So where do you start when you're looking for fibre to work with? Firstly you need to think about what you're going to do with it.........Plant fibres and synthetics won't felt so if you're thinking of a felt making project you will need animal fibres. If you're spinning you can choose whatever you like - depending on your ability level. When demonstrating at shows I've had people say "Oh I couldn't do that - I'm allergic to wool" - not a problem, most people who are allergic to animal fibres can live with silk (yes it's an 'animal' fibre) and there is an amazing range of plant fibres and synthetics to work with.
Bamboo fibre comes in different forms - I've spun Bamboo Tops which were very slippy - definitely not for the beginner spinner! The end product was not dissimilar to perle cotton - I tried dying mine with Dylon dyes in a deep purple (in the same bath as some silk and some wool which came out beautifully purple) the bamboo doesn't take dye that well - however it did come out a delightful lilac which I was ultimately very pleased with. It's not a fibre that I'd leap to work with again as it was quite difficult - but the end product was nice.
I've since won in a raffle some bamboo fibre that is quite different. The tops had a staple length of about 3 or 4 inches this has a very short staple and is finer and fluffier. I haven't yet tried spinning it on my spinning wheel or on my drop spindle - will keep you posted on this one. I have, though, had a go with a primitive spinning method which uses no tools except the human hand - will do a post on this method ASAP - it "spins" well with this method into a strong, attractive yarn - with a bit of a slub. UPDATE: I've now spun some of this fibre - I carded it with cotton carders into a rolag and I spun it on my wheel and plyed it - it was really nice to spin easier than the other stuff - a nice result too, I think - would recommend this - give it a go.
There is now a source of pre-dyed bamboo fibre - in lovely strong, warm shades - will try to find a link for this.
I've not yet tried to spin cotton. I have looked at all the different naturally coloured cottons available but haven't succumbed to temptation and bought any - yet!
In case you don't know flax is the plant and the fibre - the finished fabric is linen.
My local guild did a project with this a few years ago. We were each given some seeds from which we grew some flax plants, harvested them and retted them (a bit like rotted - allowing the outer layers to break down). Then one of our brave members ran a workshop and showed us how to prepare the fibres using hackles (seriously vicious equipment this!) until we had wonderful golden strands ready for spinning. We then spun our fibres and used the guild Rigid Heddle Looms to weave a wall hanging. (photo to follow)
The really fabulous thing about flax is that you can grow your own! It's very easy to grow and quite pretty too. You can also by the fibre as tops. It's not difficult to spin - but at the same time it's not easy to spin really well. It's quite satisfying to work with and if you weave as well can produce some gorgeous end products.
This is not that easy to get hold of but it is out there. I have not spun it myself but I imagine it's pretty similar to Flax (except you can't grow it yourself as you need a license to grow it!).
This is fibre produced from corn and is not that freely available in England although I've seen American websites advertising it. I would very much like to try this and as soon as I do I'll let you know what I think about it.
I have an experiment in progress - will update you as it goes along. Obviously you can grow your own or as it's so common there is probably a local hedgerow that you can raid without causing harm (I got mine from a verge on a local farm). It's supposed to be a lot like flax and I've seen a finished shawl made from nettle yarn which was lovely - darker in colour than flax and slightly softer.
I don't know a lot about this - I will find out more and add some information later.
This is, unusually for a plant fibre, a protein fibre and not a cellulose fibre like all of the above. I believe that it is extruded from a liquid form. It comes as tops in a beautiful golden caramel colour and it does feel very similar to silk - with a gorgeous lustre. It's not easy to spin but is very satisfying - I enjoyed the experience and was delighted with the results - again very similar to perle cotton.
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