Section 1.76: Suri Fiber compared to Huacaya Fiber

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Suri Fiber compared to Huacaya Fiber

Suri alpacas and Huacaya alpacas are different both in physical appearance and in the specific characteristics of their fiber. Suri alpacas appear more angular and slender due to their long, lustrous fibers that hang down against their bodies, as opposed to growing perpendicular to the skin the way Huacaya fiber does.

According to Cameron Holt:

Suri fiber is basically a straight fiber and is used like mohair for specialized fiber production. One of the main difficulties when processing Suri (like Mohair) is the requirement for some twist in the sliver so it will not pull apart during the drawing process. This is due to the lack of cohesion when spinning caused by the low, smooth cuticle scale structure. Processors have suggested that they prefer a fiber with a slight wave in preference to a straight fiber. From a breeding perspective, Dr. Julio Sumar would prefer the ringlet type, followed by the lock and twist and wave.

Suri fiber can grow in tight ringlets, wave and twist ringlets, corkscrew ringlets, large wave, broad lock, and straight lock formats. Locks can twist almost to the skin and locks can be large or small, thick or thin. Thickness does not necessarily equate to density (paraphrasing Cameron Holt). Suri is relatively rare, making up only 20% of the world’s alpaca population. The Suri is thought to be rarer, possibly because it is less hardy and less able to thrive in the harsh South American mountain climates. The Suri’s fleece offers less insulation against the cold.

  • Suri fiber, like Huacaya, can be very fine and silky, but has no crimp (or rather, should not) and thus Suri is best suited for woven goods. Its tight scale structure makes Suri difficult to dye and Suri fiber is more difficult to work with, as it is relatively heavy when compared to similar animal fibers.. 
  • Huacaya fiber shares more similarities with sheep wool than Suri, as Huacaya fleece is soft, fluffy, and crimpy. This natural crimp provides greater elasticity in Huacay yarn, making it a good choice for knits. The Huacaya’s scale structure allows it to accept dyes more readily.
  • The average annual staple length of Suri fiber is 4 to 6 inches, whereas the average annual staple length of Huacaya fiber is 3 to 5 inches.
  • Suri fiber often feels cool to the touch, which may be due to the fact that more of its straight fibers make direct contact with our skin, thereby absorbing more heat from our hands. It is thought that the denser the Suri, the cooler its fiber lock will feel.
  • Whereas the Suri has coiled locks of fiber that hang downward, the Huacaya has crimpy fiber, which act like small springs, and grow perpendicularly to the body giving Huacayas their rounded, fluffy appearance.
  • Huacaya fiber is more abundant and enjoys greater popularity in the world market. Only a small fraction of the world's alpaca population is Suri.
  • Suri and Huacaya have different scale structures. The Huacaya has a balanced ortho- and para-cortical structure, which makes its fiber curl. The Suri fiber contains an abundance of para-cortical cells, which keeps its fiber straight. The Suri fibers have different scale shape, height, and distribution than the Huacaya. This straight fiber with long, few, and smooth scales give the Suri its signature luster. The bolder, deeper crimp in Huacaya with fast growing fiber is indicative of longer scales, which in turn create its signature brightness.

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