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How Do I Choose the Best Wool Yarn?

Sport weight yarn is good for sweaters, socks, shawls, and wraps.
Wool is shorn from sheep.
Angora wool may be used to create clothing.
Yarn fiber and weight should be considered when creating clothing.
A sweater made with wool yarn.
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  • Written By: Darlene Goodman
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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The most important consideration when choosing a wool yarn is what the yarn will be used for. The project the yarn will go into should greatly influence the type of yarn to choose. Wool yarn comes in a variety of animal fibers, weights, and colors suitable for a wide range of projects. It is most often used in knitting or crochet projects, although it may be useful in other crafting projects such as crewel embroidery or needlepoint.

Before choosing a yarn, look at the project directions or pattern. Knitting and crochet patterns usually list the preferred yarn fiber and weight, as well as the proper thickness of the knitting needles or crochet hook. A pattern should also say whether or not the finished project should be felted, a process which binds the strands of yarn together.

Wool yarn is a natural fiber that is spun from animal fur. Most people refer to sheep’s wool when they talk about wool, because it is the most common and the most popular wool available. Other popular wools come from Angora rabbits, cashmere goats, and alpacas. Each animal fiber has different traits; for example, both cashmere and Angora rabbit wool are very soft and light, while alpaca wool is usually heavier. As a result, a crafter should consider what the end result will be so he or she can choose a fiber that will work best with the pattern.

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Another aspect to consider when choosing a wool yarn is its weight. Yarn weight refers not to the physical weight of the yarn, but to the thickness of its strands. Weights vary from extra fine yarn, which is used for making lace, to super bulky yarn, also called roving weight, which is useful for scarves, blankets, and any project that requires a large needle or hook. Fingering or baby weight yarn is good for lightweight projects like socks or baby booties. Medium weight yarn, also called sport or worsted weight, is the most common yarn weight and is useful for a wide range of projects.

Another consideration in choosing a wool yarn is whether the completed project will be felted. Felting is a process by which knitted wool is compressed into a solid piece of fabric. Felting is most often accomplished by agitating a knitted wool object in hot water. Purses, hats, and slippers are examples of projects that may require wool yarn that can be felted.

Most projects made with wool yarn are not meant to be felted, so care in washing will be required for any project made from wool. Some wools are treated so that they will not felt in the wash. These yarns are called "superwash." If easy care is preferred for a regular knitted or crochet item, a superwash yarn would be a good choice.

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anon955889
Post 3

It used to be so easy to buy yarn by weight - sport yarn was 3ply and worsted was 4ply - that simple - but now with so many different terminologies used for yarn weights, it's confusing.

vogueknit17
Post 2

@afterall, I have become a big fan of Ravelry as well. You can also find out on this site whether people have had good results not only knitting a certain wool yarn and seeing how badly it splits and pills, but also if it crochets well or is easily felted; some are much less easily felted than others, and that can be frustrating when you have already bought a product.

afterall
Post 1

When looking at different yarn types, there are a few different websites that can help knitters immensely. My favorite is Ravelry.com, a site that is free to join and offers patterns for free or for sale, comments and forums, and reviews of products, including yarn. For example, if you have a pattern which specifies a certain kind of chunky wool yarn, Ravelry can give you the specifics of that brand of yarn, such as the weight and the breakdown of the fibers, so you can better compare it to other brands you might prefer, or that might be easier or more cheaply acquired.

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