LOVE!!!!! by Ichi Antiquities at Namu
Lauren Manoogian – she makes fabulous sweaters in wonderful shapes –
this sweater is on sale at Garmentory
(+ you and I get a $20 credit if you sign up for an account via my referral link)
Kordal (who makes Elizabeth Suzann’s knits) –
her designs are so interesting!
Love the “crocodile” knits, and this piece above with the fringe on the sleeves
Han Starnes – based in Nashville, TN,
I have two of her knit pieces and love them to death!
Bare Knitwear – made in Canada, simple designs, and most 100% alpaca or 100% cotton –
I have this blanket
Peruvian Connection – lots of alpaca, but most is knitted with polyamide and/or nylon
Indigenous Designs – some styles available on Amazon, like this sweater blended with organic cotton
Cuyana has some nice looking alpaca pieces. I actually ordered the cape a few years ago and promptly returned it – I didn’t like the brushed, flat, feel of it and it didn’t really impress me much.
Alpaca at Garmentory – as you may or may not already know, Garmentory is my very favorite resource for independent design; you can search and buy all in one cart and it way less overwhelming than etsy IMO 😉
I started looking for alpaca in earnest a year or so in an effort not to buy anymore cashmere (for reasons I’ll enumerate below). I already had the lightweight alpaca sweater by Zady they sent me to review a couple years ago. It’s a very good sweater, but I never really liked the shape/style on me. I noticed it was a bit itchy at first, and still is when I put it on, but after wearing alpaca a while, I’ve noticed that as you wear it, and your body heat warms the fibers up, it softens up and becomes less itchy.
Then, I bought the capote coat by Lauren Manoogian, which I loved, but hardly wore; it was just too bulky and warm for Texas winters, so I sold it.
Now, I have three items:
Lauren Manoogian crew neck sweater (seen here)
Han Starnes pullover (seen here)
Bare Knitwear blanket (I got mine for half that much on sale at Garmentory*)
I prefer 100% alpaca, but it’s harder to find. Most of the items at Peruvian Connection are alpaca mixed with polyamide or nylon. My Lauren Manoogian alpaca coat was a mix of alpaca and polyamide, which in my opinion, made it thicker and “fluffier.” It didn’t necessarily detract from the sweater at all – the poly and nylon threads are added for strength and to help keep the garment’s shape – but now that I have more 100% alpaca items, I don’t think the synthetic fibers are necessary.
- Alpaca fibers have a hollow core which make it lightweight, and warm (it’s true…it’s warmer than you think it will be!)
- it is the strongest of the animal fibers (wool, cashmere, etc.)
- Alpaca fibers are less likely to pill (although alpaca DOES pill – edited to add this after wearing my Lauren Manoogian 100% alpaca sweater a while…)
- Baby alpaca isn’t really from “baby” alpacas, it’s just the first shearing of the animal; the fibers are finer, and softer, but fewer.
- alpaca hooves are softly padded, reducing their environmental impact (this is one of the problems with cashmere goats in Mongolia/China – they are hard on the soil, packing it down, and making it more prone to erosion)
- alpaca are camelids, which thrive in harsh conditions, and are therefore tougher than sheep or goats, and can graze almost anywhere. They need less water, and not too much food.
- Alpaca have bottom teeth that cut the grass rather than pull it up by the root, therefore leaving grasses intact (another problem with the overgrazing of cashmere goats in Mongolia/China)
- alpaca farming, shearing, and knitting are part of Peru’s culture and heritage, artisans and farmers have been perfecting their trades for centuries.
- alpaca come in a range of 20+ different colors, often the fibers are not dyed
- alpaca shearing doesn’t harm the animal, and farmers do not have to engage in mulesing (an inhumane practice still performed on some animals, although it is less widespread than it used to be. Many clothing brands are boycotting wool from farms which engage in mulesing)
All of these factors taken together make alpaca more sustainable, generally, than wool or cashmere, and otherwise a very smart choice for sweaters and coats. I’m convinced 🙂
This Quartz article: Why your next sweater should be alpaca, not cashmere is the best overall resource I’ve found on alpaca. I’ve linked others above in the numbered list.
A final couple of alpaca blend sweaters that are on sale at Shopbop and an additional 25% off with code JOY25:
Apiece Apart Nepthe Turtleneck (I love this one) and Free People Alpaca Cardigan. A good way to test the alpaca waters maybe?
Do you wear alpaca? What are your favorite resources?
*(if you use my referral link for Garmentory to sign up for an account, you’ll get a $20 credit and so will I)
I love the feel of alpaca, but I’ve always found that 100% alpaca is too warm for heated spaces. I live in New York, so I’m curious as to how comfortable it is in Texas. I also think it’s generally not as durable as wool, and tends to pill and halo quickly if it’s not blended with something else. But maybe I’ve only had cheap alpaca?
Gail Graff says
I have several 100% alpaca sweaters from Peruvian Connection, they have quite a selection, some blended but quite a few are all alpaca. Poetry, a UK based company that ships to the US, also has a lots of 100% alpaca in wonderful shades. I usually have to layer something underneath my alpaca, but it’s wonderfully light, warm, and not nearly as much maintenance as my cashmere. I live in Minnesota and have an alpaca cardigan on as I write .
