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      CAMELIDS FIBRE

Among all different types of wool, other than those obtained from sheep and goat, Camelid hair plays a primary role. The 'Camelid' family is divided into two different groups: the 'Llama' in South America (or South American Camelids) and the 'Camelus' in Asia.

The Camelids belonging to the Camelus family are divided into other two species: the wild or half-wild Bactrian camel, and the domesticated dromedary used to carry goods or people. CAMELS typically live in arid and cold areas, distributed all over Central Asia, from the Persian Gulf to China and Japan. These animals have always been used by man for their wool, meat, milk and as means of transport. Their fleece is long, soft and fine with an undercoat which is collected in spring with the use of special combs. The colour of the fine, soft and slightly curly hair is light fawn. Its fineness varies between 10 and 30 micron, with an average of 17-23 micron and its length is between 4 and 12 cm. Usually, the male camel supplies 5 kg of fibre a year while the female 3.5 kg. The younger animals up to one year are 'blond' or nearly white and their hair is particularly soft and precious. The best quality of Camel fibre comes from Siberia, Mongolia and China, and is mainly used to pro- duce textiles for outerwear, like very warm coats which are at the same time very light.

Sotuh American camelids
The Camelid belonging to the Llama family, also called 'South American Camelids', are divided into alpacas, llamas, guanacos and vicuñas. These animals have been part of the life of the Andean populations for many centuries. Living at an altitude of 3000 to 5000 metres, with extreme temperatures (- 20° C to + 20° C in a single day), these precious animals have always represented a very important resource for these populations: as means of transportation, as food with their low cholesterol meat and as providers of very soft and fine fibres. The ancient Andean populations protected South American camelids convinced that God had placed them there in order to make human life possible: the Incas knew that their life would not be possible without these animals. Camelids fibres are generally extremely light and very warm and must be treated with great care because, as they are so fine, they are less strong. Due to their high cost and fragility they are often processed with other natural fibres, such as cotton and silk giving stronger textiles which are, at the same time, warm, soft and elegant.



The GUANACO is similar to the llama and is widespread in South America, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. Like the llama it is double coated. It has a coarse guard hair and a soft undercoat, which is finer. The colour changes very little, usually ranging from a light brown to dark cinnamon with shading to white in the undersides and in the neck.



VICUÑA is the smallest of the South America camelids, which produce the most precious of the special fibres; vicuñas live in the Andean Cordillera at elevations of 4000 to 6000 meters. At freezing temperatures it produces a long and silky fleece and a very tight under- coat made of fine, short and very soft fibres that are the finest animal fibres in the world with a diameter of 12.5 micron. Vicuña is a protected animal by CITES: only small quantities of fibre are available, with a production of 5-6000 kg fibre per annum. The fibre comes from animals living in the wild state at 4000 metres over the sea level; the shearing is made only on animals with minimum 3 cm fibre length because the hair, which serves to protect the animal from the cold weather, grows very slowly.



The ALPACA has not a particularly fine fleece but a thick, silky one with a gradation of more than 20 colours from white, light and dark brown, grey and black; the undercoat is instead much finer and softer. Alpacas are shorn once a year between November and March and have two breeds: Huacayo and Suri. Huacayo is the most numerous breed (nearly 90%), while the Suri type is more rare and slightly smaller with a special long, shiny and silky hair.

The LLAMA is the biggest of the South American Camelids. Since the Inca period Llamas have been used for transportation, due to their weight and build. The Llama fleece is combed using a process that eliminates the coarser fibre, providing a long, soft, shiny fibre, in many colours, and is very much prized by the textile industry.







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