Alpacas originate from the plateaus of the South American Andes and are the domesticated species of camelid resembling a llama, though smaller. Ancient Incas referred to alpacas as the 'Fibre of the Gods' because of the luxuriously soft and durable fibre they produce. Today, along with cashmere, it is referred to as one of the luxury 'Noble Fibres'. In the UK today there are over 30 000 alpacas grazing on open pasture in the UK (with shelters provided for rainy days), mostly in small flocks on rural smallholdings. Alpacas graze in such as way as to cause less disturbance to the soil than other livestock. This gentle grazer also produces a rich, volumous fleece each year that must be shorn for the animals well-being.
Spun & knitted in Great Britain
At least 80% of the alpaca in Ally Bee Knitwear is derived from the fleece of British alpaca flocks. Ally Bee alpaca yarn is spun in a small mill in Dorset to a commercial knitwear specification, and in natural colour blends that eliminate the use of dyes. The yarns are then crafted to Ally Bee designs in limited edition runs of beautifully finished jumpers, scarves, gloves and hats in a small factory in the Scottish Borders, supporting the region's long heritage of superior knitting skills.
High Standards of Animal Welfare
British alpaca flocks are reared with special care, and this promotes a healthy rich fleece. They are provided with shelter from the cold, and receive vaccinations and supplements in addition to a a dental check and toe-nail clip at shearing time. And these sociable creatures are rarely left alone - they must have a companion alpaca by their side otherwise they become lonely and become physically ill.
'Cradle to Cradle' Production
British alpacas are reared with minimal environmental impact on lush British pasture. Ally Bee alpaca yarns are dye-free and contain no acrylics, and are derived from annually renewable fleece. At the end of its wearing life, an undyed alpaca garment or accessory can be returned to the earth to fully biodegrade and without leaching chemicals. Alpaca fleece is graded by hand, divided into the 'firsts' from the saddle region - best for spinning into yarn for knitting or wovens - and the lesser grade 'seconds' and 'thirds' from the neck and legs are perfect for insulation, an example of this being eco-friendly Penrose Products
who buy up low grade British alpaca fleece from the annual alpaca clip as duvet filling.
Chemical & Dye Free
British alpaca flocks produce fleece with a colour palatte of 18 possible shades - in assorted browns, creams and near-black. In addition to this, with careful blending at the early stages of the spinning process, alpaca fleece can be spun into a range of warm, autumnal colours, without the need for the chemical and high water consumption of the conventional colour-dyeing process. The Ally Bee alpaca colour palette consists of pure Cream, soft Grey, caramel Brown and Charcoal, and a Pebble / Taupe shade made from a blend of 1ply of Grey with 1ply of Brown.
Alpaca are 'ruminants', which means they cut grass like a deer rather than ripping it out from the roots like a sheep or goat. They are nature's perfect lawnmowers. And, they eat less than most other livestock. Alpacas produce a wonderfully thick fleece of up to 150mm, renewable every year.
Unlike imported fleeces of cashmere and Merino, British alpaca yarns are washed, spun and knitted in their country of origin, thereby reducing the high carbon footprint attached to transportation of the vast majority of knitwear yarns.