Feather & Hay Fibre Talk: Camel Hair
One of the biggest attractions when starting weaving was the ability to ‘play’ with different fibres. I am fascinated with how different fibres affect my senses. Camel Hair was certainly a fibre I wanted to try and discover more about. When you weave you interact with the yarn all the time; you touch it, run it through your fingers, watch it and see how it can be manipulated into a new ‘thing’. Before choosing a yarn/fibre the weaver needs to make choices about how it can be used.
How are these choices made?
You need to choose where the yarn can be used. A warp (vertical yarn that is put onto the loom, threaded and tied on) has to be strong enough to cope with the pressure of being wound and tightened on the loom. The weft (the horizontal yarn that will be thrown with a shuttle across the warp) can be chosen from a wider range as it doesn’t need to be as strong.
You can choose how dense you want to make the end fabric. When putting the yarns onto the loom I call it EPI (Ends Per Inch). I will test the yarn and make a decision about how the fabric at the end needs to be used. With baby wraps you want it thick enough to be comfortable and strong but not too dense that the fabric doesn’t bend and flex when you wrap with it. That is the basics of it – there are many other characteristics of fabric – drapability, stretch, cush etc.
You don’t normally mix fibres within either the warp or the weft. For example I wouldn’t mix wool with cotton when putting the warp onto the loom as those fibres behave differently when ‘finishing’ them and differently on the loom. Wool is likely to shrink more. On the loom I can tighten cotton more to get tension than I would wool. I started with ‘normally’ because you may want to create those effects of two different fibres, in fact yarns can be purposely put together in one yarn to allow the weaver of knitter to create these anomalies in the end product but not usually with baby wraps.
There are more considerations when weaving and choosing fibres but I think this is a good starting point and well, I have been at it for over two years and still feel like a huge novice – there is so much to learn.
*photo of dyed purple camel hair on a bobbin in a shuttle*
I am pretty new to camel hair. Interested in it for a long while I had read about it and liked the eco-sustainability it has. It doesn’t harm the animal, the fibres are collected by hand during molting seasons when the animals naturally shed their hairs. Fallen clumps of hair are still collected by traditional hand-gathering methods. As far as Carbon Footprints – I don’t know a lot. We won’t be finding camels roaming in Britain so it does mean getting fibres/yarns from further afield – significant supplier countries are: China, Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, New Zealand, Tibet and Australia. I am finding out more now specifically about the yarn I use – I’ll let you know once I know more!
Often collected from the two-humped Bactrian camel. The camel hair consists of two parts: the fine, soft undercoat or underlayer of hair that is in the yarn I have used. The straighter and coarser outer coat is called guard hair – this can be used in weaving but not in baby wraps. The yarn I have used comes from the adult camel but fibres are also taken from baby camels which is even softer and finer. It can be mixed with o
their fibres and I am interested in sourcing a yarn like this.
If you would like to read in more detail about Camel Hair – where it comes from, how it is collected etc. This is a good article. **
How have I found it?
I have now made scarves and a baby wrap with this fibre. I found it soft and warm with a slight fuzz to the end garment. I have a high tolerance to wool so I find it hard to give an objective opinion on whether it has the common ‘itchy’ feel that can accompany fibres like this. I found there was a slight feel of wool but didn’t find it itchy. I have sent Awhaer the size 3 baby wrap with a Camel Hair weft to Ella Galtrey over at Wrap the Rainbow to tell us what she thinks.
It is a perfect winter wrap as it gives a perfect warmth without weight. It makes a light, cushy wrap when mixed with the cotton warp. I like it because not only is it an unusual fibre due to its quality and scarcity, therefore being a luxury yarn, it gives me that warm fuzzy feeling knowing that the animals aren’t harmed or even impacted by the use of their fibre.
What else would you like to know? We will be discussing this in the Tester & Chat group so pop over and join us!
**Camel picture from www.ecosalon.com