A struggle here in Peru, and especially in Cuzco, is figuring out what products you’re looking at are actually made from what they’re marketed as, versus synthetics or a combination. Thankfully while browsing shops we found a hole-in-the-wall rare place for alpaca goods where (not knowing he was being partly tested by Profe) our only honest salesperson to date told us how to tell the quality of alpaca goods you’re looking at:
While many venders claimed their hats and scarves, gloves and sweaters were 100% alpaca, we soon learned how to tell that wasn’t the case. Most of the patterns that the hats and gloves have on them are fairly detailed, which is impossible with alpaca. There may be some woven in, but straight alpaca can only be crocheted or knitted, so anything else is done with a machine, which means the product must be mostly synthetic or of another fiber.
If it looks hand-crocheted, now’s the time to feel up your beanie. Rub the wool between either your middle or pointer finger and thumb, and if it’s actually alpaca, when you put those fingers together, they should feel slightly oily/sticky from it actually being alpaca. It will also been colder than other fabrics. Alpaca is also extremely soft, and baby alpaca even more so. If you’re looking for minimal dye too, our knowledgeable vender also said the only true colors for alpaca were grey, light brown/tan, almost black (not pure black), and an off-white.
With these in mind, I ended up personally buying two baby alpaca hats as souvenirs, and in our remaining time at Cuzco, I’ve been and will continue to be very skeptical of anyone who offers me something that is baby alpaca, 100%, handmade.