Choosing Knitting Wool
When you finally commit to knitting something, whether it’s a straightforward scarf or an intricate sweater, it’s an investment of your time, effort, and hard-earned money. You want to make sure that what you have knitted is beautiful and unique. So how do you make sure you have chosen the best wool for your project?
When choosing what wool to use for knitting, find the appropriate wool weight, needle size, and yarn type for the item you are knitting. Very dark or light colors and novelty textures don’t show stitches clearly, so beginners should avoid these. You also need to balance wool quality and expense. Set patterns usually provide all the information you need.
Knitting is a creative expression, so are there really rules that apply? Absolutely! The rules can be viewed more like guidelines, but they are there to help you express your creativity in the most satisfying manner. Other knitters have toiled and sweated to help us avoid some common mistakes so let’s learn from them.
Yarn Versus Wool
Let’s start by clarifying the terms yarn and wool. Sometimes yarn and wool are used synonymously. It almost seems like a to-MAY-to/to-MAH-to situation that is determined by preference. However, this is not actually the case. Yarn is a general term and refers to woven fibers. Wool is a specific type of yarn derived from the coats of various animals such as sheep, goats, rabbits, etc.If your ‘wool’ says acrylic on the label, the correct term for it is acrylic yarn.
For most of this post, we will treat them as synonyms because the things you need to consider when choosing the correct wool also apply to most other types of yarn.
What Are You Knitting?
You can technically use any wool you want to when knitting, but there are more appropriate wools for certain items. For example, knitting an afghan with lace will take years, and it won’t be very warm, whereas knitting it with light wool will take only weeks to months, and you’ll end up with a winter-friendly blanket.
Weight: the thickness of wool is referred to as its weight. Wool is divided into weight categories 0-7. Category 0 (Lace) is very delicate and is ideal for making doilies, but it can be difficult to work with as you are essentially trying to knit with thread. Categories 1 (Superfine) and 2 (Fine) are often recommended for knitting baby clothes, especially baby socks and beanies. Categories 3 (Light) and 4 (Medium) are the most commonly and diversely used wools by knitters of all skill levels.
You can use light or medium wool for sweaters, scarves, afghans, gloves, teddy bears, etc. Categories 5 (Bulky), 6 (Super Bulky), and 7 (Jumbo) are great for throws, rugs, thick scarves, and any project you want to fast-track. Thicker wool means that your knitted item will get bigger faster (but don’t expect a delicate-looking finished product!).
Needle size: there are many charts available online that can show you which needle size range is best for each weight category, but it follows logic. The thinner the wool is, the smaller the needles should be. If you knit lace on massive needles, you will have more holes than knit, and if you knit chunky wool with small needles, you’ll probably only be able to fit a few stitches on the needle at a time. Check the label on the wool as they often recommend a needle size. You can decide to use slightly thinner or thicker needles than recommended, but at least you will have a starting point.
Yarn type: This is the only section of the post where we will distinguish between yarn and wool. The different types of yarn have properties that make them ideal for different knitted items. Wool yarn is great for blankets and winter clothing, although you might want to think twice before using it for vests or other undergarments as it can be itchy. Cotton yarn is better for summer knitwear as it is light-weight and breathable. Acrylic yarn is extremely versatile and is also the most commonly available and the most often used type of yarn.
Color And Texture
While color choice is subjective or personal, there are some factors to consider. If you are knitting with only one color of wool, it is important to use the same brand of wool throughout. Ideally, you should use skeins with the same lot number.
Wool is manufactured in batches, and there can be slight to obvious differences between the batch colors even though the label says they are the same color. The lot number is printed on the wool label, so you can check before purchasing anything.
Your level of skill in knitting should be taken into consideration when selecting colors for your project. Beginner knitters (we were all beginners once, so don’t be too hard on yourself) are more prone to dropping stitches, accidentally adding stitches, or working into the wrong part of the stitch. How to avoid this is to make sure your stitches are easily visible and easily countable. With very dark or very light-colored wools, the stitches are less distinct, and this can make them harder to see, especially at night. So, if you are just starting out, it might be better to avoid colors such as blacks, navy blues, creams, and whites.
Newer knitters should also avoid fluffy or very textured wools such as mohair for the same reason; the stitches are less visible when using these types of wools. Fixing mistakes is more difficult with these novelty wools as they are not very easy to un-pull. Very silky wool is also difficult to work with as the stitches can easily slip off your needles.
Poorer quality wool can split, i.e., the strands can untwist and separate. This can affect your knitted item’s final outcome and appearance and affect the ease with which you can knit. If the wool splits, you are more likely to knit into only part of a stitch, compromising the structure of the item and making your work look untidy.
However, the better the quality of wool you buy, the more expensive it is. It’s all about finding the fine balance between quality and cost. If you are making a scarf that uses only a few balls of wool, you can splurge for higher quality wool. If you are making a blanket that uses 10+ balls of wool, you might want to risk getting a cheaper brand.
Most knitting patterns will specify the type and weight of the wool as well as the recommended needle size – making your life a little bit easier! Obviously, you don’t have to use the recommended wool, but you do need to think about how changing the wool will affect the final product.
If you use acrylic yarn instead of wool yarn, this shouldn’t affect your final knitted product in any significant way. True, acrylic yarn doesn’t hold its shape as well as wool yarn does, so there may be a certain amount of stretching if it is a heavier knitted item or if you wash it. But ultimately, the differences are minimal or manageable.
If, however, the pattern calls for double knit (light) wool and you use 3-ply (superfine) wool, you will notice a big difference! Your finished product will be much smaller than you expected because 3-ply wool is much thinner than double knit. So, make sure you check what weight the wool should be for the pattern you have chosen.
If you are a more advanced knitter with a few tricks up your sleeve, you may be able to adjust the pattern for a different weight of wool by changing the size of your needles, using more than one strand at a time, and increasing or decreasing the number of stitches and rows.
That said, the safest way to get your knitting to match the picture you fell in love with is to just follow the pattern and the recommendations of the pattern’s creator. They have spent a long time perfecting the pattern, so just follow it and reap the benefits of their work.
When you are choosing a type of wool to knit with, there are a number of factors to consider. There are bad, good, and best choices when it comes to wool weight, yarn type, color, etc. Having this information and making informed decisions helps you to achieve the best possible results with your knitting. If you are just starting out, choose wool that will make your experience a pleasant one so you will be motivated to keep on learning. Follow a few patterns until you are ready to forge ahead with patterns of your own.