Last week, we were exploring one of our favourite fibres; Wool. We looked at its characteristics, how they differ fleece to fleece, and how that influences the outcome of our yarn. (If you missed it,you can find it here.) This week, we are going one step further by looking at breed-specific yarns.
But what are breed-specific yarns?
At the risk of stating the obvious, they are yarns spun from the fleece of a specific breed (or several known breeds) of sheep. In comparison, generic wool production is where a range of different fibres are blended to create the softest yarn possible, with courser fibres being discarded and wasted.
Over the past few years, breed-specific yarns have become more and more popular and as a result, more widely available - and it's not hard to see why. The lovely thing about breed-specific yarn is that it celebrates a breed's entire uniqueness. Those quirks and characteristics you find in the fleece translate directly into the yarn, and each skein is like a love letter to the animal that grew the fibre!
As we begin to explore the world of breed-specific yarns, we can also start to see which breeds are best suited with which type of knitting project. The only problem is, with over 200 breeds of sheep alone, keeping track of which breed produces what kind of wool can be pretty tricky.
This is where things get fun. Remember the characteristics we talked about in last weeks post? Staple Length, Crimp, Lustre and Fineness? To make it easier, breeds are grouped into different categories based on similarities in these characteristics. While it helps, this is by no means an exact science. Some breeds won't always fit perfectly into one category, and it's good to keep in mind that the same breed raised in two different environments can show significant differences in their fleece. BUT, it does help to be able to use these categories as a starting point, so let's have a look at what they are.
These have the smallest diameter measurement with an average of 25 or few microns and are often produce the softest yarns. The staple is generally short with a tiny, even crimp. Breeds such as Merino and Cormo fall into this category. Finewools work best for next to the skin projects as these fibres are known for their softness. Be wary of projects that will have a lot of wear, such as socks, as Finewools aren't always the most durable.
It's called medium for a reason because it lands right in the middle when it comes to length, crimp, fineness and lustre. With an average of around 24-31 microns, Mediumwools are more durable than Finewools but still relatively comfortable to wear next to the skin. You will find breeds such as Corriedale and Tunis in this category. Mediumwools suit pretty much any project due to their versatility.
Similar to mediumwool, they have 24-34 microns but have much more crimp leading to a very bouncy yarn. In fact, the robust crimp in these fibres means that they resist felting! (Though I would test this out with a swatch first before attempting to machine wash your new sweater.) The extra crimp means they do not have much lustre and usually sport a more matte appearance. The shorter staple length means Down yarns are often woollen spun, which also compliments the bouncy nature of the fibre. Choose Down fibres when you are looking for a light, lofty fabric, but avoid of you need drape. South Down and Dorset Down are great examples of down wool.
With their long staple length, this category is also known as lustrous Longwools. The yarn in this category is usually worsted spun and has a range of softness with an average micron count of 24-41. They have a long, wavy crimp, resulting in smooth and lustrous yarns. Longwools are perfect for projects which will have plenty of wear and particularly useful for outerwear. Examples of Longwool breeds are Cotswold and Romney.
The breeds that fall into this category grow complex fibres, with a variety of staple, fineness, crimp and lustre occurring in one fleece. Primitive type wool felts fantastically, is exceptionally strong and insulating. As with Longwool, it's perfect for outerwear. You will find Icelandic and Shetland breeds in this category.
Pretty cool, huh?! I can't think of a better way of honouring our woolly friends more than by respecting and celebrating every little bit of their fabulous fleece. By gaining a better understanding of the category a breed falls under, we can also choose the perfect yarn for our next project.
I can't believe it's that time of the year again – time to take stock, and reflect a little on what 2023 has brought to Making Stories. Another year (almost) in the books which means we're entering our 8th year in business soon. Which feels absolutely wild, even more so in a year that has seen so many small businesses, especially in the fiber world and in indie publishing, close their doors. (I'm so sad to see Pompom Magazine go!)
I like sitting down with a good cup of coffee at some in December, and think through what the year has meant for us, and what has happened here at Making Stories. There's no particular order here, just how these thoughts came to mind!
I hope you are well, and making a dent in your gift knitting (if you are gift knitting this year, that is!)
I am back here today with something a little different: A question for you.
Over the course of the last year, I took over writing most of our blog posts again, and while I love it very much, I also noticed that I tend to gravitate towards posts that I like to read – pattern inspiration posts, FO roundups, that sort of thing.
As I was finishing up Aurin's Joy Cardigan over the weekend, I started thinking about what I could cast on now that one of my current WIPs is almost done. And then it hit me - the holidays are just under two months away, and I have this dream of knitting a few sweaters for my nephews. Will I manage it in time? Who knows. But it would be nice to gift them the promised sweaters in time for the end of the year so that they actually get a little wear out of them still this winter!
Are you already deep in gift knitting mode or, like me, just starting to plan? If the latter (or the former, if you still need a few ideas!) I might have just the thing for you: Three super quick gift knit ideas!
We're a delightfully tiny team dedicated to all things sustainability in knitting. With our online shop filled with responsibly produced yarns, notions and patterns we're here to help you create a wardrobe filled with knits you'll love and wear for years to come.
Are you part of the flock yet?
Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get the latest yarn news and pattern inspiration!
Join the Making Stories flock!
Every Tuesday our newsletter arrives in your inbox, full to the brim with Making Stories goodness. If you would like to join in on the fun, fill in the form below.
As a thank you, we gift you a digital publication of your choice!