population in 2019 is over 200,000 registered alpacas in Australia which is the largest population outside of South America.
Within the alpaca species, there are two distinct types, Huacaya and the Suri. The more numerous is the Huacaya which has a higher crimp and luxuriously soft and denser fibre suitable for bedding filling. Huacaya fleece is also a semi hollow fibre which explains its unique lightweight feel and its superior thermal and warmth performance in bedding products. Suri fleece is exclusively used in knitted and woven luxury fashion garments. Alpaca wool fleece does not have lanolin and therefore does not require chemical scouring to clean the fibre.
Rarer than cashmere, there is only approximately 5.000 tonnes of alpaca fibre produced globally each year. This compares with over 500 million tonnes of sheep’s wool. In Australia, alpacas are shorn once a year, usually between September and November and each animal will yield approximately three to four kilograms of fleece. Alpaca fleece comes in a wide range of microns, from 14um, superfine to coarse thicknesses of 35+um. Interestingly, as alpacas get older their fleece micron increases, unlike sheep’s wool, so the shorn fleece from younger animals is significantly softer and is therefore highly desired.
There are many different natural fibre types used in today's quilts. Alpaca fleece is a rare, exotic natural fibre used in fashion, apparel and woven blankets for thousands of years, however, its use in bedding is relatively new. Until 2000, alpaca quilts, duvets, doonas and comforters were almost unknown apart from a handful of alpaca breeders who made some rudimentary hand-made alpaca quilts for their private use.
Kelly & Windsor Australia is recognized as being the world's leading manufacturer of premium quality luxury alpaca bedding accessories, quilts, duvets, doonas, comforters, pillows and underblankets. We have extensive experience, expertise and knowledge in the processing of alpaca fibre wool.
It is our experience for more than 20 years which has established Kelly & Windsor as the global innovative leader in this ultra-niche market of bedding luxury.