Section 1.75: Alpaca Compared to Synthetics

Alpaca are renowned for producing the world’s most sustainable luxury fiber. Alpaca Fiber can be eco-friendly, softer than cashmere, and warm as polar bear fleece.

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Alpaca Fiber Compared to Synthetics

Synthetic fibers became very popular among consumers during the last fifty or so years, as they were affordably produced on a mass scale. According to “Natural Fibers Online – 2009:” 

Over the past half century, natural fibers have been displaced in our clothing, household furnishings, industries and agriculture by man-made fibers with names like acrylic, nylon, polyester and polypropylene. The success of synthetics is due mainly to cost. Unlike natural fibers harvested by farmers, commonly used synthetic fibers are mass-produced from petrochemicals to uniform strengths, lengths, and colors, easily customized to specific applications. 

More recently, however, consumers have become more aware that oil reserves are not without limit and that as oil becomes more scarce prices per barrel will continue to rise and fluctuate wildly. These fluctuations tend to wreak worldwide economic havoc. Fortunately, America is “going green” and alpaca, unlike nylon and its oil-based relatives, is sustainable, renewable, and earth-friendly. Our alpaca herds, and their fleece, can provide an ever-growing supply of natural, ecologically sound, multi-use fiber. Many people feel that oil-based textiles and clothing will soon be considered politically incorrect and, ultimately, become obsolete. As oil reserves dwindle or become more difficult to harvest, the price of synthetics is likely to rise.

  • Rayon is a generic term for man-made fibers composed of regenerated cellulose derived from trees, cotton, and woody plants. Characteristics include high absorbency, bright or dull luster, pleasant feel or hand, good draping qualities, ability to be dyed into brilliant colors, and superior strength.
  • Tencel is a relatively new fiber created from the wood pulp of specially selected trees, processed in a high-chemical, but environmentally safe way. Tencel was introduced to the world of apparel in 1992 and was the first new fiber introduction in over thirty years. Tencel’s fiber characteristics include a subtle luster, highwash stability, extremely low shrinkage, and good tear resistance. 
  • Nylon is the generic term for man-made fibers composed of polyamides derived from coal and petroleum. Characteristics include high strength, elasticity, low water absorption, and quick drying time. Nylon does not “breathe” the way natural fibers, like alpaca, do; rather it creates a “sweat suit” environment for the wearer.

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