November 2007

Camel fiber

We have talked about the Llama, Alpaca, and Vicuņa fiber. All of them are members of the camelid family, but we have not talked about the main member of the family, the camel.

The word camel most likely has come from the Arabic word "Jamal". Camels live in dessert areas of Central Asia (Mongolia and China) and the Middle East. The camels of Central Asia (The Bactrian) have two humps and the ones from the Middle East (The Dromedary) have one hump. Camels have been domesticated since 3000-3500 years ago. They are typically used as Beasts of Burden in desert areas. Many nomadic people rely on camel milk and meat for their livelihood.

The life expectancy for a camel is 40 to 50 years. They can withstand scorching heat because their coat reflects sunlight. Their feet are tough and can endure desert heat and do not sink in sand. An adult camel stands at 6 feet (1.83 M) at the shoulder and 7 feet (2.16 M) at the hump.

Both types of camels produce fiber. However, the camel fiber available for sale is mostly from Bactrian camels. They have two coats, one soft down which covers the body and a coarser outer layer with long hair. The down is soft and warm, comparable to Cashmere.

Camel fiber is hard to felt. It cannot be bleached, so it is either used unbleached or dyed in darker colors. The natural colors come in a wide range from white to black. Each animal can produce between 5 to 12 pounds of fiber per year.

Camel fiber is regularly blended with wool or silk. If blended with wool it will have more crimp and elasticity. When camel fiber is blended with silk, it produces a drapey fabric. If you are looking for Cashmere-like fiber with lower cost, camel fiber is your answer.

For more information about camel yarn and fiber check out Yarn Market and Crown Mountain Farms. If you are a hand-spinner and like to try spinning camel fiber, look into Kendig Cottage.

Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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