Wool, Wool, or Wool? That Is the Question...

Angora Goat

I have been studying wool, sheep and other fibers ever since I started knitting and one thing seems to come up all the time: What is wool? I see the term wool in relationship to those fantastic Camelids, Alpacas, Camels, Llamas and sometimes even Mohair which comes from an adorable goat called an Angora Goat. The Angora Goat has no relation to the sweet little Angora rabbit, nor do their fibers resemble each other, but we love them, don't we??

English Angora Rabbit
Let me cut to the chase here. The only animals with a wool coat are sheep!!! I am sorry, but it is the truth...really! As far as I know (please correct me if I am wrong) there is no other fiber that can match wool in it's many amazing qualities. Not even a man made fiber can match wool in it's insulating abilities.

Wool will stay warm even when wet (of course it may smell like wet sheep/dog :) ), and has a 'memory' that no other fiber can boast of with a resiliency and bounce-back factor that is positively woolie!! You may wonder what I mean by memory since we are not talking about something with a brain (hmmm, or are we?). When working with wool, you may notice that it can be very stretchy and yet hold your stitches well. When you wash it, it comes right back into the shape it was in originally before you got it wet. How cool is that?

 So, you may wonder why I am on this rant about my favorite fiber. That is because I have been working with 100% wool on my Spectra scarf by Stephen West. As I knit it, the wonderful woolie properties of wool keep throwing themselves onto my needles stitch by stitch, so it's pretty much in my face right now! I also follow Kate Davies (a fantastic designer) and she just wrote all about her love of wool and even has a petition that I signed about calling only wool, wool. You can take a look here if you like. It's very well written and clear cut.

Please, please don't get me wrong. I love many other fibers for many reasons (too numerous to try to mention here), but as the weather is getting crisper here and my needles click along on my 100% wool project I felt I would share a bit of my wool passion with you.

If you like to felt things, wool is your fiber for sure!! I always recommend a minimum of 75% wool (NOT super wash wool) yarn for a felting project as the microscopic scales on the fibers will fuse like nobody's business and create the nicest felted whatever-you-want. For warmth in a light weight (fingering on up) wool is my first choice and will insulate whatever body part I like. As I type this, I have on a DK weight pair of 100% wool socks (hand knit of course) and my Knitting Pure and Simple Mukluks made out of (can you guess this one??) 100% wool! Warm, warm and warm are my little toes right now.

Blue Face Leicester
As you may have guessed, I love wool and could easily go on and on, but will give it a rest for now. I hope you will give wool a try, as well as try wools from different sheep breeds so you can find your own favorite. My personal favorite is the Blue Face Leicester and I love to knit with it. It also spins it up very nicely (yes I am a hand spinner sometimes). You can check it and other breeds out with Rowans British Sheep Breeds line of yarns.

If you are interested in learning more about this amazing fiber and others too, check out the following resources. These are only two of my personal favorites!

 The Fleece &  Fiber Sourcebook                                                                 The Natural Knitter

I would love to know what you favorite fiber is and why. No matter what you like to work with, keep on going no matter what I say!!! If you don't enjoy what you are working with, you certainly won't enjoy the project, no matter what it is. Experiment with all the amazing fibers that are on the market these days and have fun!

As always happy knitting and crocheting!


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1 comment:

  1. Great info and love for wool here. And nice point about the angora goat and rabbit not being related to each other. Makes sense but I never thought about it before.