The one and only quilt I’ve made with alpaca batting was the softest, lightest, fluffiest, warmest quilt I’ve ever made. I loved it. The recipient loved it. But I didn’t switch to making all my quilts with alpaca.
In fact, I’m still waiting for a special situation that will let me make another alpaca quilt, and it hasn’t come along yet. Maybe the next one I make will be a gift to myself.
The Facts About Alpaca
Alpaca wool is a natural, eco-friendly type of wool made from the fleece of the alpaca, those adorable miniature llamas that come from the Andes mountains in South America. Like sheep wool, alpaca is sheared without harming the animal.
- To snuggle up in an alpaca quilt is to experience true quilt luxury. It is the warmest, lightest, softest batting I have ever used.
- It naturally water repellent, like all wool.
- It is hypoallergenic, because it contains no lanolin, unlike other types of wool. That also means it doesn’t get that unpleasant “wet sheep” smell if it gets damp.
- It is very warm without being heavyweight, because the fibers in alpaca wool are hollow and trap the air, holding its warmth.
- It doesn’t feel scratchy as wool often does, because alpaca fibers are smooth, not barbed.
Alpaca comes in natural colors that range from white to black and include a varied palette of creams, tans, and browns. The herd in the photo should give you a good idea of alpaca’s range of natural colors.
- Alpaca batting is expensive. It’s also hard to find. You can’t just run down to your local quilt shop or craft store to buy it.
- Its loftiness makes it a poor choice for dense quilting, which would cancel out its insulating qualities.
- Alpaca quilts need special care. This is definitely not the batting to use for a child’s drag-around quilt or one that needs to be washed frequently. Agitating the fibers by machine washing or drying them can cause them to mat and ruin the quilt. Wash only in cool water, with a mild detergent such as Orvus or Woolite, and never agitate or machine dry an alpaca quilt.
- Like other types of wool, alpaca needs protection from moths. Store your wool quilts with lavender or cedar.
My Alpaca Experience
I knew the friend I was making this quilt for would love alpaca’s special qualities and be able to handle its special care requirements. So I decided to go all the way and use a 100% alpaca batting, instead of an alpaca/cotton or alpaca/wool blend.
When I took the batt out of the package, it looked like this:
Hmm. As you can see, it was not needle punched or treated with an adhesive to make it easy to work with. It didn’t even have the cheesecloth covering that comes on some wool batting to keep fluff from shedding all over your sewing room. And I quickly discovered that the fibers cling to everything. Bits of fluff floated off into the air every time time I moved the quilt sandwich. Before the project was done, I had alpaca fluff all around my sewing room.
I pin basted this quilt. The batting did require careful handling, or it would be easy to tear into pieces. I unrolled the batting onto the quilt backing and gently smoothed it into place, then smoothed the quilt top over it and pinned.
The quilt sandwich shed bits of fluff from its outer edges whenever I moved it, but it was quite easy to maneuver under the throat of my sewing machine. As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, the batting is quite lofty. Working with it was something like working with fluffy polyester, but much lighter
Was it worth the extra trouble and expense? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes. In fact, I still have a big roll of alpaca in my sewing room, waiting for the perfect project to appear.
And by the way, here’s a photo of the finished quilt. The design came from Judy Sisneros’ wonderful book, 9-Patch Pizzazz.
Where to Find Alpaca Batting
You can buy it from several online retailers:
- I got my 100% alpaca quilt batting from Inca Fashions. It is available in three sizes: crib (45” x 54”), queen (90” x 90”), and king (108” x 90”).
- Pacafil alpaca blend batting is available by the yard in two varieties: a 50% alpaca/cotton blend and a 50% alpaca/wool blend. Both types of batting come in a 90-inch width. Both blends are needle-punched and contain no binders or resins. The manufacturer says they shrink about 2% on first washing.