The rarity of Alpaca is its only limitation, making it a highly prized luxury fiber worldwide. The fiber's rich luster, supple handle and strength remain unmatched by most other specialty fibers. Garments of Alpaca are lightweight yet very warm, up to 8 times that of wool.
The softness of Alpaca is often compared to cashmere. Located South of Friday Harbor on beautiful San Juan Island in the state of Washington, low rainfall and cool island weather create the perfect climate for producing some of the world's finest Alpaca fiber for our Natural Alpaca Yarn.
18 Custom Colors(click for color photos) Classic Red Garnet Mahogany Paprika Hot & Sour Orange Sweet Potato Sunflower Lemon Chiffon Green Fields Dark Spruce Artic Waters
Lightest Blue Wedgwood Blue Navy Blue Amethyst Jelly Purely Purple Lavender
Gathered not as breeding stock but solely for their fiber, our small herd is among the finest in the world. The criteria we use when grading their fiber is quality of fineness, length, strength, color, handle, crimp and consistency. We supplement feed them orchard grass, special Alpaca feeds with minerals and deep well water to keep them in top health, hence the their excellent fiber.
7 Natural Colors
Each year we group the sheared fleeces into 7 basic color categories, often combining many fleeces into one color grouping. This allows us to produce a large amount of perfectly matching Natural Color Alpaca Yarn. We limit our production of natural colored fibers/yarns to seven allowing us to produce large amounts of perfectly matched yarns. Color variation between one years fiber/yarn production will vary slightly from the next, depending on the number of Alpaca fleeces combined in a color grouping, their feed, age and of course the range of climate conditions throughout the year. Cool to cold appearing best.
In the Alpaca's blanket area the finest fibers will be found. This is the only area we use for out 100% Alpaca Yarns. The neck and apron areas are slightly lesser in quality so are made available to hand spinners for yarn production of heavy outer wear garments. The remainder of our fiber is sold to manufacturers.
Shorn in late May, our Alpacas are free to roam, play and graze throughout their 15+ years of life. The Alpacas are not harmed by the annual process of shearing similar to getting a haircut and enjoy being relieved of their heavy warm coats as summer arrives. This is evidenced by their enthusiastic frolicking after shearing.
What is an Alpaca?
Along with Llamas, Guanacos, and Vicuñas, Alpacas are a member of the South American Camelid family. Aside from the Vicuña, Alpacas boast the rarest and finest fiber of all the camelids.
These passive animals have been domesticated for thousands of years and are prized for their luxurious fiber.
The Alpaca, with its alert attentive face and pucker, will melt your heart. Their delightful personalities match their exquisite fiber.
At Honey Lane Farms many visitors want to meet these captivating creatures face to face. The Alpaca will approach quietly, like a hum, and the rest is history.
Two Types of Alpaca
Huacaya Cute and cuddly in appearance, the Huacaya's fleece is distinguished by the presence of crimp, making it ideal for spinning into yarns. In general, the more crimp present, the finer the fiber.
Our Honey Lane Farms alpaca are only huacaya, each selected for its qualities of fiber fineness, length, strength, color, handle, crimp and consistency. Huyaca alpaca fiber is up to eight times warmer than wool.
Suri The Suri Alpaca can be easily distinguished by its unique fiber which hangs from the body in long distinctive locks. These graceful locks may take on a twisted or flat form of various sizes and gives the Suri an elegant appearance.
Suri fiber with its lack of crimp is noted for its slick, slippery hand, softness and brilliant luster. This fiber is generally undesirable for hand knitting as garments knit with it will tend to grow. Suri fleeces need blending with other fibers to achieve desired levels of strength and resilience for use in top quality yarn. Many less expensive yarns on the general market will be a blend of Suri alpaca. At Honey Lane Farms we produce yarn using only 100% Huacaya alpaca fiber.
In 1984, the first importation of Huacayas Alpacas from Chile and Bolivia into the United States took place. It was not until 1991 that the first Suris arrived and not until 1993 that the first Peruvian stock became available.
The North American herds of Alpaca consist mainly of Huacayas. According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, the world Alpaca population is approximately 98% Huacaya and 2%Suri. In the United States there are around 20,000 Huacayas and 3,500 Suris.
Alpaca History The majority of Alpaca ranches in South America are located in the high altitude regions of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Despite the fact that conditions on the Altiplano are often harsh, the Alpaca has thrived as a domesticated animal for some 6,000 years.
Alpacas and Llamas played an important role in Inca culture. Together, they produced food, fuel and clothing. The fine fleece of the Alpaca was reserved for the exclusive use of Inca royalty.
Spanish conquistadors did not recognize the value of Alpacas and, as a consequence, these animals were almost completely annihilated in order to make room for the Merino sheep that were brought by the conquerors.
The survival of the Alpaca can be credited to its importance to the Indian people and its ability to adapt, as the Spaniards pushed them from prime grasslands to increasingly higher altitudes.
Alpaca Fiber Characteristics
Alpaca fiber of varying lengths can be spun into yarn, however the Alpaca Yarns produced will usually be less uniform and have lower luster than those spun from uniform staple lengths. Our Alpaca fiber ranges in length from 4 to 6 inches at the time of shearing. We send only fiber with consistent staple length to small mills for processing.
The fineness of Alpaca fiber makes it difficult to handle during the spinning process. Most small commercial mills insist on adding varying amounts of wool so their machinery can better handle the super fine Alpaca fiber. We have searched out and use only mills that process, then return our fiber to us. No wool or additional fibers are added.
Crimp gives our finished yarn resilience and bounce, which is much prized in pure Alpaca garments. Our Natural Alpaca Yarn fiber with its high degree of crimp, allows for better milling, twist and plying of fiber into knitting yarns. This is one of the reasons knitters across the nation consistently comment that our yarn has greater luster, strength and ease in handling.
Often crimp appears in a pronounced S or Z wave, involving all the fibers of a lock and occurring continuously for the length of the lock
Fiber Diameter Often referred to as micron count, this is another factor we considered when assembling our herd. The up front cost of our fine fibered, low micron count Alpacas is high but we want only the best in our yarns.
Tip Damage or Breakage While extremely difficult to detect before processing, damaged fiber will result in a yarn seriously compromised in quality. Controlling our herds feed, pastures and fencing assures these damaging factors will not be present in our yarns.
Guard Hairs Coarse stiff fibers found on Llamas and many other fiber bearing animals. Our herd of Alpaca was selected with emphasis on their having little or no guard hairs.
Hand washing in cool water with a small amount of mild soap or detergent is recommended. Use sufficient water to allow complete immersion of your beautiful hand knit garment. Allow to soak 5 to 10 minutes. Gently hand knead. Rinse well adding two teaspooons of white vinegar to neutralize any remaining soap.
Gently squeeze garment and place in a terry cloth towel. Roll and leave for 3 to 8 hours to thoroughly remove excess water. Remove from towel and place on a sheet or drying rack. Gently pull garment into shape. Let air dry in warm circulating air. Avoid placing in sunlight.
Specialty spinning mills process the alpaca fiber into our luxury custom yarns. Local spinners often reserve a specific Alpaca fleece for their hand spinning.
Working Alpaca Farm
Our quality herd of Alpacas, each carefully selected for outstanding fiber, are gentle in temperament and eager to be fed from your outstretched hands.
Honey Lane Farms is home to the 4-H Alpaca Club of San Juan Island. Alpacas are provided free for the children. A portion of sale from all Alpaca yarn goes toward maintaining the club. We currently have 10 children actively participating and loving their selected alpaca.