*Note - the links in this post only take you to one shade of yarn for each brand of wool described. To find more colours click here.
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Today we will be looking at different textures, exploring the pros and cons of different yarn fibres. Until recently, I rarely looked at what was actually in my yarn and when I started to understand more about yarn materials, I was surprised by how important it was and how much impact your fabric choice can have on your garment. I hope this guide gives you a good insight into your yarn.
Now, there are a lot of different types of yarn fibres and it would take a long time to cover them all. Frankly, I'm very busy lazing about and avoiding social interaction, so I don't have time to cover them all. Instead, I'll look at the pros and cons of these five types of yarn fibres:
Acrylic is probably the most common yarn fibre, probably because it is very practical. For starters, it is quite cheap so if you're a knitter on a budget, it is definitely a go-to. Another reason that many people choose acrylic is because unlike pure wool, it does not contain common allergens. It's also machine washable, with colours much less likely to leak from acrylic than another fabrics, so it's a very good choice for a garment that you plan on using a lot. Because colours don't leak out of acrylic much, you can often get quite a wide variety of colours in acrylic yarns; for example, Stylecraft Special DK, a pure acrylic yarn that we stock and love, has nearly a hundred colours in the range and is slowly expanding their colour ranges in other thicknesses as well. Here are some photos of our Stylecraft Special colours.
However, these good qualities do come at a bit of a cost, particularly for the environment. One of the reasons why acrylic is so cheap is because it's made of plastic, which is made of crude oil. Not only is this problematic because it takes a long time to degrade (around four hundred and fifty years!) but because it is made of fossil fuels (which we are running low on as a planet), it will melt at high temperatures! It also is not very breathable either, meaning it can make you pretty hot. So, I would suggest that acrylic is great for anything that you want to be colourful but should be avoided if you don't plan on keeping what you make for long. Personally, I would choose to use acrylic yarn in toys and blankets rather than jumpers. Alternatively, if you want something as colourful as acrylic but would like to reduce your environmental impact slightly, you could try a yarn that contains a mixture of acrylic and another fibre such as wool. One that I recommend is Stylecraft Batik Elements, which you can find on our Ebay page or buy via Email or Telephone (for more guidance on how to buy from us, go to the home page of this website).
Another popular choice is cotton, which is often chosen as a more environmentally friendly alternative. This is because it is a natural fibre and takes around half a year to decompose after it has been disposed of. Also, similarly to acrylic, there are many colours available and it is often machine washable. What's more, it is much more breathable than acrylic meaning that it is better in the summer. At the moment, we are selling James C Brett It's Pure Cotton DK on this website, so do take a look.
However, cotton is not always the most environmentally friendly choice as is often grown with pesticides, which have a negative impact on the land that its grown on. It also requires large amounts of water to dye it, which some companies are better at disposing of correctly (i.e., not putting it in the sea or any other natural habitat) than others. Also, when exposed to rain or not fully dried after washing, cotton clothes will sag and stretch. Having said that, cotton wool otherwise lacks stretch completely, meaning that it can be a bit harder to keep an even tension with cotton, particularly if you are a newbie knitter. For these reasons, I would recommend cotton for summer tops but perhaps would advise that you steer away from cotton if - like me - you struggle with your tension.
If you're looking for the most environmentally friendly choice, look no further than bamboo. Being natural, renewable and biodegradable, it's a great option for looking after the planet. Also, there are a couple extra bonuses too. Unlike most fibres, bamboo helps to reduce bacterial growth, meaning that it reduces sweat and body odours. It's a breathable fibre too, helping to reduce heat and sweat even further. Moreover, it's the perfect option for anyone with sensitive skin as it is super soft and does not contain the allergens that wool contains. Whilst this is not a pure bamboo (it contains some wool), I have to recommend Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo (don't get it confused with regular snuggly please!). I have never worked with it but have felt it many times and desperately want to. There are also a ton of great colours too - click here and on the link at the top of this post to have a look.
Of course, no yarn fibre is perfect; bamboo is perhaps not the best option if you are a beginner or need a yarn that is particularly strong as it can split and break quite easily. Also, it's not the most widely accessible option; however, do keep your eyes peeled as, with the fact that it is much better for our planet, we are likely to see a lot more bamboo wool and clothing on the market very soon.
Sheep Wool and Alpaca Wool
I decided to group both sheep and alpaca wool as they have quite similar qualities. For example, they are both very durable and retain their shape easily but, at the same time, are slightly elastic, meaning that it is easier to maintain and control your tension on wool garments. Another thing about wool is that it is both warm and breathable, something which not many other yarn fibres manage to achieve. Moreover, wool is another great option for the environment because, just like bamboo, it is natural and renewable. There are many different pure wools on offer and I am pleased to say that one of my favourite yarns of all time is a pure sheep wool - click here to have a look (and don't forget to look at our profile to see all the shades)! Alternatively, if you want to try alpaca wool, here is a good place to find some - this yarn is not 100% alpaca but it is very close to it, meaning that it should have all the benefits. On the other hand, I understand why some people are not as keen on sheep or alpaca wool as it requires a lot of care (you have to avoid washing it in hot water and must do EVERYTHING you can to protect it from moths!) and it can be quite expensive. Also, be careful if you have sensitive skin and allergies as sheep wool contains some natural chemicals that can cause reactions; if you have any concerns about this, I would suggest going for alpaca wool only, as it does not contain these allergens.
So, what is the best wool? Well, it completely depends on what you are making. Here's my little summary of when I would use each type of wool.
That's all from me, so until next time, happy crafting!
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..