How to Grade Alpaca Yarns

Discover How We Grade Alpaca

When grading alpaca yarns for knitting, there are different classifications depending on what knitting association you reference. In this blog I will highlight the most common ways alpaca is graded so you can make the best choices for your knitting and crochet projects or ready-made alpaca apparel.

Common Alpaca Yarn Grades


Grade 1 Ultra Fine (Royal) < 19 microns
Grade 2 Superfine (Baby) 19-22.9 microns
Grade 3 Fine 23-25.9 microns
Grade 4 Medium 26-28.9 microns
Grade 5 Intermediate ( Adult) 29-32 microns
Grade 6 Robust 32.1-35 microns

What It Means

1. Very Rare—only the finest alpaca yarns
2. Most common for high-end alpaca yarns
3. Common for bulky or blended yarns
4. Low-end yarns or blends with wool
5. Low-end yarns or blends with acrylic
6. Not normally used in hand-craft yarns
When grading alpaca yarns for knitting, there are different classifications depending on what knitting association you reference. In this blog I will highlight the most common ways alpaca is graded so you can make the best choices for your knitting and crochet projects.

Beyond the basic yarn grade, a lot of other factors can influence how a particular yarn will perform for your specific project. We are often asked for only 100 percent baby alpaca yarns. These yarns are wonderful, but they require extra care—hand washing and air drying—so they may not be suitable for some projects, such as gifts for people who don't understand the need for special care.

Alpaca fiber can have a lot of drape, so if you are planning to make a sweater, it may become heavy and not have as much structure as you were looking for. We often recommend blended yarns like Berroco Ultra Alpaca for these types of projects. This yarn is a 50/50 blend of alpaca and wool, so you get the benefit of alpaca and the springy loft and structure of wool.

The ply and overall yarn construction of the yarn will also play a key factor in how it performs. SimpliCria is a yarn we carry that has a chainette construction. When SimpliCria is knit up it's squishy-soft and has a wonderful halo—perfect for hats and scarves.

I evaluate every yarn we carry before bringing it into our store. By this, I mean I actually knit up a project with it so I understand how it will behave, what it's best qualities are and how it compares to other similar yarns. I normally don't like most yarns with chainette construction, so I was skeptical about SimpliCria. Once I had if on my needles, though, I was pleasantly surprised, and it has since become one of my favorite yarns.

Dyeing can affect the hand and texture of yarn. Did you know that alpacas come in 22 natural colors? If you'd like to avoid dyed yarn altogether, consider choosing one of our Eco Alpaca yarns that are the natural colors sheared from the alpacas. The lack of dye keeps the yarn as soft and lovely as it can be.

When choosing a yarn, don't just look at the published yarn grade. Look at its overall construction (ply, twist, construction, etc.) and which fiber (if any) it has been blended with. We carry a huge variety of alpaca yarns on our website, many with product reviews from our buyers.

Just as I try all our yarns, I also inspect the alpaca apparel that's made for us in Peru. We have learned over the years that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

There are many vendors selling online who promote baby alpaca products when in fact they are mostly acrylic with only 10 to 15 percent alpaca content. We see this all the time at the vendor stands near tourist attractions in Lima Peru, where people think they are getting a great deal on a baby alpaca sweater that's actually mainly acrylic. They likely got a nice souvenir to bring home, but they have not really experienced true baby alpaca apparel. We work with trusted suppliers with whom we've built relationships over the past decade to ensure we only get the finest alpaca products for you.

Read on for more information on alpaca fleece grading and even more helpful tips on choosing alpaca yarn. And if you have any questions, leave a comment and ask me!
Kelley Inspecting Our Ready-Made Alpaca Scarves in Peru
alpaca scarves from peru

How to Choose an Alpaca Yarn

Note: This video was from a few years ago so some of the yarn brands have changed but it's still a great overview.
Shop Alpaca Yarns

Grading Alpaca Fiber when Shearing

When shearing alpaca we have a simple process each year to be sure the alpaca fiber is categorized correctly before being sent to the fiber mill.

We label three large, clear plastic bags for each alpaca that will be sheared. The bags are each labeled with the alpaca's name and a 1, 2, or 3 to indicate if the bag contains First (Prime-Blanket), Seconds (Hocks, neck) or Thirds (Legs) fleece.

When we shear, we save the First and Seconds for fiber processing and discard the Thirds (or use them for stuffing pillows).

Here's the formal classification from NEAFP (New England Alpaca Fiber Pool)

Basic Alpaca Fiber Grades and Their Location

Prime or Blanket: Comes from the area of an alpaca where a horse blanket would fit. Typically the finest, most uniform fleece from an alpaca. 3-7” in staple length with a minimum of coarser guard hair throughout fleece.

Secondary: Similar to Prime, with shorter staple length and slightly coarser handle. 1.5 to 5” staple length, slightly higher percentage of guard hair than Prime or Blanket.

Third-Grade:Coarsest of all alpaca fiber including the highest percentage of guard hair. 1.5 inch and up staple length.
alpaca  fiber grading
Image courtesy NEAFP

How would you grade this alpaca fleece?

This is Tux. If you're experienced with raising and breeding alpacas, you'll notice the bounce and almost popcorn-like texture to his fleece. His fiber has a lot of crimp and is also very fine. Yes, we're quite proud of Tux. He has a sweet, gentle personality, too!
Tux had some of the best fiber from our alpaca breeding program

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