Spinning the New Fibers: Adventures in Soy, Bamboo, Banana, Steel, and More

"There's a joy in spinning how and what our ancestors did—but there are fibers available today that our spinning forebears never dreamed of! Patsy Zawistoski explores this new world of fiber options in her brand-new video. We've invited Patsy to tell us about her explorations. Enjoy! " – Anne


Patsy uses a simple burn test to identify a fiber

by how it burns, how it smells, and what

the ash looks like.

“So I can learn about things I’ve never heard of!” Hazel (3 ½), July 7, 2014


My granddaughter’s statement pretty much sums up my outlook on exploring spinning techniques and fibers.


Nothing will ever replace the four historic fibers: silk, wool, flax, and cotton, in the hearts and minds of spinners and weavers. However, there are times you want a blanket for the new mom/dad who desires/needs the expediency of machine washing and drying all the new baby things; or your friend is concerned about the high pesticide and water demands of cotton, but needs warm-weather items; or you might want to just create something sparkly but soft for a special occasion. Many of these newer, high-tech fibers may fit the bill.


This video about many of the newest manufactured fibers gives spinners tools for learning how to identify unknown fibers. The most important tool is burn testing, particularly for very new fibers. Few standard burn test charts have been updated to include many of the new fibers you’ll see here. I consider it critical that students learn how to perform this test safely, and then accurately read the results. 

Spinning Firestar nylon along with other nylons adds sparkle to a lovely, soft yarn.


However, problematically and frequently, vendors label anything that is shiny or sparkly as “glitz”, an undefined term. Actually, the available fibers for sparkle could be any number of fiber types like: nylon-Firestar™; polyester-Angelina™, rayon-Tencel™; or rayon from bamboo. Understanding the differences between these fibers will help you choose just the right one for that next project.


The second problem is that there is a great deal of information online, some accurate and some advertising, taking the time to understand the history of these manufactured fibers will help you distinguish between the various types and hypes. There are differences between regenerated fibers from cellulose sources, like rayon, and synthetic fibers from non-cellulose sources like polyester.  Historically, those were the main two categories. Today we have fibers that are from mixed sources like milk generated from 30% casein and Ingeo™, a polyester-like fiber from the corn starch in the corn kernel.


All in all a jam packed video about choosing, blending, carding, spinning, plying, and finishing the new fibers.  Yep, it’s time to “learn about things you may never have heard of.”


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