If you read about crafts and fabrics often, you likely have come across the terms yarn and wool. What exactly do those terms mean, and how do they differ?
What’s the difference between yarn and wool? Yarn refers to a length of fibers that are used to make fabrics. Wool, on the other hand, is a textile fiber that originates from animals. The most common source of wool is the fleece of sheep.
Wool is actually a type of yarn that is mostly used for knitting. Let’s learn more about both of these materials and their uses.
What is Yarn?
Yarn, as explained above, refers to a continuous length of interlocked fibers. It is used in the production of fabrics and in a number of crafts including knitting, crocheting, weaving, embroidery, and sewing.
Threads that are used for sewing or embroidery are examples of yarn. The term can also refer to fabrics that have been knitted or woven with yarn thread.
Yarn can be made from natural or synthetic fibers. The natural cotton fiber and synthetic polyester fiber are two commonly used options. Animal fibers, such as wool, cashmere, silk, and angora are also used in making yarn.
Yarn can be separated into two categories based on structure:
- Spun yarn
- Filament yarn
Spun yarn is produced by a process called spinning, which involves twisting staple fibers together into a single thread. Spun yarns can contain just one type of fiber or a blend of various types.
Blends of synthetic and natural fibers are often used. This results in yarn that possesses the lustre, strength, and fire retardant qualities of synthetic fibers as well as the nice feel and water absorbency of natural fibers.
The most commonly used combinations are cotton-polyester and wool-acrylic blends. You can also find 100% acrylic spun yarn, like this one.
Filament yarn is made from filament fibers which are twisted or grouped together. Like spun yarn, it may contain just one filament or a number of filaments.
Silk is an example of a natural filament fiber. Synthetic filaments are often used to produce silk-like yarns. Acrylic and polyester are commonly blended to make filament yarn, like this 98% acrylic and 2% polyester blend.
Multiple filament yarns can be combined into a yarn with some properties of spun yarns through a process of air texturizing known as taslanizing.
Staple Fibers Vs Filament Fibers
You may have noticed that spun yarns are made from staple fibers while filament yarns contain filament fibers.
Staple fibers are fibers that have a discrete length.
The average length of a group of fibers is called the staple length of the fiber. Staple fibers are spun together to create spun yarn. fibers with short-staple lengths produce ‘hairy’ yarn while longer staple fibers produce smoother yarn.
Filament fibers, on the other hand, refer to continuous lengths of fibers that are used to produce filament yarn.
Most synthetic fibers are made as filament fibers. If a filament fiber is cut into smaller individual lengths, it becomes a staple fiber.
What is Wool?
Wool is an animal fiber that is mainly derived from the fleece of sheep. Other animals, such as rabbits and goats, also produce wool.
Wool has several properties that make it an appealing fiber for many uses. Wool is often spun to create yarn, which is then used for knitting, or other purposes.
Freshly sheared wool is first sorted into different categories – fleece, bellies, locks, broken, and pieces. This is done to ensure the production of wool yarn that has a uniform texture. The eventual usage of the wool produced will depend on its texture and the weave used.
The most popular types of wool are alpaca, angora, cashmere, and merino. Wool fabrics are often used to provide warmth in cold environments.
Different Types of Yarn
Below are the most common types of yarn that you’ll find in craft stores.
Cotton yarn is a light, strong, and breathable yarn that is made from cotton. It comes in a variety of types.
It’s ideal for knitting summer garments and dishcloths. It doesn’t block very well when stitching, however.
Silk is the strongest natural fiber and it’s spun into silk yarn, which is strong, shiny, and quite slippery.
As it is quite cool to the touch, silk yarn is ideal for knitting summer garments. Silk yarn is also one of the more expensive yarn types.
Bamboo is a soft, breathable yarn fiber that may have antibacterial properties. Bamboo yarn is ideal for making garments that require drape.
Acrylic yarn is a synthetic fiber yarn that is cheaper than most natural fiber yarns. It’s ideal for amateur knitters and for making multi-color yarn braids.
Mohair is a luxury fiber that’s gotten from the hair of the Angora goat. It’s very soft, durable, and shiny.
It has good moisture evaporation and insulating qualities.
Wool yarn is ideal for knitting winter garments as it offers a nice warm feel. It is one of the most common types of yarn fiber in use today.
Unlike cotton yarn, wool yarn blocks very well and does not highlight the irregularities in the stitching. It can also be cleaned very easily when stained. Wool can be slightly itchy, however.
Different types of wool are used to make yarn, and they have distinct properties and strengths. Some of the popular types include cashmere wool, merino wool, and alpaca wool.
Cashmere wool is gotten from Cashmere goats and other goat species. It’s soft and fluffy but not very strong. It’s also quite expensive to procure as the harvesting process is long and demanding. Cashmere wool is ideal for knitting clothing accessories.
Merino wool is a very common type of wool yarn that is used for knitting. It comes from the Merino breed of sheep. Merino wool is very soft, blocks nicely, and doesn’t cause any allergic reactions. However, it does form little fuzz balls or “pill”.
Alpaca wool is best for knitting sweaters and other winter projects thanks to its super warm feel. It’s very soft and water repellent. It’s obtained from alpacas, a sheep-like animal domesticated in South America.
Why is Wool Yarn Great for Knitting?
Wool yarn is commonly used for knitting and for good reason.
Wool is very elastic and retains its shape when stretched. Thus, it is resistant to wrinkling and ideal for knitting items that require some elasticity such as gloves.
In addition to being elastic, wool fiber is also very sturdy and durable. It can withstand quite a bit of wear and tear. It’s also resistant to abrasion, making it ideal for knitting jumpers for kids.
Wool is also a very good insulator. It can keep you warm during winter but can also help you stay cool and dry during the summer, thanks to its moisture-absorbing properties.
If you’re just getting started with knitting, the wool yarn is the ideal yarn type for you. It’s easy to use and easier on your joints than other types of yarn. You’ll be able to keep an even tension on the yarn while knitting, thanks to its elasticity.
Wool is also one of the most versatile yarn fibers available. It can be used for a wide range of projects and designs such as shawls, socks, sweaters, and stuffed animals.
What are Yarn Weights?
Yarn weights refer to the thickness of a type of yarn. When working on knitting projects, you will need to choose a yarn with a certain weight or thickness.
The different types of weights include lace, fingering, sport, worsted, and bulky:
- Lace yarn is one of the thinnest and lightest yarns you can get. It’s used for knitting shawls and scarves.
- Fingering yarn is slightly thicker than lace and is ideal for fine stitches.
- Sport yarn is most commonly used for knitting socks and is twice the thickness of fingering yarn.
- Worsted yarn is very popular among beginner knitters and can be used on a variety of projects.
- Bulky yarn is ideal for quick knitting jobs but is too thick for more intricate patterns.
How to Choose the Best Yarn
Choosing the right type of yarn is essential if you’re to successfully complete a knitting project.
If you’re a beginner, you may find it challenging to knit with cotton yarn. Wool yarn, on the other hand, is much more ideal for newbies.
You’ll also need to select the right weight for the yarn type you choose. If you’re using a pattern, you’ll likely find the weight, color, and recommended brand included.
When shopping for yarn, you’ll need to consider what you’re planning to knit and what season it is. You should also consider who will use the finished project and how frequently it will be used.
Of course, you must also consider your budget as prices vary across different types of yarn.
Knitting, as well as other crafts such as embroidery, can be very rewarding. Working on a project takes time and patience but the rewards are worth it.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand better what the terms yarn and wool refer to and the relationship between them. Now, you’re ready to choose the right yarn for your needs and begin crafting beautiful items for yourself and your loved ones.
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