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What is Baby Alpaca Yarn?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 29, 2024
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Baby alpaca yarn is yarn spun from alpaca fiber that is fine enough to be classified as “baby alpaca.” Alpaca fiber is classified not by age of the animal, but by the diameter of the hair. Baby alpaca is the finest, softest yarn, and it is highly prized for knitting and other crafts. It also tends to be very costly.

Alpacas are camelids related to llamas and vicunas. They grow coats of dense, fine hair that is very strong and has superb insulating properties. They are periodically sheared so that their fleeces can be combed, sorted, and spun into yarn and thread. Alpaca yarns are extremely warm, very soft, and somewhat shiny or glossy. They do not repel water well because alpacas do not produce lanolin.

In the case of baby alpaca yarn, the yarn is made with alpaca hair that is 21-23 microns wide. Superfine alpaca yarn is made with somewhat larger hairs, while suri is the coarsest alpaca fiber. People who are experienced with handling and processing alpaca hair can grade the raw fiber by weight, feel, and heft. Grading takes place soon after shearing to determine how much a given alpaca fleece is worth.

Alpacas naturally come in an array of colors including cream, gray, and brown. Undyed baby alpaca yarn is available in many hues and shades that people can blend if desired, and it also comes in an array of weights, from very fine yarns for projects like socks to chunkier novelty yarns. Dyed baby alpaca yarn is produced with both natural and synthetic dyes in an array of colors and can be suitable for many different types of crafting projects.

Spinners can use various techniques to produce baby alpaca yarn, including twisting multiple strands together and creating fiber blends with other materials. People who are interested in producing their own yarns can purchase raw fiber from fiber cooperatives, knitting suppliers, and alpaca farmers. The level of processing the fiber has been subjected to can vary. Sometimes it is sold all ready for spinning and in other cases it must be prepared.

Working with baby alpaca yarn is usually very easy. The yarn is soft and flexible without being excessively stretchy and it can be worked in a variety of gauges. After a knitting project is finished, it should be washed and blocked out to hold its shape. Washing with cool to warm water with mild soap or detergent and hanging dry or drying on a low heat cycle is recommended.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Clairdelune — On Oct 26, 2011

Whenever I go for a walk, I pass by a small alpaca farm. There are about six or seven alpacas in the pastures. They are very cute and fun to watch. Some alpaca owners raise them to sell to others. But many more sell the hair to someone who makes yarn. Alpaca sweaters and other clothing items are very expensive, but beautiful.

I saw the alpacas just days after they were shorn. They looked funny after their haircut. I had a chance to pet the alpacas and found their hair to be extremely fine and soft. I don't know whether I was petting an alpaca with superfine baby hair or not. Anyway, I'd love to have a baby alpaca sweater one day.

By KaBoom — On Oct 26, 2011

@strawCake - I've heard that too. I think it depends on what you're allergic too. For instance, if you're allergic to lanolin alpaca would probably solve the problem. But I bet you're just highly allergic to animals in general.

I know alpaca yarn is pretty well suited to a lot of different projects. But not if you live in a warm climate. I read somewhere that alpaca is even warmer than wool (and wool is pretty warm!)I have a good friend who lives in Florida who knitted herself a thin alpaca scarf. Even though it's thin, it's still too warm to wear in Florida!

By strawCake — On Oct 26, 2011

@aLFredo - That's funny. My boyfriend is an audiovisual technician, and he works at a lot of conferences. He's always coming home with some interesting story about a conference. I think the strangest one he ever told me about was a corrugated box convention he teched for (seriously, I'm not making that up.)

Anyway, I'm a knitter and I'm allergic to wool. Like, hives and itchy swollen eyes allergic. But I heard that sometimes people who are allergic to wool can use alpaca. In fact, I've even heard the word "hypoallergenic" bandied about.

However, I tried baby alpaca dk yarn and it gave me hives too. I just can't win. I think I'm going to have to just stick with the non-animal fibers.

By runner101 — On Oct 25, 2011

@aLFredo - Not to worry – just like in other farming practices there are probably some farms that do not take the best care of their animals but there are alpaca farm websites out there that show the care they take in their alpaca keeping and alpaca shearing process.

So the good news is that with the glorious ease of the internet, you could find where your alpaca yarn came from if how well the alpacas are taken care of is a worry, but if you are looking to actually purchase an alpaca - I can't help you there, my one year old labrador retriever keeps me busy enough!

By aLFredo — On Oct 24, 2011

I have never actually come in contact with alpaca yarn, but I had recently learned about alpacas from a friend of mine and I just could not believe it so I thought I would see what else I could learn about this animal with a funny name.

My friend learned about it when he went to do some video and multi media work for a conference and the conference ended up being a conference for alpaca owners!

I thought that was just outrageous, but he went on to tell me about how the alpaca's wool makes for this ridiculously amazing yarn.

I had to tell him that I had heard of crazier things - I once read a short story on how to use dog hair for sweaters.

Now after reading this article and seeing my friend's crazy conference story is legit apparently - maybe I should jump on the alpaca bandwagon. I wonder how alpacas would like our North Carolina climate...

Unless, of course, it bothers the alpacas to have their hair taken off... I would not want alpacas to be harmed for soft sweaters!

By popcorn — On Oct 24, 2011

@manykitties2 - If you don't want to make a sweater with the baby alpaca yarn you have why not make some nice socks or a scarf? If the yarn is really chunky you may even want to consider making a small rug out of it, or perhaps a throw for your couch. It really depends on how much your mom gave you.

As for care of baby alpaca yarn you're in luck.

Baby alpaca yarn doesn't need to be dry cleaned, in fact, you can just wash it with cool water and a bit of baby shampoo to keep it looking great. Though remember that it should be hand washed and hung to dry. I would hate to see what a dryer would do to it.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 23, 2011

My mom recently gave me some baby alpaca chunky yarn that she got on sale at the craft store and I am wondering what to do with it. Does anyone have any projects that are well suited for chunky yarn?

I am considering making a light sweater with it but it seems to me that the yarn may be a bit too thick for that. It doesn't ever get really cold where I live so a thick sweater really wouldn't be much use.

Also, once I have a finished project, how do you care for baby alpaca yarn? Do I need to take it to the dry cleaners?

I currently have some sweaters that are dry clean only and I admit that they are a bit of a pain to look after.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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