I'm in love with wool yarn. It's official. I can no longer deny it. I have been knitting and/or crocheting since I was about 10 and up until this year, I had never used any form of natural yarn.
*Pause for shocked silence*
Well, I had used Lionbrand woolese, but I have to tell you guys, I didn't really like the stuff. It shed and was rough and everything that I thought wool was. Most people probably buy their acrylic based on general ignorance of the loveliness, non scratchiness, and general wonderfulness of good wool. Now, I suppose I should preface my love of wool with the statement that I love GOOD wool. There are different grades of wool, just like there are different grades of acrylic. There are good ones, and there are bad ones. I still like Caron's Simply soft acrylic, but it will never be as cherished as wool. Probably specifically merino wool.
I have been recycling sweaters for over 2 months now, and have held just about every fiber there is. I can tell almost just by touching a garment what it is made of. Most of us know what acrylic sweaters feel like, but I have been tricked by some very nice soft fuzzy acrylics out there. They are nice to the touch and soft against the skin. They lack the same bouncy elasticity of good wool, though. Wool has a give to it that no other fiber I've run across has when knitting with it. It stretches as you knit and then bounces back into nice fat beautiful stitches. It is truly a joy to behold. It is also oh so light. I can generally tell a sweater is made of wool by it's weight alone! It has so many nice pockets of air that fluff up and keep you warm.
Cotton is also very distinctive usually in yarn. It is stiff and firm to the touch. It can create beautiful garments, but it has absolutely no give to it when you knit. I find that when I create stitches, I like to have my yarn under tension and working with cotton makes my hands tired very quickly. It also bothers me that the darn thing doesn't stay the same dimensions. My Picovoli T looks beautiful when I put it on in the morning, but by the evening it has stretched and is no longer as nice and tight fitting as I would like. No, I don't plan on wearing a wool T-shirt in the summer, but I do find this frustrating.
Angora and Mohair you can tell just by looking at it what they are. I've found that Angora by it's self is very slippery and usually in sweaters is a very delicate yarn. It doesn't seem to want to stay together under stress. Now I've had some loosely spun lace weight wool yarns too, but every Angora sweater I've seen has this same problem. It's probably good that the Angora's combined with wool and nylon to temper this usually.
Silk is usually very distinctive as well, although there are several different types of silk yarn. Some silk is firm and dry in your hand and has a very high shine. Others are softer and have a more matte finish. All silk, no matter how fine is incredibly strong I've found. It also has quite a bit of memory considering it is firm in your hand much like cotton. It remembers it's kinks and wants to bounce back into that shape until it has been relaxed in the water.
Last is Cashmere. Yes, cashmere is dreamily soft and beautiful, but I'm not quite sure if I'm really sold on it for knitting purposes. I have a skein of wonderful tan cashmere that I kept for myself that is like butter toffee. Cashmere doesn't seem to have the same "boing" that Merino wool does, though. I suppose the proper term is "memory". When I wind a batch of merino wool on my yarn swift, no matter how thick the yarn is, it is like a giant rubber band. As soon as I take it off, the hank shrinks to about 1/4 the size as the yarn bounces back to it's tightly kinked state. This relaxes when I wash it, of course, but no other fiber acts this same way. Well, silk does to some extent, which is interesting to think about it. Cashmere doesn't stretch like wool. It also doesn't bounce back like wool does. It is very soft, but I'll have to knit something with my hank and tell you how I like the feel of it.
So, what brought all this on? The mystery project.
Oooo, the mystery of the waded up 2 color thing!
I am knitting it in Patton's Classic Merino wool, and I LOVE this yarn. It is so bouncy and soft and wooly. I bought it at Michaels and it is the only real 100% wool yarn I have ever seen there. With my limited experience with real wool yarn made by actual yarn makers, I would definitely recommend this yarn. It is very nice :D