We have collected some Good to Know,
Fun Fiber Facts
As stated on our About Blends and Fibers page, there are basically two groups of fibers:
Natural fibers, consisting of animal and plant fibers
Man-made or manufactured/synthetic fibers
Let’s look at the variety of natural fibers to work with and their properties. ( In alphabetical order)
Image from Wikipedea
Angora Rabbit Hair coming from the Angora Rabbit
There are 4 different angora rabbit breeds
The wool harvested from these rabbits are lightweight, silky, fine, and very soft. It is 7 times warmer than wool.
The hair for the finished angora is obtained either by plucking or shearing, each having their own advantages. Plucking makes for the best quality, but is more time consuming – shearing makes for a lesser quality, but will yield more hair. Though the Angora rabbit grows hair quickly, one rabbit will only produce around 14 ounces a year at best.
Because the amount of fiber harvested from these bunnies is in such a small amount, many blend it with other fibers. Angora will leave a halo when spun due to the fine guard hairs. Many people ( like Lynn) are also highly allergic to angora.
Cashmere Goats photo via Business of Fashion
Cashmere,or Kashmir, is known as the fiber of the Kings. It is a double coated animal and the down is separated from the guard hair. It is produced from the fine, soft undercoat of hair of the Kashmir goat.
As each Kashmir goat is capable of producing an average of 4-6 ounces of the soft down per year. That is the reason Cashmere is very expensive.
Sixty percent of the world's supply of cashmere is produced in China, Mongolia and Tibet.
Cashmere yarn is extremely soft, lightweight, yet very warm. It is very luxurious and possesses excellent drape.
Wool - Merino
Merino Sheep photo via Business of Fashion
Wool absorbs both water and sound. The fiber can absorb almost one-third of its weight in water. It also has a higher temperature at which it ignites than cotton. Because of this, wool is a fantastic alternative to chemical based flame retardants for use in natural mattresses.
The finest and softest sheep’s wool is Merino which comes from the Merino sheep.
It is the most popular breed of sheep used for clothing and produces the most luxurious wool, famous for its locks that measure 20-25 microns in diameter. Superfine merino can sometimes be 15 microns and a soft hand feel.
The sheep originates from Spain, but nowadays about 80% of all Merino comes from Australia.
Silk moth photo: en.wiki
Silkworms are native to northern China where they've been domesticated to produce raw silk. The silkworm moth is an all-white , almost fairytale like creature, with a very hairy body, and it has lost the ability to fly. Is this where the expression cute as a bug in a rug came from?
Silk is made by a caterpillar, and we jokingly refer to it as worm spit. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and cericin produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons.
Silk fibres are like smooth glass rods and slightly triangular in cross section. This smoothness and prism-like quality makes silk good at reflecting light, giving it a great sheen.
Silk is naturally hypoallergenic, yet is still breathable; it absorbs moisture and reduces humidity, which makes it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
In a blend, you have all the advantages of both silk and wool or your fiber of choice. However, you need at least 30% of silk to feel the silk and at least 50% of silk to both feel and see the silk!
Blends with less than 50% of silk will not look silky.
The best-known and highest quality silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity called sericulture. Bombyx silk comes from moths raised on Mulberry leaves.
There are several kinds of wild silk, which are produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry silkworm. Tussah silk is usually a beautiful natural golden color but can vary from pale cream to a dark rich brown. Tussah silkmoth caterpillars eat oak leaves or other leaves rich in tannin and it is the tannin that gives the color to this silk. Our preferred silk is bleached tussah in our blends for reasons we will explain below.
There are many legends about how the insect's silk was originally discovered. In one ancient tale, a cocoon fell into an empress's tea. As she picked it out, silk began wrapping around her finger and she recognized the cocoon as the source of the silk.
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Cashmere Goats photo via Wix
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Photo: Alpaca Country Estates
Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae. Current members of this group are dromedary and bactrian camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos.Yarns made from the fibers of these animals can be soft, lustrous, lightweight and warm.
These fibers, with exception of the Alpaca have a double coat. The long coarse hair which grows at the end of the shorted soft downy fibers.
