Have you ever tried to knit a cardigan using alpaca yarn, and been surprised by how warm the yarn actually is? Then you’re not alone. All fibers in yarn have different properties, and it can be incredibly helpful to know some of these properties – which are soft, light, heavy, warm, itchy and so on.
Here, we give you a mini guide for some of the mostly used yarn fibers.
The good ol’ classic – wool! We all know about wool, and for many, wool has a bad reputation for being itchy. But don’t worry, not all wool makes you itch and scratch!
There’s a big difference between the finished yarn-product depending on which animal the wool comes from. There’s variations in fiber length and coarseness – as a rule, the long, coarse fibers are more itchy than short fibers. But on the other hand, the long fibers keep better and they are better dealing with water. The short fibers, like merino, are really soft, but can ‘shed’ and should be treated with care. Wool is mainly generated from sheep – but rabbits, bison, yaks and many other animals shed their fur for a good yarn skein.
Since pure wool is perfect for felting, you should always wash wool by hand. You can, though, get versions in superwash, which have been treated in a manner that makes them suitable for machine washing. These are perfect for baby clothes, for example.
Wool has very high warmth and insulation properties and is therefore a matter of fact for the winter months.
An alpaca is related to the llama, and some species have amazingly soft fibers. So that’s why the alpaca yarn is obviously perfect for knitwear. Alpaca is warmer than wool, but also has a tendency to be a bit prickly.
Like there are different types of sheep and alpacas, there are different species cotton, which will provide different properties in yarn. But overall, cotton is lightweight and cool, partially because cotton is really good at absorbing moisture.
Cotton can be found in both super soft and scratchy versions, but the common denominator for all cottons is that, unlike wool that has a high level of elasticity, cotton does not really give. Further, you can get mercerized cotton, which has a shiny surface.
Because of it’s cooling effect and light weight, cotton is perfect for spring and summer – and is also very often used for accessories like handbags.
Silk yarn is so yummy! It’s made of fibers from the shell of the cocoon from the silk butterfly. One single thread can be many, many meters long.
In yarn, you often see that silk is mixed with another fiber (fx cotton) in order to create a yarn that combines elasticity, durability and shine.
Silk is incredibly soft and holds color really well. It also the amazing property of keeping you warm when it’s cold, and keeping you cool when it’s warm.
Silk is further known to be as luxurious as fx cashmere.
A much more coarse yarn, which gives A LOT, when used in knitwear. It’s actually rather airy and breathable, so perfect for the summer.
Pure luxury! That’s what you get with cashmere. It’s made from super soft cotton from a spcial species of goat. It’s incredibly soft and strong, but need to be treated with care, qua the luxuriousness and value.
In this guide, we’ve focused mainly on natural fibers, but we can’t forget about the synthetic fibers, since they have a massive presence in the uarn market – and they can be used for so many different purposes.
The most known synthetic fibers are acrylic, polyester and nylon. We naturally prefer to knit with natural yarns, but we can also see the brilliance in adding synthetic fibers, so you get better shaping, fx, or you can machine wash the finished project. Further, you will also see elasthan and poly glitter in yarns, which provide effects that can’t be found in all-natural yarns.