When it comes to using vegan alternatives to animal fibres, bamboo fibres is something that is often touted around as a solution. Personally I’ve never used it before this review; nor have I ever seen it actually used in practice, but I am curious as to how it felts and whether it really is a viable alternative to using sheep wool.
- Quite a ‘squeaky’ feel
- In its ‘raw’ state is quite lumpy and unworkable
- Not suitable as a core
- If loosely carded works well as a top layer
- Feels like your needles will snap against the fibre’s tension
- Personally I wouldn’t recommend it as suitable for 3d needle felting, but could be used to add texture
About the fibre
Staple length – Variable, dependant on supplier
Handle – Silky and lustrous, with a fibrous texture
Available colours – Usually comes in a natural creamy colour – however, World of Wool sells it in a small selection of colours.
Adelaide Walker also sells it in tops form here, which I must state is very different to the form I used, which came in a sample pack of different fibres from an independent seller.
You know when you’ve had a cold and your pockets are filled with tissues, then, because you’re poorly-sick, you bung everything in the wash, tissues and all? Then when you take the stuff out of the tumble drier you put your hands in your pockets and find all that shredded-up, weird dry tissue mulch?
It’s got a very fibrous feel to it, and you call almost feel the shine. It is, however, very soft to touch, so at least we’re talking luxury brand Fortnum and Mason tissues here. Kleenex with Aloe at the very least.
It might also be the stuff cobwebs are made with at Halloween.
It has a quite-white colour and no smell. Raggedy shreds in appearance, so I’m not sure quite how this will felt. The texture feels a bit artificial.
The Ball Test
The Ball Test is my comparison test between the different core wools to help determine suitability for purpose (i.e. dry needle felting), versatility and speed. I start off with approx. 10 inches of fibre and felt using a 36 gauge triangle needle for five minutes, then I spend another 5 minutes using a 38 gauge triangle, recording my results at the 10-minute mark. If I feel that the ball is still unfinished at this point I continue until it is completed to my standards – a tight, firm, even ball that is relatively smooth and as lump-free as possible.
This ain’t gonna be a ball…
I really don’t know how to get going! I’m used to my fibres being able to roll – this stuff is in lots of weird clumps.
As always, I started with a 36 needle. It’s not very effective. OK, so no 36 then. Doesn’t even go through the fibres! It made me immediately angry – good thing I’ve got something to stab!
Hmm, no luck with a 38 either! Are my needles blunt?
Oh come on! Really, not even a 40? It’s going through some of the thinner sections, but nothing else. Even when I try to felt sections that are only slightly lumpy – it’s just not happening. Should I be carding this?
OK, it’s working with a 42 needle, but it’s making me nervous. There’s too much resist in places and that combined with the groaning sounds it’s making as I stab makes me fear for my needles!
After about 5 minutes I’ve made this awful-shaped ball which feels as sturdy as a drunk in high heels. I see what happens when i lightly pull it apart…
Time for a change in tack.
Carding it loosely, by pulling the fibres apart repeatedly and overlaying them, makes it easier to work with – the 38 now works a bit and the feels soft and teddy-bear like, but also tough. It’s still lumpy looking, bobbly and uneven, and impossible to turn into a decent 3d shape. This is not a fibre that will work as ‘core wool’.
However, applying it carded to an existing 3d shape is a different experience! It goes on with a 38 really easily, tidies up well, feels very soft and smooth (albeit fibrous and artificial) but could totally be used as a top layer without terrible problems. So at least it has this going for it.
I’m sorry for the vegans who want to try needle felting, but this is not a good fibre for felting – certainly not as a core fibre. Persistence may make it more usable as a top layer, but it simply doesn’t work well enough to be considered a suitable fibre.
For those who have no qualms in using animal wool, I wouldn’t bother with this fibre at all. There are better, more readily available fibres that do the job a hundred times better, and unless you want to add some unusual texture to the surface of your work or have the experience of working with unusual materials I suggest that you give this a very definite pass – or risk breaking your needles.
Please note that different samples from different suppliers may produce results that differ from the description given above. All reviews are based on the quality of the sample I am using at the time of review.
Some photographs have been edited to ensure images represent the wool as true-to-life as possible, as apparently the ability to take accurate pictures of wool is not one of my strengths.