Ever since the rivalry of the Sharks vs. the Jets in West Side Story there has not been a more fierce rivalry than wool vs. acrylic yarn! There are those who are loyal to a fault to one or the other. After being at the Craft & Hobby Association show teaching people about loom knitting I got in a teacher-like mood. I thought for this month’s column I would discuss the pro’s and cons of each fiber choice.
First let’s start with a definition of the two fibers:
Acrylic is petroleum based. It comes from oil. It was first developed in the mid-1940s but not widely used until the 1950’s. The fiber is produced by dissolving the polymer in a solvent and then it is extruded through the holes of a spinneret, similar to a spider spinning it’s silk.
Wool is of course a natural fiber. It is obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, and angora from rabbits among others. It has been around since.. well forever and is sheared or trimmed from the animal in question.
The pros and cons of each fiber.
- Warm even when wet; wool naturally wicks away moisture keeping you warm and dry.
- Fire retardant; it’s great for blankets and baby clothes, because it is naturally fire resistant
- Versital; very light weight wool is cool in summer because of its wicking properties, and warm in winter.
- Takes dye well and resists fading.
- It’s a natural, renewable resource.
- It has anti bacterial properties.
- Holds stitch definition better, can be blocked.
- Most wools need to be hand washed, unless you get a superwash version.
- Moths and insects like to chew on it.
- Some find it itchy and uncomfortable.
- It can felt if accidentally washed, ruining the item.
- Generally can cost more.
- Easy to care for, can usually be machine washed and dried.
- Costs less than natural fiber yarns.
- Easy to find in stores.
- Generally soft and nice to wear against the skin.
- Cannot be dyed easily.
- Does not breath well.
- Will not resist water, or keep you warm when wet.
- Is not fire resistant, will melt when it comes into contact with a heat source.
- Can be squeaky when you are knitting with it.
- Will not wick away moisture.
- Cannot be blocked, must be ‘killed’ with an iron in order to help shape the piece.
These are just a few of the main pros and cons I have found. What fiber do you generally use, and why? Next month I will be review a new yarn I found! It looks like the fashion designers are getting into the yarn game! Tune in next month to find out more!
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This time of year we always ask the age old question.. what do you get the knitter who has everything? Well today I am here to tell you about my favorite luxury yarn gift!
If you really want to get a knitter something special and you have some mad money to spend, ( it is quite pricey) you can’t go wrong by getting them a little ball of Qiviut yarn!
A little info about this wonderful stuff! Qiviut is an Eskimo word which is translated as “down” or “underwool” in this case it is the fine undercoat of the muskox. Yep, that means this lovely yarn comes from these fellows:
From the folks at Windy Valley Musk Ox:
‘Qiviut is naturally a soft grayish-brown color, and is one of the warmest and most luxurious fibers in the world. Eight times warmer than wool and finer than cashmere, qiviut is hypoallergenic and will not shrink. Extremely rare, it is one of the most luxurious fibers you can choose for a garment. In contrast to wool, qiviut is soft, non-irritating to the skin, and is very durable.’
You can get different blends of this fiber, from the %100 qiviut, to blends with silk, Merino wool and sometimes cashmere! This fiber holds dye well and makes for some beautiful vibrant yarns!
Usually qiviut comes in a lace weight, since it is one of the warmest fibers out there, you don’t need or want it any heavier than that! One ball of the yarn typically will work out to a nice, shortish, lace scarf and will keep your neck nice and cozy, or a pair of fingerless mitts to keep your hands toasty!
Usually you will not find this yarn at your local yarn shop. I usually find it at sheep and wool shows, or my online favorite is Windy Valley Musk Ox !
There are other interesting yarns out there made from all kinds of crazy stuff, from buffalo and possums or crabs, to sugar cane or soy and seaweed you name it it’s probably out there made into yarn!
If you could get any yarn on your wish list, what would it be?