Salt Water and Nuclear Fall Out...Why I Just Can't Get Enough of Camels!

Uncategorized Mar 03, 2022

Is camel fiber the right fibre for you?

When I'm dreaming up a project, window shopping on Ravelry or ferreting through my roving stash I am often drawn to the fibre type over anything else.

I used to rely almost solely on colour but now that I've expanded my fibre knowledge a bit I really do love to let the animal or plant take centre stage. I'll typically be much happier with the finished product when I've chose the right kind of fibre as opposed to the perfect shade of the wrong fibre. 

One of my favourite luxury fibres to spin with has got to be camel. It is super soft and comes in such wonderful warm natural colours.

Plus as soon as I think about those fibres literally sitting on a camels back, protecting it from the harsh sun or perhaps freezing snow, blowing gently in the cool evening air or rubbing against a tree, well everything just gets a whole lot more magical! 

So today I thought I'd help you get a little better acquainted with camels and let you in on some amazing camel facts. I'll share a bit about the various camel species, conservation efforts and give you some quick take home tips to make spinning your own camel fibre a total dream. 

How Many Humps Does a Camel Have?

There are actually 3 different species of camel in the world, and they all look a little bit different. 

The Dromedary camel is native to the Middle East and is arguably the most well known species. It has one large hump in the centre of its back and is typically a light sandy colour. 

The dromedary camel is super iconic and I'm sure you've seen pictures of them in front of pyramids or in a desert oasis. 

For spinners however dromedary camels are not the most exciting species because they produce very little fibre. 

The Bactrian camel on the other hand is the species we spinners do get really excited about! These camels are native to Central Asia and have two humps. They also have long beautiful fibres that are used for many textiles from rugs to fine garments. 

Bactrian camels are double coated, so as hand spinners we want to look for the undercoat, the shorter, finer fibres that sit around 20-23 microns and 3 inches long at most. 

These camels have been domesticated for centuries, being used over time as pack animals and for transportation, as well as for milk, meat, leather and fibre. 

The third species of camel is the Wild Bactrian Camel, and yes they are related to Bactrian camels but are in fact their own species and are truly wild. These wild camels are listed as critically endangered and as their population is now under 1000 in the wild, the chances of us ever getting to spin their fibre is next to none. 

These amazing wild animals may be critically endangered, but that does not mean they are not extremely resilient. Wild camels live in very isolated pockets in Mongolia and China and one of these little herds lives in the Gobi desert. 

In the Gobi desert area the wild camels have actually literally survived nuclear fallout! The Lop Nur region has been used for 25 years as a nuclear test site, and during that time 43 atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted. And yet, these wild camels are still here, still breeding in the wild and still roaming the vast desert just as they have for centuries. 

Wild Bactrian Camels have also adapted to be able to drink salt water, and only salt water! And salt water with a higher content of salt than sea water! WHAT!?

It is just so incredible to me that these animals have been able to survive radiation and an absence of fresh water, are the 8th most endangered large mammal on earth and yet we see and hear so little about them.

If you would like to support the conservation efforts you can donate to the Wild Camel Protection Foundation


How to Spin Camel Fiber

So if I haven't won you over with all that fascinating info on camels just yet, then allow me to tell you about how wonderful camel fibre is to spin with. 

Camel fibres as I mentioned are super soft when we just use the undercoat fibres. Around 20-23 microns is a good mid point, although baby camel can be much finer even than that!

If you're still struggling a little to understand what micron count really means click here to learn more about it. 

Camel fibres are wonderful  because similar to alpacas they come in a wide range of natural shades, from light sandy colours to rich chocolate browns. This is awesome because while I do love dyed fibres sometimes it can feel so pure and almost more earthy to use the fibre just as it naturally occurs. 

Camel fibres have an average staple length of 2-3 inches, which is longer than cotton for example but shorter than Merino which can reach up to 5 inches. All this means is that you'll need to be mindful of choosing a spinning style that suits your particular fibre. 

I love to spin camel woollen, using the long draw technique. This creates a really warm but light weight yarn, like the one you see above. 

Camel fibres are also hollow, like many wool fibres, and have scales on their surfaces, but slightly smoother scales than wool. This means they are a little bit smoother and feel lighter to the touch. 

All in all camel fibres are very versatile, they can be added to other fibres, put into batts or rolags or spun on their own.

As long as you take the time to plan your yarn and projects you'll be sure to match your camel fibre with the perfect project for a FO you'll love for a lifetime! 

It's virtually impossible to pick the wrong fibre when you take the time to appreciate the animals that grew it for you and allow yourself time whilst spinning to feel grateful for and connected to them. 

 If you loved reading about camels and how wonderful their fibre is to spin, head on over to my podcast 'High Fibre' where I did a whole episode on camels.

Be sure to subscribe if you love what you hear, and please leave me a rating and review so that more people can join us in loving fibre producing animals and take part in their conservation. 

Kelly x


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