Can You Spin Yarn With This?

After you learn to spin yarn, you may start looking at the world with new eyes. The cotton balls in medicine bottles, the dust bunnies behind the couch, even your husband’s beard may all look like potential yarn. Humans have been spinning yarn for thousands of years, and over time countless spinners have asked this very question. Here are some answers.

[Featured Image: The Fall 1983 issue of Spin Off posed this intriguing question.]

Note: Many of these fibers fall under the heading of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Spin Off and Interweave make no recommendations whatsoever that spinners try this for themselves.

1. Can You Spin Yarn With This?

Photo Copyright Michael Cummings/Moment/Getty Images. Click to Flip
Photos by Elena Chevalier.

In 2008, our sister publication PieceWork published “Maxine Tyler: Official Bear Knitter”. Maxine and the bears’ owner Clark’s Trading Post sent the raw fiber to be washed and processed into yarn, so she did not handspin the bear yarn, but her knitted projects serve as proof of concept. Like the fiber of other large mammals including bison and musk ox, bear fiber comprises a downy undercoat and a wiry hair coat.

2. Can You Spin Yarn With This?

Photo by United States Department of Agriculture/Forest Service Click to Flip
Teresa Prendusi/ United States Department of Agriculture/Forest Service

Known as a host plant for monarch butterflies, milkweed is growing in popularity as people spread the seeds in ditches and fallow areas. The silky floss might catch your eye first, but the plant’s tall stalks are the traditional source of fiber. Milkweed stalks can be retted, then processed like flax and nettle.

Spinners have been known to gather the floss, separate out the seeds, and spin it as a blend; it is not suitable to be spun on its own. (Some people have an allergic reaction to the plant.)

3. Can You Spin Yarn With This?

Photo by Terry Schmidt, owner of Oh Boy Click to Flip
Photo by Joe Coca

In the Winter 2016 issue of Spin Off, Leslie Ordal explored spinning the fiber of Curly horses. She reports, “Curly fiber is fairly short, from about 1⁄2 inch up to 3 inches, but usually falling in the 1-inch range. Generally too short for combs, Curly fiber can be prepared well using cotton cards or a drumcarder with a fine cloth.”

What other strange and wonderful things have you used to spin yarn?

—Anne Merrow


Learn more about spinning fibers!

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