Looking for a rare, insulating fiber? Bison fibers might be the perfect choice. I explore what bison yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 16, 2023.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Bison Yarn?
- What Do You Use It For?
- Common Blends Using This Fiber
- Where To Find It
- Interesting Facts
What Is Bison Yarn?
Bison yarn(1) is an animal fiber sold at expensive prices. This fiber isn’t popular because it isn’t widely available, however it’s extremely soft, lightweight, hypoallergenic. It’s also durable.
They’re non-shrinkable and great for high-quality knits. Softer bison knit yarns have a micron count of 15. It’s available dyed in a range of different colors.
Where It Comes From
Bison yarn is made from the undercoat of a bison. Most commonly, this fiber is harvested from the Great Plains region of North America. It’s sometimes grown in Canada. Many Americans call the Bison a Buffalo.
The coat of a bison (which protects their hides from the wet and cold) is two types of hair: outer guard hairs, and a downy undercoat. It’s the crimpy down hair that’s used to make this fiber.
How It’s Made Into Yarn
After the bison is sheared, the undercoat is gathered and cleaned. Once clean, the fiber is carded for spinning. Carding is untangling and straightening fibers so they can be spun into yarn. Once the fiber is spun into yarn, it’s ready to be used!
Here is a video interview by Marly Bird for her podcast Yarn Thing on a bison farm and fiber producer.
This excellent breakdown of this subject will help you!
How To Wash Bison Yarn
Here are the care instructions for bison fibers. Bison yarn is best hand washed in lukewarm water with a mild soap. Roll in a towel to remove excess moisture and dry flat. Don’t put it in the dryer, as this damages the fibers. Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using.
Does It Shrink When Washed?
Bison yarn is a non-shrinking and non-felting fiber (2). This is great news if you’re worried about your garments losing shape or shrinking in the wash.
How To Soften Bison Yarn
Here is a quick and easy method to soften bison yarn. It’s a soft fiber, but if you find it too rough, soak it in lukewarm water with fabric softener for about 20 minutes. After that, rinse well and lay flat to dry. Washing it after you’ve finished knitting always helps!
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What Do You Use It For?
Wondering whether you should use it to make a project? Here’s why this fiber is used to make yarn. It’s often used for projects and things like sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a pair of socks, or a hat.
Common Blends Using This Fiber
Here is a list of common blends using this yarn, and why they’re created. It’s often blended with wool to create a yarn that’s durable, but still soft. The wool keeps the shape of the garment. It’s also sometimes blended with cashmere(5) or silk for a luxuriously soft yarn.
Where To Find It
Here’s where to find this yarn: at a specialty yarn store in your area, or online brand shops. Here are brands or manufacturers of bison yarns to try: Bison Ranch Yarn, or Pure Bison Yarn.
What’s The Price Like?
This is a luxurious yarn, so be prepared to spend more when you purchase it. Pure bison wool is more expensive than blends. As a comparison, it’s more expensive than qiviut yarn, and merino wool yarn. For more info, see my post.
Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.
- It’s hollow and creates thousands of tiny air pockets, which makes it a great insulator. It’s also water resistant and has natural UV protection.
FAQS About Bison Yarn
Is Bison Yarn Safe For Babies?
Bison yarn is safe for babies, as it’s super soft and hypoallergenic. I wouldn’t recommend using this yarn for baby items because of the luxury price point and babies grow quickly so there wouldn’t be much wear.
Is Bison Yarn Ethical & Eco-Friendly?
It’s sometimes sourced from materials that might otherwise be discarded. Some producers take the fiber from the Bison hides of meat works or rescue from landfill.(3)
What Can I Make With Leftover Bison Yarn?
You can make many things with leftover bison yarn, from hats and scarves to sweaters and gloves. Get creative and see what you can come up with!
Is Bison Yarn Itchy?
No, it’s not itchy because it doesn’t cause irritation for anyone’s skin, unlike some breeds of sheep wool. (7)
Is Bison Yarn Good For Clothes?
Yes, it’s good for clothes because it’s durable and won’t shrink in the wash. It’s also a great insulator.
Is Bison Yarn Good For Winter?
Yes, it’s good for winter because it keeps you warm without being too heavy. (8)
Is Bison Yarn Good For Summer?
It’s good for summer shawls if you experience cooler evenings. A blend with a lighter fiber, like silk works for these projects. The natural UV protection is great for warmer months.
Do Bison Yarns Pill?
Bison yarns don’t pill as much as other fibers.
Can You Dye Bison Yarns?
Yes, you can. (6)
Is Bison Warmer Than Wool?
It’s twice as warm as wool and as soft as cashmere.
Is Bison Wool Tougher Than Normal Sheep Wool?
Yes, it is. It’s three times stronger than sheep wool. Bison has the same properties as wool. This means it wicks away moisture, regulates temperature, and resists bacteria. (4)
Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!
- Miskin, Cecil. 2020. “American Bison: Modern Fiber from a Native Species.” Spin Off. September 23, 2020. https://spinoffmagazine.com/american-bison-modern-fiber-from-a-native-species/
- “Why Bison Wool?” n.d. The Buffalo Wool Co. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://thebuffalowoolco.com/pages/why-bison
- Bauck, Whitney. 2019. “The Future of Sustainable Materials: Bison Wool.” Fashionista. November 27, 2019. https://fashionista.com/2019/11/bison-wool-fiber-sustainable-material-united-by-blue
- Callaghan, Anna. 2014. “The next Big Thing in Wool? Bison Down.” Outside Online. November 24, 2014. https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/hiking-gear/next-big-thing-wool-bison-down/
- N.d. Cornell.edu. Accessed October 14, 2022b. https://blogs.cornell.edu/goats/files/2020/02/basics-of-cashmere-mohair-wool-1.pdf
- Greco, Joann. 2022. “Color Ways.” Colgate Magazine. February 4, 2022. https://news.colgate.edu/magazine/2022/02/04/color-ways/.
- “USDA Assists in Bringing Commercial Dehairing Operations Back to United States.” n.d. Usda.gov. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/10/30/usda-assists-bringing-commercial-dehairing-operations-back-united-states
- Hausen, Jodi. 2011. “Bozeman Woman Makes and Markets Velvety Soft Bison Yarn.” Bozeman Daily Chronicle. November 26, 2011. https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/dailyfeatures/bozeman-woman-makes-and-markets-velvety-soft-bison-yarn/article_41597048-17fd-11e1-bae3-001cc4c03286.html