|Vicuna in the Ecuadorian Highlands|
The Vicuna belongs to the camelid family, like the alpaca and the guanaco, but lives in the wild at an altitude of more than 4000 meters above sea level. You can find vicunas from as far north as Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. The vicuna is the smallest of the 4 south American camelids (Vicuna, guanaco, alpaca and llama). The colour of their fibre is caramel in colour with a white bib below their face. Their height is between 1 to 1.3 meters and they weigh approximately 35 to 40 kilos. Their fibres are classified as one of the most finest in the world with a micron count of appr 9 to 12micron with a staple length of about 3cms. You can find the vicuna in three kinds of social groups: the polygamous groups with 1 male and 10 females; a group of males and then there are the solitary males. The gestation period for vicunas is about 10 to 11 months.
|a small herd of male vicunas|
When the Spanish arrived, they were equally entranced by the fibres, but in keeping with their violent conquest of the Incan Empire in the 16th century, they simply killed vicuñas to access their wool. That method persisted until the 1960s, when just 10,000 vicuñas remained.
Realizing that the species was in danger of imminent extinction, conservationists and vicuña range-state governments began scrambling to save it; first by protecting the animals and outlawing trade in their wool; then in the 1990s and 2000s, by launching programs that harkened back to the old way of doing things: introducing community-led efforts to harmlessly and sustainably shear vicuñas and manage populations.
At first, the plan seemed to be working. Locals worked together to harvest the wool, which they then used to make handicrafts or sold to textile companies in Italy, Scotland and Japan. “The program started quite well, but for the past 15 years we’ve discovered a series of fundamental problems,” says Cristian Bonacic, currently a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and permanently based at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.
Communities working directly with vicuñas, most of which are extremely poor, currently receive little profit for all their effort — “the smallest piece of the pie,” says Daniel Elias Maydana, a technical advisor for the National Association of Vicuña Fibre Producers who works in Bolivia and northern Argentina. “The money obtained from managing vicuñas is important, but it’s certainly not sufficient to lift families out of poverty.”
A single coat, using just two kilos (4.4 pounds) of wool, can cost $50,000, he says, meaning that the fashion industry’s revenue from just five garments can equal the entire earnings that the whole of Peru’s vicuña-producing communities sees in a year.
Another tit-bit of information: there was even a political scandal called the “Vicuna coat Affair”: In 1958, Sherman Adams, President Dwight Eisenhower's forceful chief of staff, was one of Washington's most influential men. His career, however, ended abruptly after he accepted an overcoat from a textile magnate under federal investigation. The gift might seem innocuous enough, but the coat in question was made of vicuña—an incredibly soft, light, rare and very expensive yarn. It was alleged that Mr. Adams, swayed by such luxurious gifts, subsequently tried to influence federal agencies on the magnate's behalf. Despite the politico's protestations of innocence, he resigned in a scandal that some dubbed the Vicuña Coat Affair.
Now, the silky vicuna fibre sits at the nose-bleed-high pinnacle of tailored luxury. Each year, only 13,000 to 17,500 pounds of vicuña become available. The Italian tailoring house Kiton makes only about 100 vicuña pieces a year; an off-the-rack sport coat costs at least US$21,000, while the price of a made-to-measure suit starts at US$40,000. A single vicuña scarf is about US$4,000. There are only 30 vicuña suits produced per year. Each is numbered, and the most affordable model goes for US$46,500.
|Handspun and handwoven vicuna and cashmere scarf, the price to the end consumer US$17.000 ,|
the reward given to artists and poor communities ensuring the ethical shearing of vicunas:
a tiny, tiny fraction . spin and weave your own ethically
Vicuñas are now listed as a species of “Least Concern” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but most experts agree that there is cause for concern. Vicuña populations now hover at 400,000 to 500,000 animals, but their numbers have remained stagnant or — in the case of Chile — declined over the past two decades.
As in everything in this world, we as consumers and fibre artists have to be aware of where the fibre comes from but more than anything to realise that everything comes at a price: there is no way that handpicked, hand carded, fibres of a rare breed that is carefully hand sheared can be offered with low prices.
What we see happening all over the world is that the wealthy end consumer pays a huge amount of money of which only a tiny fraction goes to the preservation and the maintaining of the natural habitat and the poor communities that live off the land. We all have to be conscious that this attitude has to change.
I have been trying to do my bit with bringing rare breeds to you and trying to tell you the story of how importantant it is to preserve and protect. You may think how can 1 person change something? But I truly believe you can. We all can make a change together. So with this story of this truly royal and exquisite animal, I offer you a magnificent blend. Do your bit and help this amazing animal survive and make life better for numerous poor communities who are doing the right thing.
New IxCHeL Club sign ups are open
for the months : October, November and December 2016
(til quotas are reached or until October 1st)
IxCHeL Fibre Club October, November and December 2016
The IxCHeL Sock Yarn Clubs October, November and December 2016
IxCHeL Funky Bunny Batt Clubs October , November and December 2016
Vicuna Blend Tops SOLD
A beautiful blend of Vicuna (40%), Muga Silk (30%), Cashmere(30%)
28grams in a nice gift package AU$60
to put this price in perspective: 28 grams of pure vicuna is priced at around US$250 !
vicuna blend top
Dates to put in your Calendar !!
2nd of October
Black n Coloured Sheep FIELD DAY in Cranbourne!
Just contact me with the name of the colour you are after and I will get right back to you.
How To Order:
2. Message me on facebook or
3. Message me on www.ravelry.com where I am Ixchelbunny.
I will email you right back with all your order details and payment methods.
Any questions? Any custom orders for yarn or dyeing fibre? : Please don’t hesitate to ask! Always happy to enable.