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Wool — the most versatile of fibers. It is the little black dress of the knitting yarn world. Whatever the occasion, be it formal or completely casual, there is always a type of wool to complement your look. Wool is a protein fiber (meaning it comes from animals) and can withstand a great deal of use. Like other natural fibers (and many small children) one must pay attention to the personality of the wool in order to make it behave in its most attractive fashion.

WOOL IS PATIENT, WOOL IS KIND

All of the characteristics of wool are beneficial for one type of project or another. Think about some of its features and how you might take advantage of them in various hand knit projects.

Wool is strong. This is always a plus. No matter what the garment or item is that you are knitting; you know that the fibers are resistant to breakage.

Wool is elastic and resilient. When a sweater has been stretched, it will retain its shape. If you grow, the sweater will grow with you (to a certain point, wool doesn’t do miracles). It is also very pleasant to knit with wool yarn due to the fact that it has some give to it. This is a result of the natural crimp in the fibers that puts a little spring in their step.

Wool is warm. Those winter sweaters or knitted ski socks will keep you toasty when made with wool. Even lighter weight shawls made with wool yarn will provide extra insulation. Air trapped in pockets along the fiber shaft makes this possible.

Wool is absorbent. Whether you are sweating due to exertion or you are soaked from trudging through the snow, wool will help to keep you dry by drawing moisture away from your skin and retaining it in the fibers.

Wool is flame retardant! This is not only a positive safety bonus, but it is also ideal when knitting and felting up some potholders, oven mitts or trivets. It probably gives you added peace of mind if you wrap your kid up in it, too!

Wool is cooperative. When I say that wool is cooperative I mean that the fibers blend easily into one another for creation of a thicker, felt-like fabric. You know when you rub your dog or cat the wrong way and they get pretty annoyed and the fur resists your hand? Or perhaps when you vacuum your carpet and the pile becomes one shade on the pushing motion and another shade on the pulling motion? Wool acts somewhat similarly in that it likes to lay one way. If you rub it vigorously or force it in an unnatural direction, it begins to change and meld with its neighboring fibers. Thus, felting is born.

This write-up gives you a chance to examine in further detail the specific types of wool yarn that Knit Picks employs. These include Peruvian, Merino, and Superwash. Let’s jump right in with Peruvian, shall we?

PERUVIAN WOOL

Knit Picks’ Wool of the Andes yarns (available in both worsted and bulky weights) are our best selling yarns by a landslide. This wool is special because it is harvested from Peruvian sheep – specifically a cross between the finest Corriedale and Merino breeds. Both of these breeds are forerunners in the wool apparel industry. The Corriedale breed is very sturdy and able to survive in relatively harsh mountainous climates. Paired with the Merino, which produces the finest of all sheep wools, the result is a strong fiber with an excellent softness quotient and a wide variety of uses. The micron count of Peruvian wool fiber rests at about 25-27 and the average fiber length is 3.5-5 inches. Micron count is a scientific method of measuring the fineness of various fleeces based on the diameter of their individual fibers. The lower the micron count, the finer the fiber.

Peruvian wool is a great value that is soft enough to wear next to the skin, it felts remarkably well, has a nice finish to it, and comes in a dynamic range of colors. Try it out for your next project. You’ll love it as much as we do. Our Wool of the Andes line (worsted and bulky) is our most popular. A great value, it can’t be beat for felting or any pattern that calls for worsted or bulky weight wool yarn! Palette is our answer to the artist in you. With a broad range of color choices, it is where the Fair Isle lovers run when they are ready to knit. The light, 2-ply yarn is ideal for intricate patterns. When you’re working on that great Norwegian ski sweater, reach for Telemark. It is wonderful for 2-color designs and the colors provide great contrast when knitted up. Three strands of solid color and one strand of hand-dyed yarn come together to bring you Shamrock. Reminiscent of classic tweed, its heavy worsted yarn knit into a jaunty shawl will no doubt have you jigging!

MERINO WOOL

One word you see frequently when reading about protein (aka animal) fibers is crimp. This may call to mind the hairstyle that was popular in the 1980s which involved using a hot iron to press the hair into z-shaped waves. The crimp in sheep fleece is a similar concept, but is all natural on sheep. All sheep breeds have different levels of crimp. Merino have one of the most consistent and frequent crimps of all. This gives the fibers, and the yarn, a good amount of elasticity and flexibility.

Merino wool is known for its superior softness and is therefore often used for baby knits or for fine garments such as laces, shawls, and scarves. It is rare to find fine wool that isn’t a result of some sort of Merino mix. Merino wool has been prized from as far back as the 12th century. It has even paid the ransom for a king’s head! Despite the fact that it has been utilized for so long, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that ring spinning and wool were united to make the yarn spinning process faster and more efficient.

Knit Picks offers many choices for yarns made up of Merino wool. Shadow is a lace weight, feather-light yarn that work up into strong, magically soft shawls and scarves. Shadow, with its subtle heathered colors, brings a depth and sense of dimension to your knitting. Merino Style is slightly heavier in DK (double knitting) weight. Try it for cropped or short sleeved, light sweaters or for felting projects.

SUPERWASH WOOL

Many of us had to suffer the unfortunate consequences of washing a wool garment in hot water or putting it in the dryer accidentally before we were saved by superwash wool. This magnificent innovation takes woolen fleece or wool yarn and treats it to prevent shrinkage in the washing machine or dryer. Garments knit in superwash wool are ideal for high use items such as kids clothing and socks. You will find grateful recipients in college students, bachelors, charities and other causes that might not be familiar with good fiber care (or don’t have the time and resources to perform it properly).

By now you must be wondering how superwash wool works. Think about a hangnail. You have two options: you can file it off or you can get yourself some nail glue and fix it in place so it will be uniform with the other nails. This comparison carries over to wool. At first, machines just trimmed the fibers, eliminating their rough edges completely, thereby preventing them from catching on one another. Unfortunately, this caused great damage to the fiber itself. After going back to the drawing board, an idea akin to the nail glue was hatched. Why not use some sort of adhesive or cement to secure the fiber scales in place and keep things groomed and sleek? Voila! Quality superwash wool is born!

Swish Superwash yarn has made endless customers dance with delight over their finished, machine washable project. It feels soft and wonderful and is great for durable garments, blankets, toys and more. Essential and Essential Tweed yarns are made of a majority of superwash wool – great for the repeated washings knitted socks will need!


P.S. — Don’t forget about all of our terrific Bare yarns! They have the unbeatable wool content (Peruvian, Merino, and superwash) and allow you to experiment with your own color scheme. Try them with drink mix dyes or our fantastic Jacquard Acid Dyes. Can’t choose from the endless great colors? The Starter Set is just the thing for you.

Last updated by Knit Picks Admin Oct 22, 2009.

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