Grechen Reiter says
i don’t know…i wish there was such a thing as “too warm” for me, during winter 😉 especially when the sun doesn’t come out for days, i am in a perpetual state of cold, no matter what i wear. i was always impressed by how warm the lightweight alpaca sweater by zady was – for it’s weight, you wouldn’t think it would be so warm!
i can only speak about my oldest sweater – my zady one – which i’ve had for two years, and it hasn’t pilled at all. maybe it halos? i’m not even sure what that is LOL, but it does seem to “shed” a bit, but it definitely looks NOTHING like my cashmere or wool in terms of pilling, or showing wear. honestly, it looks almost as good as new.
Good to know! The article you linked to at the Quartz said that alpaca is actually less prone to pilling than wool, so I’ll give it another try next time I’m looking for a new sweater.
Now that I’m thinking about it, halo might actually be a word I use in my head that no one else does. I think of it as when the fibers in the fabric start to get fluffy and fuzz out a little bit. It happens normally from wear on any knit natural fiber, but it can really change the drape and look of a garment over time.
Grechen Reiter says
haha.. yes, then halo is what i notice on my alpaca sweater. it’s pretty mild though, and hasn’t affected the fit/etc.
Grechen Reiter says
thank you gail! I’m going to look into poetry..
Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 says
A few years ago when Cuyana was new, I ordered the silver alpaca sweater. I’m small, and it was comically huge. I returned it. I can’t stop thinking of it, 4(?) years later.. and now it’s in petite, and they offer the cape you mention. I’m trying to get a bit of debt reigned in the first half of 2018, but if I do, perhaps I’ll try it again. I liked the weave! But now am interested in trying some lofty options, too.
I love the feel of cashmere. I hate how it pills. I’m an enormous fan of merino wool, especially from companies that source more ethically (Icebreaker, for example), I’m obsessed with wool undies.
Re Everlane, I received a merino turtleneck for Christmas and love it! I also decided to combine my $68 store credit (::shakes first at wide-leg crops::) and the clearance to try day flats and get a new tee. We’ll see. There’s also a pretty collarless silk top in a pretty green I’ve eyed, and may yet try if available when my funds and inclination both are.
I love alpaca! I agree that it can get really warm in heated spaces, though. I have a secondhand Eileen Fisher sweater that’s perfect because it’s a loose weave so it aerates a bit better. There’s also a local student here who started his own alpaca sweater company called PAKA, and I learned a lot about the fiber from him. (Also, sorry for commenting so many times this morning! My family is sleeping and I have nothing to do but read blogs quietly, lol)
I really wanted to buy an alpaca sweater when I was in Peru last year, but I found the itchiness intolerable. Maybe I’ll give it a try again, given that if I purchase something now, I can return it if it doesn’t work out.
I generally avoid cheap cashmere – it’s disposable level quality. I’ll still buy good quality cashmere – Johnstons of Elgin is my favorite go to brand – under the guise that it will meet my needs and keep it for a long time. But I’m usually buying basics that I’ll never tire of – black pullovers and cardigans.
Is mulesing the only reason to avoid wool? I’ve been buying more wool lately – I love Eileen Fisher’s felted wool – it’s so divine. And merino wool from Smartwool, Ibex, and Icebreaker, all companies that say they avoid mulesing (interestingly, they all get their fabrics from the same source).
You know, now that you ask about it, I’m not really sure whether I have any alpaca or not. I’m certainly interested, but I think I’ve mostly been focused on purchasing whatever doesn’t make me itch and exacerbate my eczema. I’ll pay more attention!
An aside: Just curious, but have you ever had your thyroid levels checked? That can sometimes explain feeling cold all the time. (Hypothyroidism)
I think that’s because they use US wool and they only practice mulesing in Australia, as far as I have read.
Grechen Reiter says
yes, this is true. and more and more manufacturers are requesting non-mulesed wool, but it’s not easy to learn which are actually getting it. i read an article about that a little while ago and i can’t find it now…. i’m fairly certain eileen fisher wouldn’t use it, and probably more of the higher end brands. uniqlo, H&M, forever21…doubtful….
Grechen Reiter says
yes, for me, mulesing is the only reason to avoid wool. otherwise, I love wool, especially lightweight wool. i do have smartwool and icebreaker pieces that i love…
Late to the game here, but if anyone sees this, and perhaps has any thoughts on my very specific alpaca-related query?
I’m considering buying an alpaca throw blanket, but the vendor says that it’s dry clean only. My question is that true? Should one not throw alpaca in the machine (with a delicate detergent , air drying?)
My concern here is that my apartment gets really dirty– I live on a heavily trafficked avenue in New York, delivery trucks idle outside of my 3rd floor window, so it’s not just dust, it’s black grime that comes into my apartment, and this blanket is intended for use on a chair. It will get dirty, and I will want to wash it, and more frequently than most people maybe wash throw blankets.
I probably wouldn’t bother thinking over this so much, but I really like the graphic design and size, and I’m looking for something warm (in addition to getting dirty, my apartment is also quite chilly, hence the need for a better blanket for my chair), and this blanket is the nicest I’ve found.
Grechen Reiter says
i have an alpaca blanket by bare knitwear and i’ve washed it already twice!! cold water, delicate cycle, cashmere/wool detergent, lay flat or drape over a hanging rod to dry. done, and done 🙂
Excellent! Thank you! (This also frees my overburdened brain from having to search for something else.)