Back when were were first learning about alpacas, we learned something very interesting about their history. The alpaca's closest living relative is the vicuna, producers of the world's finest fiber rightfully known as the Fiber of the Gods. This led us to discover the work of Dr Jane Wheeler. She discovered 1,000 year old alpaca mummies at El Yaral in Peru. Not only did these alpacas have extremely fine fiber, they were also perfectly uniform unlike the majority of today's alpacas. Dr Wheeler's research revealed the reason for this difference. There's a high degree of hybridization in the modern alpaca, due to centuries of interbreeding with llamas since alpaca/llama hybrids are fertile.
There was a lot of talk among alpaca breeders about using more science to guide breeding decisions, but we never relied much on that. To us, it was all about genetics and how the fiber looked and felt. Once we saw the way our herd was evolving, we realized we were on the right track. Just by using our powers of observation, much like the Chiribaya civilization that inhabited El Yaral.
We were selected our foundation stock, fineness and uniformity were the most important criteria. They were going to produce fiber for garments...so that fiber has to feel good against the skin, right? Over time, we noticed that our herd began to more closely resemble the El Yaral mummies. Each generation increased in fineness and uniformity until we began to see alpacas with Merino-like uniformity. Just like the Chiribaya alpacas from El Yaral.
A breed is a group of domestic animals with the same appearance, behavior and other characteristics that distinguish it from other members of the same species. And individuals of the same breed produce similar offspring. We observed all these characteristics in our alpaca herd, so we felt that we should come up with a name for our herd since it showed all the signs of becoming a unique sub-breed. We thought back to the El Yaral mummies and realized the future really is in the past. So we gave our herd the name Chiri, in honor of the Chiribaya civilization. Its possible the last time the world saw alpacas like ours is when the Chiribaya civilization existed. The name of our alpaca farm was Cloud Hollow Farm, plus the fiber is like a cloud when its spun...so soft and light. In the Bradford count system, 80's grade fiber is in the 17-19 micron range and in a narrow range of uniformity...all true of our Chiri fiber. And thus Chiri Cloud 80's was born.
Every 2 years we assemble enough fiber to process. Its graded by micron and uniformity. The top we currently have is 80's grade, though we could have 90's or 100's grade in the future. The goal is to always be 80's grade or finer. We were fortunate to find a highly skilled spinner in Maine who can spin beautiful yarn from our Chiri Cloud 80's top.