Yarns can be made from a range of fibres and come in a variety of textures. Their potential is exciting: you can knit with everything, from a ball of delicate silk sock yarn to the plastic bag in which you bought it home in. Here we will share some ideas on the differences between synthetic & natural fibres.
What are the pro’s and cons
Good at keeping cold out (alpaca)
Good breathability for warm weather (bamboo)
Better for environment
Sensitive to washing
Might shrink due to washing
Can vary due to uncontrollable nature
Anti Pilling (Himalaya Yarns)
Retains original shape
More colour options
No special attributes
Doesn’t absorb sweat, can be uncomfortable in warm or rainy weather
Can cause static electricity
Melt easily when ironing
A fibre can be obtained from a plant, man-made (synthetic), or animal hair. To make a yarn, the fibres are treated and spun. A yarn can be formed entirely of a single fibre, such as wool, or it can be combined with different fibres to improve its properties (for example to affect its durability or softness). Various blends are also made for aesthetic purposes, such as combining sumptuous silk with wool for a lustrous sheen. As a result, each yarn has its own set of characteristics, making it critical to select the right blend for your project.
Wool from a number of sheep breeds, is spun into pure wool yarns or combined with other fibres. It’s extremely warm and durable, making it great for winter jackets, cardigans, caps, and gloves. Short, coarse fibres in rough-feeling wool can irritate the skin, so clothes worn adjacent to the skin should be knitted with gentler varieties. Wool should always be handwashed unless it is labeled “superwash.”
Merino sheep have one of the finest wools of any sheep breed, and this particular wool comes from them. The long, lustrous fibres form a silky yarn that is ideal for scarves, armwarmers, and children’s clothes that will be worn adjacent to the skin. It’s frequently combined with other fibers and treated to make it machine washable.
The hair of the angora goat is used to create this fibre, which makes a unique natural “halo” when knitted. It’s difficult to work with because of its frizzy appearance, which makes it impossible to discern the structure of the knitting and any mistakes made. Oversized sweaters or accessories made of mohair are particularly fascinating.
It is not recommended for use as babywear since it may shed hair when new, which could be harmful if inhaled.
This fibre has a sumptuous feel to it and is one of the warmest natural fibers available for knitting. In brutally cold conditions, even a thin, 4-ply clothing provides adequate insulation. The alpaca and the llama are related. Alpaca yarn is ideal for ski caps, as well as thick, warm sweaters and socks. There is also baby alpaca yarn available, which is even softer.
This yarn is made from the delicate under-hair of a goat and is ultra-luxurious and velvety soft. It’s light but sturdy, and it usually has more meterage per gram than yarns made from other fibres. Cashmere is an expensive fibre to create, therefore it’s frequently combined with other fibres to provide softness and opulence. Scarves, snoods, and sweaters should be worn close to the skin. This fibre should only be washed by hand.
Cotton is the fluffy substance that forms around the cotton plant’s seeds. It’s spun into a summery, breathable fibre. Cotton yarns are generally easy to wash, and when properly cared for, they may be quite durable and last for decades. As a result, it’s a great material for homewares, crocheted purses, and shoulder bags. Cotton that has not been treated is great for hand-dyeing.
Cotton yarn can be mercerized, a process in which it is compressed and transformed into an ultra-strong yarn with a reflective shine that does not shed lint, using mechanical and chemical processing. Mercerized cotton is normally more expensive, but it’s ideal for projects that demand a lot of strength and shape retention, such as a glamorous evening bag, a long summer cardigan, or a throw that needs to be washed frequently.
Cotton is the fluffy substance that forms around the cotton plant’s seeds. It’s spun into a summery, breathable fibre. Cotton yarns are generally easy to wash, and when properly cared for, they may be quite durable and last for decades. As a result, it’s a great material for homewares, crocheted purses, and shoulder bags. Cotton that has not been treated is great for hand-dyeing. Cotton yarn can be mercerised, a process in which it is compressed and transformed into an ultra-strong yarn with a reflective shine that does not shed lint, using mechanical and chemical processing. Mercerised cotton is normally more expensive, but it’s ideal for projects that demand a lot of strength and shape retention, such as a glamorous evening bag, a long summer cardigan, or a throw that needs to be washed frequently.
The flax plant is the most prevalent source of this fibre. It’s a bit wiry at first, with an oily, waxy surface, but it blooms into a sleek, silky, breathable yarn that’s perfect for knitting lightweight cardigans and shirts for summer.
Bamboo fibres for hand-knitting yarns are made by either crushing the stems to generate a linen-like fibre or chemically processing the pulped plants, in which case it is referred to as “bamboo viscose.” The fibre has a silk-like shine and handle, and it knits best when mixed with other fibres. Bamboo boosts the flexibility and breathability of pure cotton, making it excellent for summer clothing and shawls.
Acrylic fibres are made from ethylene, which is obtained from oil, and are very inexpensive to make. Acrylic yarn has a somewhat coarser texture than other synthetics, and it frequently comes in exceptionally vivid and luminous colours that are difficult to achieve with natural fibres. Acrylic yarn is strong and resistant to moths, making it great for toys, novelty knits, and low-cost items. Static electricity tends to build up in the yarn.
Microfibre is becoming more popular in blended fibre yarns due to its velvety smoothness.
This type of synthetic fibre may not appeal to you, yet it is commonly used in yarn to reduce density, increase softness, or prevent excess fibre from migrating and pilling on the surface of knitted materials. Despite these benefits, there are concerns that during laundering, plastic microfibres are discharged into the environment.
Nylon, often known as polyamide, is a strong and lightweight fibre. Its flexibility makes it ideal for usage in knitted materials, and it’s frequently used to reinforce yarn mixes for heavy-wear products like sock and darning yarns. By avoiding shrinking and felting, nylon, like other man-made fibres, improves the washability of the fibres it is combined with.