Sustainable Fibres: What is Camel Hair?

A Quick Recap

It’s that time again!  First, a quick recap from part one Sustainable Fibres: What is Abaca. There, I said

Natural fibres, as opposed to synthetic or man-made fibres, have a long history, and come in many types.[i],[ii] Typically, these include animal fibres or plant fibres.[iii],[iv]

Animal fibres can be things like alpaca wool, angora wool, camel hair, cashmere, mohair, silk, and wool. Animal fibres come from hair, secretions, or wool.[v] Plant fibres can be things like abaca, coir, cotton, flax, hemp, jute, ramie, and sisal. Plant fibres are come from seed hairs, stem or bast fibres, leaf fibres, and husk fibres.[vi]

 

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Now, the other fun stuff!

Let’s take a look at an animal fibre this time, specifically Camel hair. First things first, what is it in general? According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it is as follows:

Camel hair,  [is] animal fibre obtained from the camel and belonging to the group called specialty hair fibres. The most satisfactory textile fibre is gathered from camels of the Bactrian type. Such camels have protective outer coats of coarse fibre that may grow as long as 15 inches (40 cm). The fine, shorter fibre of the insulating undercoat, 1.5–5 inches (4–13 cm) long, is the product generally called camel hair, or camel hair wool.[vii]

 

Who supplies it?

According to the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCHMI), there are many, MANY sources that supplying the hair including China, Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, New Zealand, Tibet and Australia.[ix] Those aren’t necessarily a tremendous amount of places, but an enormous land area coverage if taken as a whole especially with a whole continent (Australia) and the largest country in the world (Russia).

 

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How much is gathered and produced?

Yields can vary, but there’s a common range. For these kinds of specialty animal hair fibres, natural fibres, the gathering or the collecting of the hairs occurs in the molting season or the season when animals tend to shed their hair.[x] For camels, that means late spring to early summer. This hair can fall off in clumps for collection by standard collection methods.[xi]

Following this, the “coarse hairs and down hairs of the…camel are separated by a mechanical process known as dehairing,” which in turn brings a yield per camel between about 8 to 10 kilograms.

What is its utility, look, and feel?

Camel hair is lightweight and naturally warm, it’s a tan colour, but and can be changed to various colours through dyeing – and, in fact, takes in the dye about as well as wool does.[xii]

What about the small stuff like the end product and recyclability?

If you check out this website, there’s a wonderful layout of some of the finer points such as garment care, end uses, virgin fiber, and recycled fiber.[xiii] Garment care is basically the means by which garments can be properly cared for, so “dry clean wovens; knit goods may be handwashed.”[xiv]

End uses are the finalized textile uses such as “]m]en’s and women’s coats, jackets and blazers, skirts, hosiery, sweaters, gloves, scarves, mufflers, caps and robes.”[xv] Not bad, a decent selection with a certain appeal in its ability to be re-coloured. Hosiery is the one that surprised me, personally. Hosiery is a virgin fibre or non-processed fibre and it’s capable of being recycled, As with many of the lovely variety of natural fibres, the forms and uses provide plenty of reason for consideration of the general consideration about, what I might call, the lifecycle of fibres.[xvi]

Closing thoughts?

Synthetic or man-made fibres can end up in landfills or the ocean and are not biodegradable, but natural fibres, granted with a little effort, can be sent back from whence they came after they’ve spent or expired their fashionable quotient – sometimes in a season, and other times after a decade of cycled fashion trends (you never know).[xvii],[xviii] Come back for part three for the next fibre profile!

 

[i] natural fibre. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/topic/natural-fiber[ii] man-made fibre. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/technology/man-made-fiber.[iii] Wild Fibres. (2016, February 15). Animal Fibres.[iv] Wild Fibres. (2016, February 15). Plant Fibres.[v] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). Natural Fibres. Retrieved from Natural Fibres.[vi] Ibid.[vii] camel hair. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from Britannica.[viii] Bactria. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from Britannica.[ix] Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute. (2013). Cashmere and Camel Hair Fact Sheet.[x] Ibid.[xi] Ibid.[xii] Ibid.[xiii] Ibid.[xiv] Ibid.[xv] Ibid.[xvi] Ibid.[xvii] man-made fibre. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from Britannica.[xviii] natural fibre. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from Britannica

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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