The fine down fibre of the Bactrian camel averages around 20 microns in diameter and varies in length from 2.5 to 12.5 cm. Baby camel hair, which can measure as little as 16 microns (on a par with fine cashmere), is the softest and most prized. Owing to its quality and scarcity, camel hair is used in luxury textiles.
The camel is an important animal component of the fragile desert eco-system. With its unique bio-physiological characteristics, the camel has become an icon of adaptation to challenging ways of living in arid and semi-arid regions. The proverbial Ship of Desert earned its epithet on account of its indispensability as a mode of transportation and draught power in desert but the utilities are many and are subject to continuous social and economic changes. The camel has played a significant role in civil law and order, defense and battles from the ancient times till date.
The two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is native to the steppes of Eastern and Central Asia. The current herd size is estimated at 1.4 million animals. The camel's fine inner down is combed away, shorn or collected during the 6-8 weeks moulting season. An adult camel yields about 5 to 10 kg of fleece per year.
Collection & Gathering Process:
Camel hair is collected from the two-humped Bactrian camel, found from Turkey east to China and north to Siberia. A camel can produce around 5 pounds of hair a year. The specialty animal fibre is collected by a number of methods including combing, shearing, and collecting the hair shed naturally during the moulting season. During the moulting season the hair falls off first from the neck, then the mane and lastly the body hair. The moulting season occurs in late spring and is a process that takes six to eight weeks.
There are five primary steps to the production of camel hair; collection, sorting, dehairing, spinning, and weaving or knitting. After collecting the hair either through shearing or collecting during the moulting season the hair goes through a sorting method. In this process the coarse hair is separated from the fine, soft hairs. The fibres are then washed to remove any dirt or debris obtained from the collection process. The sorted and washed hair is then dehaired. This process removes the coarse hair and any dandruff or vegetable matter before it is sent to be spun into yarn and used for either weaving or knitting.
The color of camel is primarily golden tan with a variance of red to light brown tones. Camel's hair is also a fibre that supplies warmth without added weight. The hair contains thermostatic properties which can protect and insulate the camel from the extreme cold conditions as well as keeping them cool in the desert. The same properties and characteristics are transferred when making fabrics woven from camel hair.
Uses of Camel Hair
Camels are highly valued by the desert dwellers. Camels are not only useful for transportation and loading purposes, but its skin and wool are also quite worthwhile. Camel wool is spun and woven into beautiful woolen blankets known as falsies and into stylish and durable rugs. The camel's leather is also utilized in making kuppies, goblets, and expensive lampshades.
In Mongolia, camel hair is used by nomadic herders to make yurts, winter clothing and carpets. Since it is a premium fibre, camel hair is usually blended with wool to make it more economical to create fabrics for men's and women's coats, jackets and blazers, skirts, hosiery, sweaters, gloves, scarves, mufflers, and caps and robes. The long coarser hair removed in the dehairing process is also used which can be made into carpet backing as well as waterproof coats that are very warm for colder climates.