Shorn Shine Day: 7 Amazing, Exotic & Unusual Wools

Chiengora Wool

(images via: Textile Arts Center and Blog DD)

What’s “chiengora”? The word was coined from chien and gora with the latter taken from Angora and former being French for dog… that’s right, dog fur wool! Though most chiengora garments these days are hand made from fur collected from their pets by dog owners, wool spun from dog fur was the main type of animal wool in North America before the Spaniards brought sheep from Europe.

(image via: Textile Arts Center)

Chiengora is up to 80% warmer than sheep’s wool but is non-elastic, so a common practice is to add some portion of sheep’s wool when processing the dog fur to reduce the insulating properties while introducing some “give” to the finished product.

Camel Down Wool

(images via: Tim Cope Journeys, Bluefly and Ecouterre)

“Down camel, down!” Maybe Yosemite Sam was onto something, y’think? Camel down and wool spun from it has long been appreciated for its warmth, lightness, softness and durability… and of course, the pleasing golden-brown hue of the wool itself. Though native to arid climes in northern Africa, the middle east and south Asia, the largest population of feral camels can be found in of all places Australia. Dromedary camels were brought to the continent in the 1800s by Afghan migrant workers. Growing by roughly 8% annually, the population has swelled to roughly 1.2 million and their foraging has put exceptional stress on the environment.

(image via: Green Prophet)

The Australian government has of late been culling the feral camel herds through the use of aerial marksmen but many see the practice as being both cruel and wasteful. Helen Durrant (above), for example, formed Camelpro to explore sustainable ways of exploiting the camels as a resource, stating “Camel wool has some amazing properties,” enthuses Durrant. “I love the feel of it in my hands and you will love to wear it.” A more broad-based initiative, the Central Australian Camel Industry Association Inc (CACIA) was established as an alternative to government camel culling programs and aims to “promote the sustainable development of the camel industry through the use, knowledge and well-being of camels in Australia.”

Possum Fur & Wool

(images via: Oregon Live and From NZ)

Paihamu or the Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) to be exact, an invasive marsupial native to Australia that’s both the largest of all possums and New Zealand’s biggest pest. Originally brought to the island nation in the 19th century with hopes of starting a home-grown fur trade, Paihamu have no natural predators in New Zealand and today outnumber humans by about 17 to 1. While Paihamu are not farmed in the traditional sense, their status as an invasive species presents a special case though not everyone will be comfortable with that designation.

(image via: Raver Boutique)

Considered to be pests on par with rabbits in Australia, paihamu are poisoned with pellets dropped by air and are not collected or processed. “These animals would be killed anyhow,” explains Chrys Hutchings (above, top) of Oregon-based Eco-Luxury, “and the way the government does it is inhumane.” Hutchings’ company traps the possums instead and kills them quickly and humanely. The fur is processed into clothing and housewares such as pillows and blankets. “That the fur is ecologically compelling is icing on the cake,” states Hutchings. “It feels luxurious and looks incredible.”