January 17, 2011

Photo by Sue Weaver
Sheep are a classic fiber-producing farm animal.

Yesterday morning it was 4 degrees F when Mom fed us our breakfast. She paused to scratch Mr. Tumnus’ back and hair came out! She looked closer and sure enough, the Boers are starting to shed their cashmere undercoats. Boers have cashmere? That’s right! Special Cashmere goats grow a lot of ultra-soft fiber (Mom wrote an article about them in the July/August 2010 issue of Hobby Farms), but all us goats grow cashmere underwear to keep us warm. You can comb it out and use it if you learn to spin yarn

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Lots of other farm animals grow fiber you can make into clothing, blankets or rugs. If you don’t spin, knit, crochet or weave, you can also learn to make it into felt or pay other craftspeople to do it for you.

Dogs like Samoyeds, Siberian HuskiesGreat Pyrenees and other double-coated breeds have soft, fine undercoats that can be blended with wool to make into garments. Go to Google (my favorite search engine) and type in “spin dog hair” to find artisans who do it for a fee. Or, type in “spin cat hair” or “spin horse hair” if that’s what you want made into hats or gloves.  

Curly horses are extra-special in the horse-fiber department. Hair from their winter coats is twisted and curved like the fiber from Suri alpacas, so it’s easy to felt or blend with other fibers and spin into yarn.  

Got Highland cattle? Their soft, winter undercoat is a spinner’s dream! You don’t have to shear them to harvest their fiber, just wait until they shed and comb it out.

That’s true of some llamas, too. It’s easy to gently groom the shedding undercoat from classic (also called short-wool or ccara) llamas using a dog-style pin brush, but most medium-wool and all long-wool llamas have to be shorn. Some llama fiber is as soft and workable as alpaca.

If you like to spin but think alpacas are too expensive to buy for their fiber, think again! Alpaca fiber geldings get cheaper all the time. Many breeders sell them for nominal prices or donate them to rescue organizations. If you want alpacas for fiber, think boys!

And if you’re really adventurous, get a yak. A yak’s winter, cashmere-quality undercoat is ultra-soft and cushy, and all you have to do is groom it out.

Or, stick to the old favorites like Angora and Pygora goats, Angora rabbits, or beautiful sheep. There are oodles of fiber-bearing animals you can keep on a farm!   

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