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Choosing the right materials for the job

Knowing what fiber to use can make the finished product better.
Knowing what fiber to use can make the finished product better.
Holli Friedland

There are so many different fibers available for knitting, how do you know whether you want to knit with acrylic, wool or a blend? It really depends upon what you want to knit. Sometimes the finished product needs to be washed quickly, easily and without a lot of fuss. Other times it can be painstakingly blocked.

When knitting for babies or children, the feel of the yarn is extremely important. No one wants anything scratchy against the skin of little ones. And, it should also be washable. There is washable wool, cotton, cotton blends and acrylic. Some acrylic yarn is not very soft, but there are some more expensive brands that feel great. Pure cotton can make some very heavy blankets or garments. Make sure that baby clothes are not going to weigh down the infant.

Another factor is stretchiness. When knitting socks, you want to be able to have a finished product that is not going to stretch out and not go back to its original form or you will have socks that fall down constantly. A wool blend, and for socks, a washable blend will work best. If you do use 100% wool, you can always knit in elastic thread. Knit with both the yarn and elastic around the last several rows at the top of a sock, to help keep socks up on the leg.

One problem that is often forgotten is static. Especially in the wintertime, acrylic scarves, hats, dog sweaters and blankets can really snap, crackle and spark! It is so uncomfortable to come in the house, take off a scarf and hat, and then have your face shocked several times.

One dog owner was quoted as saying, “I couldn’t figure out why my dog didn’t want to come in the house at the end of our walk. At first I thought he wanted to walk more. Eventually, I figured out that he hated having his sweater removed because of getting shocked. I knit a new, 100% wool sweater, and the problem was gone. It only has a little bit of static.”

Natural fibers do not have as much static electricity and can be much more comfortable. Of course, acrylic yarn is a lot less expensive. That is sometimes the factor that forces some people to knit with it. Wool often must be hand washed to avoid felting and that can cause extra time cleaning the object.

Always keep in mind what you are knitting, for whom you are knitting and how it will be washed. Then it is easier to figure out what yarn will work best for you.


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