At the heart of both knitting and crocheting is fiber. Animal, plant and synthetic fibers can be used alone or combined to create yarn. The type and quality of the fiber you choose is an important aspect of your creation. Here we take a look at the different fibers used in many yarns.
Wool is an animal fiber and can come from sheep, alpaca, cashmere goats. The texture of yarn is affected by the source of the wool, as there are many breeds of the animals that create wool. An example is alpaca wool, the softer, silkier alpaca fiber is Suri and the more wool-like fiber is Huacaya. Cashmere is a luxury fiber from the cashmere goat and it is insulating and very soft. When worked a normal gauge, cashmere is perfect for scarves, shawls or even sweaters. Generally, wool is an easy fiber to work with and creates a great fabric for garments and accessories. Its natural elasticity helps it to retain its shape when worn.
Wool fibers have microscopic barbs that like to expand and stick to each other, when wet and agitated, creating a much thicker, denser fabric erasing the appearance of individual stiches; a process known as yarn felting. This process will also shrink the size of the piece. Wool is a water loving fiber and will absorb moisture readily.
Wool is easy to knit and crochet with when working with the suggested needles/hooks and recommended gauge size.
Cotton is a plant-based fiber and there is a variety of cotton yarns on the market. These fibers then to be less elastic than animal fibers, but they are often stronger and more durable. They retain less heat and therefore more desirable in the spring and summer.
The stitch definition of cotton is excellent. Some finer cottons produce a drape comparable to even the silkiest of wools, but in general, cotton is very inelastic and likely to stretch and sag, a problem compounded by its ability to hold water.
Examples of synthetic fibers are rayon, nylon, polyester and acrylic. The first synthetic was rayon, made from cotton or wood fibers. Almost a half a century later, nylon was invented, followed by the various forms of polyester. Synthetic fibers reduced the world demand for natural fibers and expanded applications.