An alpaca has gained quite a following in the USA and around the world. Prized for its ability to have lovely soft, and warm fibers.Generally a little bit stiffer than merino or cashmere, alpaca fibers are sometimes blended with wools like Merino to improve its draping qualities. In Peru, where 90% of the worlds alpaca fiber is processed, quality fleeces are considered to be those that fall into the 17 - 25 micron range, having a smooth handle, density and sheen and the absence of guard hair.
The undercoat of a Llama and Camel will produce a beautiful soft yarn. But it will need to be de-haired to remove the coarse primary fiber from the downy secondary fiber.
Guañacos are double coated with their under coat consistently measured between fourteen and nineteen microns.
Vicuña is the world´s most valuable fiber. Vicuña is world renowned for its incredibly low average fiber diameter (AFD), 12.5 microns. Vicuña is small and wild and belongs to the Camel family. It yields the finest animal fiber in the world. Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool,from 3- 20 ounces, and can only be shorn every three years, and has to be caught from the wild.
Angora Goat- Mohair
Mohair gpats: Photo by stuff.co.nz
Made from the hairs of the Angora goat, mohair is durable, warm, extremely lightweight, and lustrous with a soft hand. Mohair typically has a micron count of between 25 - 40. A great staple length to work with for spinning is less than 6 inches. It is best of the angora goat is shorn twice a year.
The best grades of mohair come from a kid and yearling goat, which is about the 1st three shearings. The fiber continues to get coarser over time, but there are many goat shepherds who have been able to obtain an 18- 20 micron fiber for the life of the animal!
Kid Mohair possesses the unique feature of natural wicking properties that takes perspiration away from the skin, preventing bacterial build up and odor.
Wool and Fineness
Photo : Courtesy of Wix
The fineness of wool corresponds with the crimp and fiber diameter. The higher the amount of crimp (measured per inch), the finer the wool. Merino wool, considered to be a fine wool, might have up to 100 crimps per inch. Coarser wool may only have 1 or 2 crimps per inch. You certainly will feel the difference, no matter what type of fiber- from wool to alpaca, it is the microns that dictate its use.
Fineness also depends on the diameter of the follicle, or as we usually refer to that as microns.
Wool with smaller diameter follicles is softer.
The hair on a human is about 40 micron, and we think it is soft. Merino wool is less than 1/2 of that micron and vicuna is 1/3. Using this information will help you in determining the use for your fiber.
There are many grades of fiber today. We always suggest using the fiber for its intended purpose and you will be very happy! Coarse wools can be made into rugs, while the fiber fibers are used for garments.
Bombyx Vs Tussah
Photo: Silk threads via WIX
When it comes to finished textiles, there are few materials that exceed the quality that you find with mulberry silk. Mulberry silk has a wonderful feel that is both soft and silky smooth. This is one of the reasons why it is so highly sought after.
Compared to other silk fibers, mulberry silk is more luxurious and breathable. However, tussah silk is becoming more popular.
Here are some similarities and differences between tussah silk and mulberry silk. The primary difference between tussah and mulberry silk is that they have vastly different textures. Tussah is not an inferior silk it is different. Tussah silk is significantly less expensive than mulberry silk.
The texture of mulberry silk is very fine and smooth. Tussah is a rougher texture than mulberry silk but still silky and soft to the hand. The actual fibers are thicker than that of mulberry silk (at times it can be twice as thick as mulberry.)
Tussah is stronger and more durable than bombyz silk. Tussah silk fibres vary from 26 to 36 micron in diameter while mulberry silk is 10 to 14 microns. The silk's color tends to range from a light creamy color to a dark brown color. Tussah is not an inferior silk it is different.
Many sources claim that tussah silk is difficult to dye, however I found the opposite to be true. The tannin in the silk helps me get deep rich colors . The only advantage of using mulberry silk to dye is to achieve a purer color due to the fact that mulberry silk is white.
Mulberry silk is more vibrant and lustrous and Tussah silk is flatter and more matte in appearance. I heard it described once as if they were wool, the Mulberry would be the equivalent to super fine merino and the Tussah would be equivalent to Corriedale fleece being that the micron in the fiber is higher.
We prefer an extra bleached tussah silk in our textiles due to the fact that it is stronger than the bombyx silk. We find that it also adds the characteristics of silk without the high costs of bombyx. The color is slightly off white and is still a lustrous fiber for spinning and felting.