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December 12, 2011

By: Tim Sheets

Alpaca Fiber at the Cellular Level

the difference between suri and huacaya

The first difference between huacaya and suri fiber is that cuticle cells of the Huacaya protrude slightly more than the Suri, Having less scale frequency and a lower cuticle height, the Suri fiber feels more slippery and is more lustrous than huacaya fiber.

The second difference between Huacaya and Suri fiber is in the internal composition of the fiber. The Huacaya has a bilateral structure similar to sheep and the Suri does not. Bilateral structure refers to the presence of the two types of cortical cells which are classified as either orthocortical cells or paracortical cells. These cells grow in bundles next to each other. The bilateral formation is responsible for the crimp/crinkle in the Huacaya. The orthocortex bundling is always found on the outside of the crimp curve. As the two cortical cell types grow alongside of each other the orthocortex provides the tension that forms the curve of the crimp while the paracortex, under less tension, causes the crimp to stay in place. There is no visible line of distinction between the two cortical cell types in the suri fiber and thus the suri fiber is characterized by relatively straight fibers rather than crimp.

Because of different fiber structures, huacaya and suri require variations in processing techniques. Suri is generally more difficult to process. The machines are set at a lower speed than for the huacaya. Due to its cuticle cell structure and straightness Suri fiber lacks cohesion making it more difficult to 'spin' and there is slightly more fiber wastage when processing. Also, because of the straightness of the Suri fiber compared to the crinkle in the Huacaya, more fibers are required in a Suri yarn than that of a huacaya. This gives suri fiber more bulk and a heavier weight.

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