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A Look at the Different Properties of Wool Yarns

November 6th, 2012

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Sheep And Her Baby/Petr KratochvilAs the cooler temperatures begin to set in, many of you are probably starting to knit or crochet with fibers that have insulating properties for warmth; a common fiber to knit with during this time of year is wool.  Sheep’s fleece is the most popular type of wool fiber because it’s pretty widely available and versatile.  Below, I’ve rounded up a few different wool selections with explanations about their unique qualities, so you can determine which wool might be suitable for your upcoming winter projects.

(image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil)

Fishermen's Wool Fishermen’s Wool is 100% undyed, virgin wool with natural lanolin oil. Lanolin oil is a waxy natural substance found in sheep fleece that acts as a water repellent, which makes Fishermen’s Wool ideal for accessories or garments for skiiers and fishermen. Wool can absorb up to about 30% of its weight in moisture, while still allowing you to feel warm and dry.  Since wool takes dye easily, a skein in Natural or Oatmeal would be nice for experimenting with creating your own hand dyed yarns.  If you’re more interested in learning about dyeing, and appropriate dyes for your yarn, take a look at this previous blog post by Jess, Choose the Right Dye for Your Fiber.

We also love Fishermen’s Wool in it’s natural state to knit up beautiful cables and traditional Aran sweaters, which were worn by Fishermen working off the cost of Ireland in the Aran Islands. Click here for a few Aran sweater patterns.

Pure WoolRoving WoolAlpine Wool All three wools on the left, LB Collection Pure Wool, Martha Stewart Crafts™ Roving Wool, and Alpine Wool, are types of wool roving. Wool roving is a single ply wool that has been combed out of sheep fleece, drawn out into a clump and slightly twisted into a yarn to keep the fibers together. Since wool fibers have a scaly outer layer (like a fish scales) which helps in creating a strong, durable fiber – it is a great yarn for felting.The scales allow the fibers to latch on to each other easily and lock into place to form a shrunken, matted material. Felting is achieved by agitating the fibers (either by hand or mechanically) with heat and moisture; allowing the wool to lock on to each other.

Click here for more felting tips and techniques.  And if you’re interested in learning how you can hand felt at home in your kitchen, check out a previous blog post explaining the process.

 Organic Wool From our line of affordable, luxury fibers in our LB Collection is Organic Wool. Organic Wool is 100% organically produced and dyed with low impact dyes in 6 classic colors, certified according to Global Organic Textile Standards by the Institute of Marketcology.  Low impact dyes are better for the environment, and the organic wool comes from the fleece of sheep that have been raised naturally, with no chemical treatments.  Since this is an all natural wool yarn, it too, is suitable for felting.
Martha Stewart Crafts Merino The Martha Stewart Crafts™ Merino is a 100% wool yarn, which comes from the fleece of merino sheep. Merino sheep are known to have some of the softest and finest wools of all sheep. Merino wool is so soft because its outer layer features numerous microscopic scales, making it a scratch free wool that’s great for sensitive skin. Due to its luxurious nature and great stitch definition, pure merino wool is a great choice for fine garments and accessories. Be sure to delicately hand wash and dry merino items made so it won’t felt.
Superwash Merino The LB Collection Superwash Merino is a merino yarn that has been treated in order to make the wool a machine washable yarn. A superwash wool can be machine washed without shrinking or felting because the process used to treat the wool flattens out the wool’s scales, keeping the wool from felting. Superwash Merino still takes dye easily as with other wools, and is great for garment making.
Wool-Ease Wool-Ease is a classic worsted weight wool blended with acrylic.  The acrylic blend in Wool-Ease allows this to be an easy-care yarn that can be machine washed and dried without felting, so it’s great for sweaters, accessories and toys.  Wool-Ease is also a favorite for afghans because it keeps you warm and cozy, can be thrown in the washing machine, and yet – it still withstands the test of time.

What do you like best about working with wool? Have you tried any of the yarns mentioned above? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

*If you’re interested in learning more about wool, or other fiber properties, I highly suggest checking out The Knitter’s Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using and Enjoying Yarn by Clara Parkes.

  • CrochetBlogger

    Great roundup of different wools. Very informative!

    • Brandyce

      Thank you CrochetBlogger!

  • Emily

    I’ve used Fishermans wool to make a sweater for my son, very lovely to work with especially using my Clover bamboo needles. I’ve also used Wool Ease in all it’s incarnations for many different things. Currently I’m working on a basic raglan sleeve cardigan from a sweater wheel that I ordered on E bay. I love Wool Ease because it’s soft, works up beautifully and you can throw it in the washer (where it comes out even softer). I’ve been meaning to try LB Organic Wool for some time, I have seen it in person at the LBYS. I think I might do a one skein scarf for my son when I do decide to try it.

    • Brandyce

      Thanks so much for sharing this with us Emily. I personally love Wool-Ease too, it’s so versatile. I’ve made a few winter accessories in the LB Organic Wool (Redwood) and I love how warm it keeps my ears and hands!

  • Diane Falconer

    I love fishemen’s wool for felting! I designed and knit a large tote bag for myself with brown heather and natural. The natural I dyed with madder, goldenrod and goldenrod overdyed with madder. My daughter has been coveting this bag since I made it, so I am making her one with nature’s brown and birch heather. I’m sure she’ll love it.

  • Pat

    I used Fishermen’s wool for the Speckled Shrug. It’s a wonderful wool to work with, and I will definitely use it again. I’ve used Wool Ease for a cape; it’s soft, but not that warm — I wish Wool Ease contained more wool!

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  • Lynda M O

    Merino wool, specifically Koigu KPPPM, has won me over in the last couple weeks. I bought two hanks because of the gorgeous palette and when the yarn arrived and I felt it, I was bowled over and firmly in their camp. I have used four-50gm hanks so far and have two more before I run out. It may be necessary to get a job to pay for my merino habit.

    I crocheted a “Cowly Scarf” from my own pattern and wear it around my neck; it has exactly the right weight to keep me comfortable but not hot nor is it the slightest bit scratchy. I have crocheted another and sold it to a close friend who felt and compared it with one I made with acrylic baby yarn and immediately understood why the merino wool was eight times as expensive !~!

    Coming from a lifetime in the Tropics, it took me a long time to understand wool. I am sold on it for all seasons here in the SF Bay Area where summer occasionally swings by in October for a week or three. Wool changed the way I dress and the way i feel about the weather.

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