Darkroom in Fyberspace

These fiber images originated by microprojection in our laboratory darkroom. Standard magnification in the microprojection of animal fibers is 500X. Photography and computer enhancement have changed the size of the fibers, but not their appearance.

Cuticle cells form a scale-like formation on the surface of the fiber, resembling shingles on a roof. Their primary function is to protect the internal structure of the fiber and to repel water on first contact while permitting moisture to easily move in or out of the fiber's interior. These scales on the surface of the fiber open from base to tip, causing an interlocking or felting action when fibers are randomly mixed during processing.


Domesticated Sheep
COARSE WOOL (Ovis Aries) Domesticated Sheep



Domesticated Sheep

FINE WOOL (Ovis Aries) Domesticated Sheep



Cashmere Goat

CASHMERE (Carpa Hircus Laniger) Cashmere Goat



Angora Goat

MOHAIR (Carpa Hircus Aegagrus) Angora Goat


Although all camelid fibers are not medullated, these next three fibers do show a more or less continuous hollow area (medulla) inside the center or cortical layer. Most mammalian fibers are medullated because most of them are hair fibers. There are four main types of medullation: fragmented, interrupted, continuous and discontinuous.

When viewed under the microprojector, the air filled cell walls of the medulla appear black as they reflect light. When the mounting medium (immersion oil) is absorbed by the fiber, the medulla will then appear transparent.


Lama Pacos
ALPACA (Lama Pacos)



Lama Glama

LLAMA (Lama Glama)



Lama Glama

LLAMA GUARD HAIR (Lama Glama)


Wool, for all practical purposes, is a modified hair. It was developed over many generations of animals from the undercoat of the wild sheep. Fine wool and fiber is a carefully selected trait and medullation is very seldom found. Coarser wool and mohair can also show medullation.

The individual wool fiber is divided into three sections: the root, the shaft and the tip. The tip of a lamb's wool fiber is pointed, while the tip from a mature fleece is flat because of previous shearing.

Wool Fibers
Wool Fibers Showing Types of Tips and Effects of Feed
and Stress on Diameter of Fibers
(Fiber drawings courtesy of Travis Jones)


The wool fiber diameter can vary along its length, primarily due to nutrition. An animal on a high plane of nutrition grows a coarser fiber than one on a poor ration. The diameter within a given fiber can vary due to nutritional levels. A break or tender spot in the fiber can be caused by an extreme drop in nutrition or stress, from an infection or illness. Remember that crimp's naturally wavy design traps air between fibers, enabling wool to insulate against heat and cold and to maintain its resilience.


Yocom-McColl  Sampling Fiber of Individual Animals  Yocom-McColl

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