- Australia has great potential for a viable alpaca fibre industry. The Australian Alpaca Association (AAA) was founded in 1989 to provide co-ordination for a growing national herd of high quality alpacas in Australia and to enable a viable and sustainable animal and fibre industry. The Alpaca Co-operative P/L (Alpaca Co-op) was established in 1995 to market products derived from alpaca fibres. Both organisations promote alpaca fibres and products in Australia as well as overseas. Australia has sound pastures and modern technologies for breeding the best stocks and currently has the largest alpaca herd outside South America. There is also an increasing interest in luxury fibres among fashion houses. The alpaca fibre industry in Australia is still very young and relatively small compared to the wool industry, and there has been strong desire to process alpaca fibres in Australia on the established wool processing systems. Knowledge on luxury fibre processing is often kept secret by international processors who have the know-how. Local industry needs to understand the properties of Australian grown alpaca fibres and their processing performance, so that the industry can market the fibre effectively and export high quality alpaca fibre products.
- The felting propensity of different animal fibers, particularly alpaca and wool, has been examined. The Aachen felting test method was employed. 1 g of each type of fiber was soaked in 50 ml of wetting solution and agitated in a dyeing machine to make felt balls. The diameter of each ball was measured in nine directions and the ball density was calculated in g/cm3; the higher the density value of the ball, the higher the feltability of the fibers. The effects of fiber diameter and fiber length on the felting propensity of these fibers were investigated. The results show that the alpaca fibers felt to a higher degree than wool fibers, and short and fine cashmere fibers have lower felting propensity than wool fibers at a similar diameter range. There is a higher tendency of felting for bleached and dyed alpaca fibers than for untreated fibers. Fiber length has a remarkable influence on the propensity of fiber felting. Cotton and nylon fibers were also tested for felting propensity to verify the mechanism responsible for the different fiber felting behavior.