When most people think of alpacas, they see in their minds eye the huacaya. Huacayas (pronounced wa-KAI-ya) have the fluffy teddy bear appeal that many associate with alpacas and are the more common of the two types. They comprise about 80% of the U.S. alpaca population. The Alpaca Registry (ARI) showed about 101,492 huacaya alpacas registered in the United States as of July 2009.
These beautiful animals are characterized by their fluffy fleece. The fiber grows outward from the alpaca’s body and is so thick and crimpy that it forms halo of fleece all around the animal giving them their “cuddly” appearance. The fiber is soft and strong and generally crimpy throughout. It looks a lot like Corriedale and Romney sheep wool (without the lanolin). At the microscopic level, the scales on follicle of the hair of the huacaya fiber are irregular and slightly serrated (though still smoother than sheep wool) which helps it “grip” in processing and take dyes well.
When commercially processed, huacaya fiber can be processed either using the woolen or worsted process and produces a soft, lofty thread or yarn. It’s ideal for knitted wear or soft tweeds.
Huacayas come naturally in a wide array of colors with white, brown, and black being the most common.