Camels have two humps, dromedaries have one – at least that is what I thought. It’s not true though. Now, I have learned: all of them are camels, curious and friendly, however, there are two different groups: dromedaries (1 hump) and bactrian camels (2 humps) in one group, llamas and vicunas in the other. Don’t tell me you knew …
Even more interesting: camels (ie those from group 1) can easily loose 5 to 7 kg undercoat when shedding naturally in moulting season. After collecting those fibres, the coarse and fine hairs have to be separated, washed to remove any dirt or debris before they can be spun into yarn. In short: a lot of work!
Well worth it though as the result is beautiful: It is said that the undercoat is almost as soft as cashmere and very insulating. Especially the latter totally makes sense, as the majority of camels live in desert regions, where it is super hot during the day and really cold at night.
A few weeks ago, I have bought a skein at the German manufacturer Grossewolle. The company is currently cooperating with a German camel farm – what an exciting and eligible project! Daniel (head of Grossewolle) wrote quite a bit (German – sorry) about this project that is apparently very near to his heart.
In the meantime, my skein has turned into another Down to the River but (again) I may not keep it for two reasons: the type of yarn and its color. Camel fiber has a very nice stitch definition and great length, however it is not something I like to wear around my neck. It reminds me of Scandinavian yarn, yarn with tiny “barbs” that has a felted feel to it when knitted. Something I really like in sweaters but not in a scarf. That “barbs-y feeling” is due to the guard hair, the outer protective fur. In their first attempt, Grossewolle has not (yet) been 100% successful when trying to separate guard hair and undercoat.
I have been trying to soften the finished scarf with the help of wool fat – now it itches less but has a “greasily” feeling to it (even though I did not use much lanolin at all). Hence, for now I have not yet decided how to proceed, whether to wash it again or not. Whether to keep it or not.
And talking about the color: it is totally different from sheep wool. Actually no surprise, as a camel is not a sheep … but I had not given it any thought before. Camel wool is mat, lusterless in a way. Look at a camel and you know what I mean. (Besides, the yarn smells different too).
However, I cannot let go (yet). I really want to see this project develop at Grossewolle. There is so much enthusiasm, so much passion and work. Hence, sometime in the near future I might buy another skein. It will be softer, I am sure and (in combination with a more colorful strand) an exciting yarn to work with.
I will keep you posted!