A wool enthusiast founded this store, wool enthusiasts run this store, wool enthusiasts shop in this store… But wool is not the only answer to the eternal felting question: What fiber will I use today? There are other kinds of fiber that felt on their own or when mixed with wool, and we carry some of them in our luxury fibers section. I found wonderful descriptions in Uniquely Felt, the book I quote every blog post by our owner Christine White, and here they are!
Camel: Camel fiber is short and can be slow to felt. Baby camel hair is the softest, and it’s often mixed with silk or wool. Camel doesn’t always incorporate all the way when mixed with other fibers, and this lends a nice texture in the surface design. Camel down has a micron count of 17 to 19, and it is 25 to 75 mm long. Felt made with camel fiber is warm but not bulky, one of its most popular characteristics.
Llama: Llama felts very well. Use low guard hair content to limit shedding. Llama fiber is very soft and devoid of lanolin, so it is hypoallergenic.
Alpaca: Same as above. Alpaca and llama are both somewhat slippery to work with and are therefore often blended with wool. Alpaca fleece is shiny and silky, and it is ideal for spinning, weaving, and felting. It is warmer than sheep’s wool and is flame-resistant, but because it is lanolin-free it does not repel water. Come into our shop and find some for your next felting endeavor (though be sure to make the trip soon- we’re almost out!
Mohair goat: This is an excellent felter. It is acts as an embellishment, because the long fibers attach quickly to themselves and wool.
Yak: The downy undercoat felts well. Used for wet or nuno felting, and great for spinning, dyeing, and carding into batts. Yak has a short fiber and you have to be very deliberate and careful when laying it out. It’s ideal for nuno, because the fibers migrate through fabric quickly even if you don’t lay out on the entire surface. Our yak comes from Tibet, is incredibly soft, and creates a warm, flexible felt. Yak tail fiber is like horsehair and can be used as embellishment.
We also sell a merino/yak/silk 60/20/20 blend (a silvery grey luxury fiber perfect for overdyeing), a mid grey merino/yak 50/50 blend (great for spinning, with body and loft), and a silver grey yak/silk 50/50 blend (with shine, strength, and depth, and perfect for clothing and other wearables).
Angora rabbit: Makes strong and very soft felt, though too many guard hairs will result in shedding. Expensive, so often mixed with fine wools. Rabbit hair is not elastic, so expect the felt to be firm and tight without a lot of give.
Dog: Some breeds felt faster than others. Sometimes felts faster in a lower pH, so try without soap or add some vinegar when experimenting. If your dog tends to smell like, well, a dog, rinse their fur with vinegar water or lemon juice, and then comb the pet for the undercoat fibers. Dog fiber is also great for needle felting realistic portraits based on your very own dog! Check out some pet portraits by Jennifer Field, one of our instructors, here!
Cat: Very slippery and has a tendency to shed. Best when mixed with soft wool mixture with small-diameter wools.
Try out some of these wool alternatives in your projects this week, and let us know how it goes!