Knitting with Needles

Knitting or Crocheting: Does it Matter What Kind of Yarn You Use? by Sonya Welter

 There are so many different varieties of yarn out there-wool, acrylic, cotton, bamboo, novelty, and on and on. Does it really matter what kind you use for a knitting or crochet project, so long as the gauge matches and the color is pretty?

You bet it does!

There many significant differences between various fibers, even if they are all the same weight, and every variety has its own pluses and minuses, so it's best to choose a fiber that best matches your project. Here's a quick run down of some of the options available.

Wool

Wool is the gold standard for knitting and crochet projects, and many people will use little else. Wool yarn is good for sweaters, hats, socks, mittens, and scarves.

PROS: Wool is very breathable and is excellent at wicking away moisture; it keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Wool is a very forgiving yarn to work with, as it is naturally elastic and maintains an even gauge. Wool garments hold their shape and they wear very well. With proper care, wool items might last for several generations.

CONS: While many modern wool yarns are not as itchy as the wool of the past, it can still irritate some people's skin. Wool garments often need to be hand washed and dried flat. High quality wool can be on the expensive side.

Cotton

Cotton is airy and fairly lightweight and good for summer clothes, as well as accessories, toys, and dishcloths.

PROS: Cotton yarn is durable and machine washable, and cotton garments soften with age. Cotton yarn is often very affordable.

CONS: Don't expect to stay warm in a cotton sweater. Cotton yarn can be difficult to work with as it is very inelastic, requires careful stitching, and offers very little "give." Cotton holds a lot of water and will sag out of shape when wet. Some colors may bleed in the wash.

Acrylic

While spurned by many serious knitters, synthetic fibers like acrylic are good for accessories, toys, and blankets.

PROS: Acrylic yarn is very inexpensive and comes in a dizzying array of colors. It is somewhat strong and is yet lightweight.

CONS: Acrylic yarn is relatively inelastic and can be unpleasant to work with. Acrylic is not breathable, and it is easy to overheat in acrylic garments. Acrylic clothing wears out with stress very quickly. Acrylic is essentially plastic and will never biodegrade.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a recent addition to the yarn world, and it works well for lightweight shirts, hats, scarves, and accessories.

PROS: Bamboo is a renewable resource, making it an environmentally sound choice. Bamboo yarn is naturally antibacterial, and the fabric is cool, breathable, and drapes well. Bamboo is strong, flexible, and very, very soft.

CONS: Bamboo garments need to be hand washed, and the yarn can sometimes split, making it more difficult to work with. Bamboo yarn can be rather expensive.

Silk

Silk is a luxurious yarn that is best in shirts, scarves, and accessories.

PROS: Silk yarn is incredibly soft and feels very nice against the skin. Silk is warm and breathable and is very strong. The fabric does not shrink or stretch.

CONS: Silk yarn is so expensive that is it best used as an accent or in very small items. It is inelastic and requires careful stitching. It also needs to be hand washed.


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