People who like to spin their own yarn have wondered about spinning human hair to see what it would be like. If it works with animal hair why wouldn’t it work with human hair?
So can you make yarn out of human hair? While it is possible to spin human hair into yarn and other types of thread, it’s not a very desirable result. Human hair is thicker than animal hair making it more wiry and prickly. If you plan to spin human hair, you need to add soft animal fiber like alpaca wool or goat hair to make it workable.
Even though human hair doesn’t make the best yarn, it’s still tempting to try! In fact, there are sentimental reasons that some people want to make human hair yarn. If you’re considering it, here are some things to think about and some ideas of what to make with your new yarn.
Spinning Human Hair Into Yarn
The great thing about hair is that, unlike many other materials, human hair does not break down or decay. Hair has chemical qualities that cause it to last for many many years.
In the Victorian era, women used to make jewelry out of human hair in remembrance of a deceased loved one. As the practice became more popular as a craft for wealthy women, poor peasants during the era would sell their locks of hair in exchange for a scarf, ribbon, or other small luxury objects.
Unfortunately, for modern fiber spinners, human hair that is spun into yarn just doesn’t hold together very well.
So what makes wool and other animal fibers better than human hair for spinning yarn? Animal hair is different than human hair because each piece is covered in scales that make them stay together better as yarn. Human hair has scales too but they are much smaller and do not stick together as well. Also, animal hair has a natural curl (also known as crimp).
Animal fiber is measured in “crimps per inch” or CPI. The higher the CPI the finer and more desirable the hair is. For example, merino wool has a CP of 10 or higher which means is very soft and ideal for spinning.
The other difference between animal hair and human hair is animal is often much thinner whereas human hair is thicker. The finer the hair, the softer it is and it’s better for spinning. Also, because human hair has little to no crimp (in addition to the very tiny scales), it makes for a very poor fiber for spinning yarn.
It wants to come apart from the strand, is very wiry, and has a harsh texture. Also, the ends tend to stick out after the yarn is spun, making it extremely itchy. Therefore, it is not ideal for knitting or crochet and would feel very scratchy against your skin.
If you still want to make human hair yarn, the best thing you can do is mix it with another fiber to help make it soft and workable. One woman spun her human hair with soft alpaca wool and it came out soft and springy.
A Few Reasons to Spin Human Hair into Yarn
Even though it’s not the most desirable material for spinning yarn, there are reasons why some people still want to make yarn from human hair.
It was all her idea. She had cancer; chemo and radiation had made her hair fall out and it had regrown. Now she was facing further treatments. Would I spin her hair after it fell out again? Some people think this project is morbid, but that was not her approach. She was an artist, very creative, and she had in mind to make an heirloom for her daughter. We discussed options, hair must be blended with another fiber, and details such as length, heft, and color. I spun it with cinnamon alpaca, and the final result was a surprisingly soft, gleaming, springy yarn. My last contact with Betsy came with a note, saying “I have never before seen my mousy hair as beautiful.”