Fibre Characteristics Deep Dive: Luxury Fibres

13 September 2023

Sponsored in part by:

Ad featuring a mocked up cover of a book called Quilting, and the words "Essays and exercises for creative exploration. Back the book on Kickstarter from Nine Ten Publications."

Ad description: Cover of the book Sheep, Shepherd & Land, and the words, "THE book about Canadian Wool, by Anna Hunter. Photos by Christel Lanthier. Buy now."

When we think of “luxury” fibres, we tend to think of animal fibres that are not as readily available as wool or cotton. These fibres come from animals that are not farmed as widely as sheep and are sometime not farmed at all. It is their rarity and high price that makes them a luxury, but they also have a luxurious feel to them; all of these fibres are very fine and soft, and the yarns and cloth we make from them retain those characteristics.

Though they come from different animals and places all around the globe, the one factor that all of these fibres have in common, aside from their softness, is warmth. Wool is warming and insulating, but every one of these luxury fibres is warmer. While the warmth of a particular yarn or garment is influenced by several factors besides the fibre itself, pound for pound, alpaca fibre, for example, can be three times as warming as wool. Cashmere (from cashmere goats) and qiviut (from muskox) lay claim to being even more warming: Cashmere is seven times as warm to wear as wool and qiviut is eight times as warm.

The animals that produce these fibres all originated in cold climates where they have developed dense, fine hair coats to protect them from extremes of temperature. That dense coat may be a single fleece, like that of the alpaca, or a fine undercoat growing under a heavier coat of waterproof hair, in the case of the muskox. That soft, short, downy layer is some of the warmest and most valued fibre in the world.

All photos by Michelle Boyd.

Digits & Threads Is a Member-Supported Independent Online Magazine

The articles, tutorials and patterns we publish about Canadian fibre and textile arts, crafts and industry are made possible by our members.

Copyright © Michelle Boyd except as indicated.

About Michelle Boyd

Michelle Boyd is a Master Spinner, weaver, and writer who lives in Olds, Alberta, located in Treaty 7 Territory, the ancestral lands of the peoples of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Michelle learned to spin in 1995 when her local yarn shop closed, and she became obsessed with the art and science of making yarn. She has taught workshops across North America and instructed for the Olds College Master Spinner Program for fifteen years. She is also a frequent contributor to both PLY Magazine and Digits & Threads and is currently completing her first book about spinning.

Related Posts

Fibre Characteristics Deep Dive: Blends

Fibre Characteristics Deep Dive: Blends

An overview of some of the different types of blended fibres that are used in yarns, threads, and fabrics. Don’t miss this fascinating fibre finale in Master Spinner Michelle Boyd’s series on fibre characteristics!

Get 10% off!

Join our mailing list to get special Studio Membership pricing! PLUS hear about new Digits & Threads content and community news.

Subscription success! Well done, you.