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Alpaca Wool Batting

Alpaca Wool Batting post image

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.

The Advantages 

  • 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.

Photo copyright Kerry Bettinson. Licensed through Creative Commons.

The Disadvantages

  • 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.

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Seu Pichabien January 17, 2012, 3:02 pm

    Beautiful quilting, but in my experience, stuffing with alpaca was just too costly. It’s true that it is beautifully light and warm, but I just couldn’t manage it without breaking the bank. 🙁 Maybe after that pay check rolls in.

    • admin January 19, 2012, 5:24 pm

      It’s true. Cost is one reason why I only used alpaca for a very special quilt. But the recipient’s ability to care for the quilt properly is even more important. I’m pretty lazy about labels, but I made sure to give a detailed care label for my alpaca quilt.

  • Mo April 10, 2012, 3:01 pm

    Hi! Great post. I just finished hand quilting a quilt with alpaca batting (given to me from my mother-in-law, who used to raise alpacas), and had a similar experience. I’ve also noticed that a lot of the fibers are now poking through the quilt fabric. Did you run into this at all? If so, any advice on how to get the fibers to stay inside? It may be too late now, but just curious if you ran into this at all.

    • admin April 10, 2012, 5:30 pm

      Mo,

      I didn’t keep the alpaca quilt I made, but I have visited it a few times and didn’t notice any bearding (where the fibers poke through the fabric.) I did a little quick web research on solutions for bearding, but didn’t find anything I thought would be useful to you. Maybe running over the quilt with a lint roller would pick up the most obvious fibers. Good luck!

  • Ross Wilkinson August 26, 2012, 1:49 am

    Hi,
    I read your story and loved it. I work for in Port Moody BC. In processing factory
    The reason the fibers bleed through is the cotton is not calenderer properly. It has to be calenderer with live oak rollers and thread count is wrong. Do not use poly.
    I made myself a alpaca duvet at work for home use. I ran it through our carding machine (which does 450 kilos an hour.) I use Suri Alpaca and mixed it with Cashmere. I used a 16% mixture when oiling with Olive Oil, (real olive oil is hard to find as most oil oil in United States and Canada is cut with cotton seed oil)Borax, and distilled water. Then I let the wool rest for a week before carding. Which is important as Alpaca is dry. I had to set the cross lapper to at a slow speed. I used SDSR of 13 to 1 which normal for fine wool so my noitage and hauter length were acceptable.

    If you have a problem with alpaca, there is a great new bonder from Switzerland that solves the handing issues. So you don’t have to needle bond which I don’t like. The sound bonding does not work with alpaca. Glue bonding does work but it is old fashioned.
    The alpaca duvet is the best duvet in the world. It is fantastic stuff it is fun to sleep under.
    I going to make a horse hair pillow with a alpaca surround next. Horse hair is a pleasure to card.
    I going to make a horse hair pillow with a alpaca surround next. Horse hair is a pleasure to card.

    • admin August 26, 2012, 4:16 am

      Wow, Ross! You are a real expert, and I am an amateur compared to you. Thanks for the fascinating inside scoop.

      • Ross Wilkinson February 13, 2013, 11:01 pm

        One thing I forgot is that the dry cleaners secret by woolite is great to clean your alpaca duvet and it will protect from moths. I do love alpaca but it is hell to card. But nothing makes a better duvet.

  • Shauna February 13, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Can Alpaca batting be stretched to make it the right size? It come 90 x 90, but I am making a queen 98 x 98 and a queen 92 x 101.

    • Christine Mann February 13, 2013, 6:09 pm

      Based on the batting I used, it would not stretch. You might be able to tear off a thickness of the batting to make it half as thick as it was originally, and use the thin layers to make the batting larger. I don’t know how well this would work. If it were me, I would probably get two batts — one the 90″ x 90″ queen size, and a smaller size such as a twin size to cut and add the piece you need to make your queen size batting larger. Joining two pieces would be pretty easy to do.

      • Shauna February 14, 2013, 7:25 pm

        Great. Thank you

  • Erin Thao Codd July 27, 2016, 10:55 am

    I’m planning to do alpaca for my little boys but can’t do the full on cost of 100%. Which would you recommend in terms of the blend: cotton or wool. Would the wool blend be itchy?

    • Felicity Walker August 5, 2016, 8:12 am

      Sorry for the delay in replying, Erin. We’ve been on vacation and out of touch. I haven’t tried either an alpaca/cotton blend or an alpaca/wool blend batting, so I can only guess how they would feel and wear. In general, I am not fond of cotton as a batting material. It is heavy and doesn’t give much warmth. I think wool would make a good combination with alpaca, and if it is covered with quilter’s cotton on top and bottom, I don’t think it should be itchy. Alpaca is not itchy. A wool/alpaca blend should be both light and warm. That’s probably what I would try. I’d love to hear how it turns out for you.

      • Erin August 5, 2016, 8:17 am

        What’s the difference between “quilter’s cotton” and any other cotton that you get at say Jo-Ann Fabrics. Totally new to quilting.

        • Felicity Walker August 5, 2016, 9:03 am

          Hi Erin,

          By “quilter’s cotton” I mean a lightweight, 100% cotton fabric that is designed specifically for quilting. You can get 100% cotton fabric that is designed for other uses — canvas, for instance, which is much heavier than quilter’s cotton. Flannel is also usually 100% cotton, but it is thicker and has a nap that gives it a different texture. You can also get fabric that is a blend of cotton and polyester, but many quilters prefer all-cotton. All of these different fabrics are available at stores like Joann. The quilter’s cotton will be found in the quilting section.

          There are several reasons to choose quilter’s cotton for quilting: its light weight means that you can use it to make a three-layer quilt without having the finished product be really heavy; it is easy to pierce with the sewing machine needle for machine quilting; and it is designed to be washed (although you may need to test for colorfastmess.)

          Hope that helps.

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