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Monday, 4 February 2008

Suri or Huacaya??

Some of you may have noticed that we have recently added ‘2ply Suri’ yarn to our knitting yarn repertoire, in fact as we speak I am having this year’s Suri spun into 4ply yarn. What makes it special?

There are two types of alpaca: the HUACAYA and the SURI. Huacaya alpacas are the most common, and will be what all alpaca products, knitting yarn and knitwear is made from unless otherwise sated. The suri alpaca makes up on 5% of the world population of alpacas. Suris boast a different type of fleece, with very dissimilar qualities to the Huacaya fibre, thus giving the animals themselves a different appearance. The Huacaya alpaca has a soft, crimpy fibre that grows at right angles to the skin, whereas Suri alpaca is silky and straight in appearance and forms what resembles ‘dreadlocks’ when it falls from the body. The huacaya in full fleece has a ‘teddy bear’ appearance, whereas the suri can be crudely described as having a ‘mop head’ appearance. Both types of alpaca fibre are incredibly soft, but Suri alpaca exceeds Huacaya for lustre, and Huacaya suri for flexibility or memory in a yarn. Suri yarns have less ‘spring’ than Huacaya yarns (due to the absence of the crimp down the staple length).

Many spinners in the UK will mix suri alpaca with huacaya when producing a knitting yarn as the crimp gives the fibre more bulk. 100% suri yarns will behave similar to silk when knitted. Patterns have to be selected carefully to ensure that the finished knitted item will hold its shape. Scarves, shawls and snoods are ideal for knitting in this kind of less flexible yarn, as the lack of shaping will disguise any inconsistencies in tension. Suri alpaca is heavier in weight than huacaya, and so better spun into fine weight yarns.

Suri alpacas come in as many natural colours as huacayas, just at Toft we only have 6 white animals and so I have only been able to produce white suri yarn to date. This year i will mate my white suri alpaca to a black male in order to try to create a coloured suri cria- but the yarn won't be ready until 2010!!
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