Is Alpaca Wool the softest wool?
When you touch alpaca fleece or wool for the first time, you might wonder how this compares to your secondhand camel jacket, merino wool leggings, or standard wool socks. Simply put, is alpaca wool the softest wool?
Alpaca wool is experienced as very soft and ranks in the world's top picks of softest fabrics. The micron count of alpaca wool ranges from 16 to 30 microns. The finest category of alpaca wool is ‘Royal Alpaca’ and averages at 18 microns, slightly above the finest wool, which is qiviut at a 12-14 micron count.
Come along with us to learn about the different types of alpaca wool and how they compare to some fluffy alternatives.
How do you measure 'softness'?
Micrometers are the defining metric to measure the ‘fineness’ of a fiber. Measuring the diameter of the fiber is replicable, objective, and can be standardized across all fibers in the world. Referring to ‘softness’ is a bit more difficult because softness is subjectiv as this example shows.
A construction worker who works with his hands 6 days a week will experience a different kind of softness than someone who has got more sensitive skin. Asking these persons which wool type is the softest might result in very subjective answers. That’s why fineness is the defining metric for wool.
Microns (μm) are the diameter of the fiber itself measured in millimeters. 1 micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter (0.001mm). A low micron count is generally accepted to mean that a fabric is softer.
Why does a low micron count equal a softer fabric?
Small diameter fibers have smaller scales that are less likely to stick out or be coarse. Miniscule scales that stick out we experience as the wool prickle. Each type of wool is defined by the type of such scales present.
Remember the first time you did put on grandma’s knitted Christmas sweater or scarf for the first time? Itchy right? That's the wool prickle 😉
How fine is alpaca wool?
Alpaca wool has multiple degrees of fineness. So, do not mistake alpaca wool as being just one specific quality of fineness only. Within alpaca wool, you can make the distinction ranging from strong to royal.
Source: Information from Alpacas of Montana, Blog (May 12th, 2012). Design by Inkari.
Alpaca wool compared to other wooly animals
It might be possible in the nearby future to compare alpaca wool with that of a wooly mammoth. Until that moment arrives, we compare alpaca wool to some of the most famous alternatives in the wool community at this moment.
Is Alpaca Wool softer than Vicuña Wool?
No, the vicuña can be considered a softer cousin of the alpaca. Also roaming the Andean Highlands, the highly protected vicuña can be shorn once every two years by a select permitted few. The average vicuña fiber is 12,5 microns and more uniform in color, length and strength than alpaca fiber (source: Oakgrove).
Did you know that vicuña fiber is the most expensive fiber in the world? Though alpacas might not be the number one for softness, they do hold the world record for cutest wooly animal😉
Is Alpaca Wool softer than Camel Wool?
It all depends. You might have heard of the trendy item that every girl or guy should have in their closet: the timeless ‘camel coat’. While we often think of coarser hair due to camels’ rugged look, the range on average lies between 5-40 microns.
A distinction can be made between the soft coat and the coarser hairs. Inner soft coats and baby camel are often used for finer items, while coarse hairs are used for the coats, blankets and rugs.
Is Alpaca Wool softer than Merino?
The sheep that produce Merino are also from the Highlands, though a different part of the world. You’ll find these sheep in Australia and New Zealand.
Similar to Alpaca Wool, Merino has a great variety of micron ranges within the wool type. Ranging from 11,5-15 microns (Ultra-Fine) to 23-24,5 (Strong), the Merino is one of the finest wools out there.
Want to know why Sheep’s wool is less sustainable than that of alpacas? Read the full blog post on Alpacas & Sustainability for a more in-depth look on environmental impact.
Is Alpaca Wool softer than Llama?
If we got a penny for every time an alpaca is mistaken for a llama or vice versa, we’d be very rich. Wool-wise they are comparable though, so we do understand the switch-up. According to Owlcation, the average llama fiber is 25-30 microns.
Compared to alpaca wool, llama is a bit less smooth and fine; a more affordable alternative. Be cautious though when wearing llama: you might feel the urge to spit while talking😄
Fluffy fact #132