Some of you fiber vegetarians might be wondering what alternatives to animal fiber are out there in the felting universe. NEFS recently decided to carry ramie and hemp in addition to the dyed bamboo and merino/tencel already in stock, so read on and find out more!
Ramie is a white, shiny, very durable fiber sometimes known as Chinagrass or vegetable silk. It is one of the oldest known textile fibers, and has been identified in Egyptian mummy clothing! It can be spun on its own or blended with other fibers (especially wool, cotton, or silk) and will handle similarly to tussah silk. It dyes relatively well and is resistant to bacteria and insects. We recommend ramie for needle and wet felting, and although it does not felt on its own, it is perfect for blending with your wool to create art batts or to use as surface design. Garments made of ramie breathe well, do not shrink, and are mildew-resistant.
Hemp is a plant derived fiber with a slight sheen. It is extremely durable and is great for hand spinning, blending, or using as surface designs. Once turned into a fabric, it has a texture similar to linen. Hemp is also used in combination with wool for beautiful wet and nuno felting projects. When needle felted, it becomes strong quickly and holds its shape very well.
Tencel (sometimes blended into the fast-felting merino/tencel 50/50 blend found at NEFS) is a fiber made from cellulose from wood pulp. The term Tencel was branded by the Austrian textile company Lenzing, but it is actually very similar to lyocell, a different fiber (http://www.businessinsider.com/how-tencel-compares-to-cotton-2015-9). It is known for its breathability and strength. According to an article in Business Insider, Tencel is an environmentally friendly fiber option due to its minimal waste product. Tencel is great for spinning alone or blended with other fibers, and it creates a lustrous, silky yarn. It does not felt on its own, but when blended with merino it is fast felting and has a nice sheen. It is great for wet felting nuno scarves or clothing.
Bamboo fiber has a very short staple length and is a natural white textile made from the pulp of bamboo grass. It is excellent for dyeing, spinning, and can be blended with other fibers to achieve a wonderful luminous sheen. Both light weight and strong, bamboo is very soft and can be worn directly next to the skin. It provides beautiful surface details for needle felted projects, and when black bamboo is rubbed between your fingers, it can be used to outline shapes and forms in landscapes.
So that’s four new fibers to experiment with! Try to make your own custom blends and let us know how it turns out!