September 2007

What is Vicuņa fiber?

Vicuņa is a member of camelid family, a cousin of Llama and Alpaca. It is found in high planes of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and northern Argentina. The Vicuņa's wool is very fine and warm. The fleece is yellowish-brown on the back of the animal and white in throat and chest area. The Inca called the wool of Vicuņa "Golden Fleece". During the Inca, wearing garments made of Vicuņa fiber was limited to royalty.

In 1974 Vicuņas were added to the endangered species list as only 6000 were found in the wild. In the past 30 years South American governments have taken steps to help increase the number of Vicuņa in the wild, so they are now taken off the endangered list. Recently the US government has revised the rules for importing Vicuņa yarn and fabric.

Vicuņas cannot be domesticated. They tend to jump fence and go back to the wild. In addition, they do not reproduce in captivity. The Peruvian government has created a labeling system that identifies all garments made through appropriate sheering to benefit the locals. This system ensures that no animal is sheered more than every two years and no animal is harmed through the process.

Vicuņas produce very little wool, about one pound per year. The fiber is very fine. It spins a lot like cashmere since it is a short fiber about 22mm in length, which is less than one inch. Its thickness is 12.9 micron which is finer and softer than Qiviut. It is so fine that it feels like a combination of silk and cashmere. It is also very warm and cannot be dyed with chemicals, so it is usually used in its original color.

Since Vicuņa wool is very rare, it is available mostly in fiber form that needs to be spun into desired type of yarn. It can be used to make any garment, however, it is extremely expensive. Through some specialty fiber sites such as Mountain Shadow Ranch you may find one ounce (28 grams) of this heavenly fiber for $250, so it would be more suitable for items such as lace scarves or shawls.

For more information about Vicuņas check out:



Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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