Information Pages

Yarn Contents

We sometimes get asked what some of the different contents of yarns are, so we have created this page to give some help and information.

The different types can be split into 3 main groups (with a couple of exceptions) - synthetic, plant based and from animal coats.

Synthetic yarns

Many synthetic yarns were originally created to mimic natural yarns when the natural product was in short supply or too expensive. Many have the added benefit of being durable and easy to dye which means a greater variety of colours to choose from. Many are also stretchy, stain & water resistant making them more useful for modern use.

We have included Metallic and Payette in this section as they are synthetic additions to yarn.

Made from polymers which are extruded into strands and twisted to make up the yarn. The main benefits are it is Machine Washable, durable, hypoallergenic, vegan friendly and colour fast.

Polyester is a man made polymer composed of linked esters (esters are the result of a chemical reaction between an acid and an alcohol). The yarn is often made by heating and spinning the polymer into strands. As it is a petrochemical substance it does not biodegrade well so is not environmentally friendly. However it is usually softer, more flexible, stronger and moisture resistant than acrylic, but just as machine washable. Microfibre is a type of polyester which uses smaller particles therefore making the yarn even softer.

Synthetic yarn originally created to resemble silk when it was in short supply. It is strong, durable, lightweight, quick-drying, machine washable, smooth, slightly elastic and can add some shimmer to a yarn. It is often blended with different fibres such as Acrylic for baby yarns or wool for sock yarns.

Lurex is a brand name for a metallic coated plastic yarn which is shiny and stretchy. This is often wound around a base yarn to give a shiny affect to the yarn.

These are small sequins added to the yarn to give it a bit of a sparkle when it hits the light.


plant based yarns

Some plant based yarns have been around for a very long time, such as silk and cotton, some are much newer such as bamboo. They tend to be less warm than animal based yarns but have other qualities such as being light weight and cool.

Made from the cotton plant so is sustainable but not as elastic as other yarns, this does mean you get great stitch definition, be careful not to split the yarn while knitting. It is perfect for summer garments as it is cool to wear and breathable, it is also a strong yarn which gives a nice drape, but it can be difficult to block when wet.

The mercerising process creates a stronger yarn which is shiny and may not lose its shape or shrink as much as regular cotton.

Made from the long cellulose fibres from the centre of the flax plant, but it does take a lot of labour to create a yarn. Like cotton, it is perfect for summer garments and give great stitch definition and drape, but it is stronger and more durable.

This is a sustainable product as it can be harvested without destroying the plant, it is also vegan friendly, biodegradable, doesn't need pesticides, fertilizers or much water to grow. Bamboo yarns create soft knitted fabrics which are breathable and cool, they often have a slight shine and garments have a wonderful drape to them.

While this is technically a plant based yarn as it is made from wood pulp from fast-growing regenerative trees, it does undergo a lot of chemical processes to produce it. Originally produced to mimic silk, it is breathable, has good drape, smooth, strong and soft.

This is also a wood based fibre with similar properties to Viscose, it uses less energy and chemicals so is generally more eco-friendly.

This comes from the Kapok tree and you probably associate it with pillows rather than yarn. On its own it is difficult to spin, but combined with cotton it creates a soft, environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic yarn.

We have put silk in this section as it is not the fleece of an animal but is created by insects attached to plants. Probably the most luxurious fibre out there, but not vegan friendly as it is produced by insect larvae when forming their cocoons. It is strong, shiny, soft, expensive, relatively cool yet also insulating and slippery to work with so bamboo or wood needles work best.


natural animal yarns

These yarns are naturally great insulators, that is the job they do on the animal after all, so is the best material for winter garments.

Often used as a general term for any yarn from an animal fleece, it is usually from a sheep in the most common and cheapest varieties. Pure wool can be slightly harsh and itchy but does hold its shape well, it is also very durable and warm. Wool is fire resistant but can cause allergic reactions in some people due to the presence of lanolin.

Spun from the fleece of a Merino sheep, this yarn is softer than standard wool and does not cause allergic reactions. This is one of the most luxurious yarns which keeps it shape well but can pill more over time.

Spun from the fleece of an alpaca which is a type of llama, it is also hypoallergenic as it does not contain lanolin. It is almost as soft as silk yet super warm and with good stitch definition. It does not hold its shape as well as wool so does not drape nicely and can be more expensive.

Normally obtained from the hair of the Angora goat, but is often used as a general term for a fluffy wool yarn. More expensive than wool, but much softer and luxurious, it is also lighter yet just as warm. Because it is fluffy, you will not get any stitch definition so best on an open work design to give the yarn room to float. It is a durable yarn which has a lustre or shine but some people do find it itchy. Not to be confused with Angora yarn which is made from the fur of the angora rabbit.

One of the softest wool around but also one of the most expensive. It is combed and collected, not shorn, from the Cashmere Goat which is a labour intensive process, hence the price. It is not known to be itchy so can be used next to the skin, but it is not as strong as other wools. The softness improves with wear and has better insulation properties than other wool, but can pill.

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Updated 15/04/24
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