Which type of yarn for your project ?
Before the fibre bug bit me.... I had no real knowledge whatsoever about the different types of fibres that existed, their particularities or where they came from... If like me, you have trouble telling the difference between mohair and angora.... Here is something to read to clarify the issue and therefore help you choose knowingly.
SHEEP : The most produced animal fibre in the world. Australia is the first producer with 85% of its flock being made of merino sheep. Each animal shorn once a year, produces 4 to 9 kilos of wool. There are several wool sheep breeds (most of them the result of crossbreeding). Here are some examples :
Merino : long and shiny fibre which is among the smoothest ones.
Polwarth Crossbreeding between a merino ewe and a Lincoln ram. This fibre is soft and less subject to shrinking. It is produced in New Zealand and the Falklands.
Blue Faced Leicester : or more commonly known as BFL. This sheep breed is one of the most famous is the UK. Its fibre is as soft as merino.
ANGORA : This fibre comes from an angora rabbit. It is particularly soft, smooth and delicate, 9 times warmer than sheep fibre. It can absorb up to 33% of humidity without looking wet. A rabbit produces 1 kilo of wool per year. It is considered as a luxury fibre for quality garments and therefore is quite expensive.
French angora : the hair is collected via combing or depilation, every 100 days. Depilation can be achieved with some specific plants (lagodendron or mimosa from Africa) which cause no harm to the animal.
German angora : comes from China, main producer with 90% market share and a high yield. Sadly their means of collecting the hair show no respect to the animal well-being.... And no legislation has been enforced in the country. If you take animals welfare to heart, make sure that when buying angora you know where it comes from...
MOHAIR : comes from the Angora goat. For a long time because of its silky and lustrous aspect mohair was considered as the equivalent of cashmere or silk. This fibre is very warm, light, squishy and velvety. The goats are shorn twice a year when they reach 8 months old and produce 2 to 4 kilos of fibres.
There are several categories of mohair. Category 1 : fibre coming from animals under one year old . Category 2 : animals between 1 and 2 years old Category 3 : animals between 2 and 3 years old. Category 4 : animals over 3 years old.
French mohair represents 0.1% of the world production. The biggest and best producer of mohair is South Africa, followed by United States (Texas) and Australia.
CASHMERE : Who has never dreamed of a cashmere pullover ? And for good reason. This natural fibre is rare and luxuous. It comes from a goat (Capra Hircus Laniger) that lives in Cashmere on the himalayan highlands of Ladakh and Tibet. Which explains the thick fleece with long hair to face winter. The goats are shorn at the end of winter. The fine fuzz of 14 to 20 micrometers is very sought after but also its length. The longer it is the more it is resold at premium prices. Due to the fact that on one animal only 100 to 150 grams of fibre is usable for the biggest fibres are not used (not fine enough).
Other countries produce cashmere but with an inferior quality (China, Pakistan...). The Tibet weather conditions (low temperatures and dry climate) guarantee a fibre with exceptional qualities.
ALPACA : the alpaca comes from the South American the Camelid family. For millennia it has been raised for its fibre quality. It is a high premium yarn, sof, warm and resistant. The alpaga fibre average diameter is between 16 and 25,5 micrometers. Each year 4000 tons are produced which is why it is considered as one of the most luxuous yarn on the market. Shorn once a year, the alpaca produces between 2 and 5 kilos of fibre.
CAMEL : belons to the high camelids family. The bactrian camel produces a light, fine, resistant, warm and extremely soft fibre.
The camel average fibre diameter is from 18 to 26 micrometers. The quality of the wool depends on the animal age and gender. The male fibre is broad and suitable for the making of ropes. The female fibre is more refined and best suited for spinning.
YAK : This animal comes from Himalaya, where it can be found on the himalayan highlands. Its wool has similar qualities to cashmere or camel. Its fibre is very fine, soft, warm and on a smaller scale production. It is collected via combing (under fuzz only). One animal can produce between 200 to 900 grams.
SILK : To the Chinese, it is the perfect luxuous product. In fact it was used as a currency in the past.
This fibre is soft, sleek, shiny, light and strong. It comes from the cocoon which is created by a silkworm. The cultivated silk comes from the Bombyx mulberry (not known in wilderness). A coccon contains 600 to 1500 metres of thread. You will need 6 to 8 kilos of thread to make 1 kilo of raw silk (blending of several silk threads). The silk production essentially comes from Asia, China being the 1st world producer.
LINEN : Vegetable fibre which is ecological in nature for it does need any chemical action to be transformed. It keep cool in summer and warm in winter. Its strong fibre shows almost no elasticity. It can absorb up to 20% of humidity. It gets softer over time and washing. France is the 1st producer of teillé linen.
COTTON : Vegetable fibre which coats the cotton plant seeds. It's the most produced cellulosic fibre in the world.
Pima cotton or "Andes silk" : has been produced in Peru for over 4000 years. It is one of the softest and finest cotton with the Egyptian cotton. Its fibre is resistant, soft, hypoallergenic but tends to shrink.
BAMBOO : This plant has a phenomenal growth for it can grow one meter per day. The fibre is soft, shiny, biodegradable and 4 times more absorbent than cotton.