Natural Animal fibers, also known as protein fibers, can vary drastically depending on the type of animal, and the specific breed of the animal who grew them, much like how our hair can vary from person to person. There are things that all natural animal fiber yarns have in common, and things that separate them from the rest.
The most important thing to discuss natural animal fiber yarns, and it’s most significant difference from other fibers, are the scales. If you run your fingers down a strand of your hand from root to end, it will feel smooth and glide smoothly, but if your run your finger up the strand the opposite direction you might feel some slight resistance or roughness. The roughness you feel is caused by the scales on the surface of the hair, and if you were to look under a powerful microscope, you could see them.
The Scales Affect….
The scales on natural animal fibers affect several aspects of the yarn. The scales help hold the fibers together which helps when spinning it into yarn and also helps form a stronger, more durable yarn. They provide a microscope buffer between the fibers which allows them to look intertwined and unmistakably separate all at once.
A good rule of thumb for natural animal fiber yarns is, the more delicate the fiber, the more numerous and smaller the scales are and the rougher fibers, the larger and fewer scales there are. The size and number of scales
Large scales on natural animal fibers does not necessarily mean that the yarn will be rough, or that the scales will be noticeable to the touch. With fewer scales, these fibers can be more reflective and almost have a luminous quality when hit with light.
Cashmere and qiviut (musk ox) fibers have large, smooth scales that contribute to a slippery surface and almost powdery appearance. Mohair also has large scales that give it it’s beautiful reflective qualities, and the first shearing of mohair can be as soft as cashmere.
Oh, The Warmth
Another significant role the scale is in the fibers ability to keep you warm. The scales create endless little nooks and crannies to trap in the heat and warm air. When the fiber a spun with the fiber going every which way they like, even a think strand of yarn can hold in more warm air than a thicker worsted style where the fibers are aligned and combed.
Now, there is always an exception to the rules. The only natural animal fiber that does not have scales is silk, which is in a category all of its own. Even though a living creature creates silk, it is not a grown hair; it is a liquid extruded by the silkworm that hardens when introduced to the air. The lack of scales on silk makes it tricky to spin into yarn, but give it brilliant reflective qualities.
Common Types Of Natural Animal Fibers
- Sheep – several types of wool
- Goats – Angora, Cashgora, Cashmere, and Pygora
- Camelids – Alpacas, Guanaco, Llama
- Angora Rabbits
- Qiviut – Musk Ox
I will be trying out and review all of these different types of natural animal fiber yarns, at least 3 from each different type, and posting reviews and
I hope that you have found this informative and helpful in you’re future fiber crafting adventures. I would love to hear your thoughts and please let me know if have left any of your questions unanswered. Please comment below, like share, or find us on social media.