Suri Fiber/ Suri alpaca fiber is one of the most luxurious and rare fibers in the world. They are known for their silky lustrous hair like fleece. The fiber is more like mohair from Angora goats than sheep’s wool. Suri fiber does not have crimp like the other breed, Huacaya.
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Characteristics of Suri Fiber
Suri alpaca has been domesticated for about 6,000 years by the people of the Andes mountains in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. At one time, the woven fabric from their fleece was so prized that it was used as currency. Suris were first imported to the United States in 1991. Varying reports indicate Suris represent only about 15 to 18.5% of the US alpacas when compared to the more common Huacaya alpaca.
Whereas Huacayas have a soft, fuzzy look, Suri’s have long, crimeless locks that drape down the sides of their body. These locks can be curly, twisted, or straight. The length of the fibers (staple) can grow 5 to 7 inches in a year. Generally, annual shearing is done, but some raisers keep several years’ of fleece growth of on their animals to make it attractive for sale. I have read that although these fleeces look dramatic, they can be a nightmare to prepare as they are more likely to contain debris, felted areas, and fragile tips.
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Suri Fiber Properties
Like Huacayas, Suris have up to 22 natural shades including white, fawn, browns, grays, and black. That said, creamy white is the most readily available.
Suri fiber has been described as “soft as cashmere, warmer and stronger than wool, and having the luster of silk”. Compared to wool, Suri fiber has longer scales that are nearly flat to the fiber which is reminiscent of the look and feel of silk.
It has the ability to drape well so it is ideal for knitted lace shawls and woven scarves. Also, because of its characteristic smoothness, it takes dye color well and still maintains its luster beautifully.
It is also a finer fiber; typically the finer the fiber, the softer it feels. Some Suri fiber can measure less than 20 microns with an average fleece measuring between 24 and 28 microns in diameter. Suri fleeces can vary greatly from one animal to the next; some fleeces can be greater than 30 microns which make them better suited for creating durable outerwear.
Suri Alpaca Fiber Facts
- It has no crimp
- Various lock structure (wave and twist, pencil, pearl, curled, straight)
- Creates beautiful woven products (designer Armani has used Suri for suits)
- 22 natural colors
- Takes dyes beautifully
- No lanolin (like sheep’s wool)
- 4-7 inches of fiber growth each year
- Annual shearing
- 2-6 lbs fiber harvest per year on average
- Naturally fire retardant
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