Loading... Please wait...

Alpaca - Tips for Online Shopping




How do you shop for alpaca rugs, bedspreads and pillows when you can't touch them first? How do you get best value when using the internet to shop?

No doubt about it, online shopping is convenient! You can look, compare, and explore a variety of potential purchases in a way you could never do in person, even if the products were all in local stores. The downside is that you have to rely on pictures and written descriptions rather than your own sight and touch. And with alpaca, touch is everything, because nothing has the soft, silky, luxurious feel of top-quality alpaca. Given that an online customer can only look but not touch, its important to be as savvy as possible about what you are buying.


Alpaca can be used as wall-hangings, throws or bedspreads, but it is most often used in home decorating as an area rug. While a variety of brilliant designs can be seen online, both naturalistic and geometric, don't be so fixated on that one singular piece that you overlook opportunities to tie together an area with coordinated accessories. Many of the same designs are incorporated not only in rugs, but also in matching pillows, bedspreads and wall hangings. And if you can't get the coordination you need with stock items, be aware that custom pieces can be made at minimal additional cost.

All-Natural, Artisan-Crafted Works of Art

While pieces in solid colors are readily available, most alpaca products are crafted in unique, brilliant designs, no two exactly alike. The alpaca furs in your rug or bedspread may contain hundreds of sections, which are carefully stitched together by color to form the completed design item. This is nice, because natural colors will not fade, and since alpaca has 22 distinct color variations, there is a broad palette for native artisans to draw upon. Don't get me wrong, alpaca takes dye very well, and lots of items are sold that way. It,s just that any dye will fade over time in the sunlight, so if you are concerned about that, make sure that your source specifies all-natural alpaca.

What's That Smell?

Alpaca pelts are a natural hide and must be cured so that they retain their softness and integrity over time. There are many methods for this, some of which are pretty gross. One curing technique for example employs animal urine! I don't think you want that in your home since, besides the "ick" factor, this method leaves a persistent aroma. The current gold standard in the industry is curing with chromium. Chromium curing means that the fur will be soft and dense, the hide will be resistant to cracking, humidity absorption is nil, and the fur will last longer than any other method. Look for this, when shopping.

Cutting Corners is a No No!

Not all alpaca rugs, pillows or bedspreads are made alike. In this craft there are many ways to skimp on quality to save money. Also, there are many ways to enhance a product that may not be readily apparent. Let's talk about a few things to look for and to look out for!

  • Shaving- Alpaca fur is usually sculpted to some extent in order to give the designs more dramatic appeal. The fur pile depth on the rug will then vary between 1.5 and 3.0 inches. Some dealers however, have been shaving down all the fur on their rugs to less than 1 inch! This is to save weight and cost when shipping to the USA. Please make sure the Alpaca you buy has not been abused like that. Get what you pay for!
  • Pillow Lining - The nicer pillows have a zipper back for stuffing. They also cover the back with a nice fabric, like soft cotton. The best pillows also are lined inside the pillow, to cover the hide and stitching. This is a nicety, but another indicator of quality and care in construction.
  • The White Dilemma - OK admit it! You love the idea of natural, artisan-designed products, but you could also use a classic, all-white rug for under the cocktail table. This is not really a problem, because alpaca comes in a beautiful array of creams, silvers, beiges and ivories. White rugs, plain, or with white-on-white designs are readily available in a variety of sizes or custom-made. But let's be clear, they are not nuclear white! You are not going to find a natural alpaca product in dead-white without some color variations, because alpaca comes from (hold your breath) real animals. And there is no such thing as white dye. So the alternatives are to,
    • a) bleach the rug (which weakens it) or
    • b) get yourself a nice synthetic rug

Having said that, please give natural alpaca a chance. Over time, you may even grow to appreciate and prefer the subtle, complex and smoothly-varying overtones possible with all-natural alpaca.

Final Points

And, as in all shopping, make sure there is a money-back guarantee, shop only in reputable places, and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. If you pay attention to the above points, I am sure you will make a great purchase that will give you lasting enjoyment for years down the road.


~ SoftRugs.com ~