Looking for a luxurious, high-end yarn? Vicuña yarn is the most expensive commercial yarn in the world. I explore what vicuña yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 16, 2023.
Table Of Contents
What Is Vicuña Yarn?
It’s an animal fiber sold at very expensive prices. This fiber isn’t widely available because it’s rare and expensive, however it’s warm, soft, insulating, and non-irritating. It’s often considered the finest fiber in the world and it’s great for luxurious winter accessories.
It’s usually only available in its natural color, a rich cinnamon brown. Some companies have a small range of other colors.
Where It Comes From
Vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna)(2) are small, wild animals that live in the Andes Mountains of South America. Vicuñas live in Peru and Chile, and they’re herbivores.(4) In the 1960s, they were placed on the Endangered species list.
Now, in modern times, they’re a protected species. Their fleece is shorn every two years and sold for a high price, a process which is managed by the Peruvian Government.
How It’s Made Into Yarn
Vicuna wool is often made into yarn by hand. A single vicuña produces only about a pound of wool when shorn. The process is time-consuming and expensive, which is part of the reason the yarn is so pricey. The fibers are first gathered and sorted. Then they’re cleaned and spun into yarn.
They’ve been used to make fabric since ancient times. It was a law that only the Incan Royalty could wear the vicuña’s wool.
How To Wash Vicuña Yarn
Here are the care instructions for vicuña fibers.
- Wash by hand in cool water with a mild detergent
- Lay flat to dry away from direct sunlight
Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using.
Does It Shrink When Washed?
Vicuña yarn is resistant to shrinking when hand washed.
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What Do You Use It For?
It’s often used for projects and things like: luxurious winter accessories like gloves, hats and cowls, a scarf, or special occasion items. In the clothing industry it’s used in high-end garments and clothing like coats.(3) I wouldn’t recommend making a knitted coat or sweater because it’ll be so expensive!
Though if you can afford it, it might be worth it for its exceptionally warm softness, and wonderful wearing qualities. A single skein is usually in a small yarn weight with little yardage. Don’t use sharp needles as it could damage the fibers.
Here is a video tutorial by Norman from NimbleNeedles on what it’s like knitting with this fiber.
He chose to knit a gorgeous pair of gloves I’m sure he’ll treasure forever!
Where To Find It
Here’s where to find this expensive wool: online from Windy Valley Muskox, Shepherd Textiles, and Knit Stars offers AMANO Vicuña Boxes.
What’s The Price Like? Vicuña yarn is expensive! Many consider it the most precious fiber in the world. Its unique properties make it more pricey than silk, cashmere, and fiber from alpacas.
Sometimes it’s blended in skeins with one or more of the three.
Here’s a video by Business Insider on why it’s so expensive.
At the time of writing the price tag was $300 USD for 1oz/28g!
Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.
- The vicuña is the smallest camelid in the world.
- They’re considered a sacred animal by the Inca people and are often called “the golden fleece.”
- Only royalty of the Inca could wear it
- Vicuñas were on the brink of extinction in the 1970s but have since been brought back. They’re now carefully managed
- The strand has a micron count of 12-14 – the lowest of all natural fibers, which means it’s the finest fiber
- For a while, it was more expensive than pure gold!
- It was used for sports sweaters and outwear in the early 20th century(1)
FAQS About Vicuña Yarn
Is Vicuña Yarn Safe For Babies?
I wouldn’t recommend knitting baby items with this yarn, it’s super expensive. You’ll want to knit something that’ll be worn and treasured for years to come.
Is Vicuña Yarn Ethical & Eco-Friendly?
The vicuña is a protected species, and it’s illegal to kill them. Their fleece is shorn every two years. They live in the wild, and when it’s shearing time, they’re gently caught. People harvest the wool by shearing them. They’re released as soon as the shearing has finished.
Is Vicuna Yarn Itchy?
No, it’s not itchy because the fibers are so fine. It is incredibly soft against your skin.
Is Vicuña Yarn Good For Clothes?
Yes, it’s good for clothes because it’s insulating and doesn’t shrink. The price of the yarn may make you think twice about knitting a garment!
Is Vicuña Yarn Good For Winter?
Yes, this extremely fine wool is good for winter because it’s so warm and soft.
Is Vicuña Yarn Good For Summer?
No, vicuña wool isn’t good for summer because it’s too warm.
Do Vicuña Yarns Pill?
Animal fibers will pill in high abrasion areas.
Can You Dye Vicuña Yarns?
You can, but I don’t recommend it as vicuna yarn is delicate, so it’s better left untreated.
Is Vicuna Wool Waterproof?
No, it’s not waterproof, however, it’s water-resistant.
Vicuna Wool Vs Cashmere
Vicuna wool is often compared to cashmere because they’re both soft, luxurious fibers. Vicuna wool is the finest fiber in the world with a micron count of 12-14. Cashmere has a micron count of 15-19. Vicuna wool is more expensive and more delicate than cashmere.
Is Vicuña Softer Than Cashmere?
Yes, it is, though it doesn’t have the beautiful lofty halo cashmere does.
Which Is A Better Wool, Qiviut Or Vicuna?
Qiviut fiber is the wool from a muskox, and it’s eight times warmer than vicuna wool, and less expensive.
Vicuna Vs Alpaca Wool
While vicuna is the softest and most expensive fiber in the world, alpaca is a more affordable luxurious fiber with many unique properties.
If you’ve knitted with this yarn, I’d love to hear about it. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!
- “Ball of Fleisher’s ‘Vicuna’ Yarn; 1918.” n.d. National Museum of American History. Accessed October 28, 2022. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_641046.
- Vilá, Bibiana, Yanina Arzamendia, and Verónica Rojo. 2021. “Vicuñas (Vicugna Vicugna), Wild Andean Altiplano Camelids.” Case Studies in the Environment 4 (1): 1232692. https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2020.1232692.
- Osborne, De, and Claudia Heard. 1960. “Vicuna Coat.” https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1638777/.
- “Vicugna Vicugna (Vicugna).” n.d. Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 28, 2022. https://animaldiversity.org/site/accounts/information/Vicugna_vicugna.html.