Animal Fiber-Based Yarns

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This article is a part of Yarn 101 series ⟶ Types of Yarn.

Source of these fibers are domesticated animals, such as goats, sheep, camelids or rabbits. In this category you will find yarn such as wool, cashmere, angora, mohair, silk and more. These fibers are much more elastic and warm than plant-sourced yarns.

Wool

Obtaining wool from domesticated animals was known in ancient times, because this natural product has fantastic qualities and can be used for various purposes. You can felt it, spin it into yarns, or card into bats to create a type of insulation.

Australia, China and United States are leading wool producers.

Qualities: Wool is warm, but also breathable, which makes it perfect for both summer and winter accessories.

Disadvantages: Some kinds of wool can be found itchy and unpleasant to wear, but it depends on its origin and the way of processing. Exclusive yarns, such as merino or cashmere, are much more expensive than the other.

The most popular kinds of wool are:

⟶ Alpaca Wool

Alpaca is a type of South American llama, from which there are two most known kinds: Suri and Huacaya. This wool is very soft and warm, but must be handled delicately, as it doesn’t hold shape very well. It’s quite expensive in comparison with other types of wool, but makes a great yarn for sweaters and winter accessories.

alpaca wool

  • top photo by Shibui Knits (source)
  • bottom photo by My Alpaca / strefaprezentu.pl (source)

⟶ Merino Wool

This widely used wool comes from Merino sheep, which is quite a special breed – its wool doesn’t cause allergic reactions, is very durable and super soft. Knitters and crocheters value these qualities, because they make it a perfect choice for winter accessories and baby garments.

merino wool

  • top photo by Knit Picks (source), bottom photo by Forest Range Merinos (source)

⟶ Mohair

This kind of yarn is sourced from Angora goat, but let’s not confuse it with Angora rabbit, from which we obtain angora wool. It has characteristic ‘fluff’, which makes it incredibly hard to frog once crocheted or knitted, but it looks beautiful. This luxurious yarn is breathable, super soft and durable, as well as shiny. It’s more expensive than other kinds of wool.

mohair

  • top photo by Fig Tree Yarns (source), bottom photo by dotranchchurros.com (source)

⟶ Cashmere

This soft wool is sourced from Cashmere Goats, and its name comes from Kashmir state in South Asia. Unlike other kinds of yarn, the process of collecting wool from these animals is much more time and labor-consuming. Instead of shearing, cashmere wool is collected by combing only once a year, so that one goat produces much less wool than a regular sheep. All this makes the wool highly valued and expensive.

Cashmere is very soft and breathable yarn, so it’s perfect for garments, socks, and other accessories. Mongolia, China and Tibet are the main producers.

cashmere

  • top photo by The Plucky Knitter (source), bottom photo by wisegeek.com (source)

⟶ Silk

Silk is the strongest natural fiber, and it’s produced by silk worms. It’s one of the most expensive yarns, because of its fantastic properties and tricky way of sourcing. Cocoons, created by insect larvae and harvested, are the base of this luscious material. Workers dissolve it in boiling water to extract long filament threads of silk and spin it into yarn.

It’s known for its shiny appearance and soft touch, but there are many ways of processing silk yarns, that produce slightly different effects. In general, silk yarn is slippery, but quite easy to work with. It’s a great material for summer garments.

silk

  • top photo by SweetGeorgia Yarns (source)
  • bottom photo by Tomas Wüthrich/13 Photo (source)

Explore more from Yarn 101 series:

⟶ Lace, worsted, bulky, or jumbo…? To find out more about Yarn Weights and Ply, check out this article!

⟶ You can wind yarn into different shapes, such as skeins, hanks, balls and other – if you want to know more about Yarn Ball Types, check out this article!

yarn ball types

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