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Old 12-02-2008, 04:22 PM   #11
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re: was most likely the FIRST yarn EVER!

i doubt it. plant fibers are likely older.

cotton (and linen, and hemp) likely preceded wool by thousands of years.

first sheep had to domesticated--(and that took a while!)

in north america, there were no domestic sheep, and wool was a luxury fiber (collected from tuffs left behind by spring molting sheep, and from sheep that had be killed for food)
but Cotton was a domesticated crop in many parts of NA before european settlement--and there were other plant fibers as well (including the beautiful silk like pine apple fibers)
(in SA, the inca's domesticated llama's and ilk, but very little of this fiber was traded north (and high altitude llama's were not suited to live in lowland deserts of NA south west (and this created a geographic barrier to their spread (to other parts of NA)
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Old 12-02-2008, 05:58 PM   #12
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Old 12-02-2008, 06:19 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by newamy View Post
Wool and alpaca are protein based natural animal fibers. They both insulate naturally. Both retain body heat even if you are soaking wet. Traditional Fisherman Sweaters kept fishermen warm. Wool is also naturally flame retardant. It will burn but more of a smoldering sort of burn and will stop when moved away from the flame. The natural quality gives depth to color and creates interesting texture. When knitting it has nice give and warms up in your hands. It makes some stitches like cables look fantastic. The drawbacks are that it can be itchy depending on the breed of wool and how it is spun and processed. Some people are allergic too it.

Once you get hand washing down it is really not that difficult to wash. I happen to have a front loading washing machine with a hand wash cycle. I can put a wool sweater in a garment bag, run it through the hand wash cycle and lay it out to dry. Even in top loader if you are careful you can probably rinse and spin a sweater in the delicate cycle if you use a garment bag.

Acrylic is petroleum based. It comes from oil. It does not breathe the way natural fibers do. So while you may be warm in something acrylic it is because it is holding in your sweat. If you are soaking wet in acrylic you will be cold and not retain any body heat. So out in the woods it won't protect you from hypothermia the way wool would. It is easy care for so people often choose it for kids things. However it actually is not safe for babies at all. It is not flame retardant, it melts when exposed to flame and can cause horrible burns. Stephanie Pearl McPhee aka the Yarn Harlot asserts that no baby should be left unattended with acrylic for this reason.

Actually lots of modern clothing with acrylic and nylon pose the same danger if you are wearing them in a fire. If your clothes catch fire you can be terribly burned by the melting of the fiber. Children's pajamas that are labeled flame retardant have been treated with chemicals.

Cotton and Linen are natural vegetable fibers, they do not insulate. They might burn in a fire but won't melt all over your skin. They can also offer interesting textures and color.

Natural fibers come from renewable resources. Acrylic does not. However acrylic is in much of our modern clothes and carpeting. I don't know anyone with wall to wall 100% wool carpet.

I prefer natural fibers, too, for all the reasons that newamy detailed. Very good information amy! Well said without going overboard! Easy to follow and understand!

I love knitting with the fiber of an animal...and I also like the cottons, bamboos, and hemps for summery things.

However, that said, I have used acrylic yarns many times for little kid's hats, sweaters and blankies. Mainly because of the washability. I have only used fine fibers for little kid's things when I know the mother well, and am sure she is willing to make the time to handwash my handknit gift(s). No mother has the time. She has to make time usually. If I'm unsure, I just make it in the nicest washable yarn I can find. There's no sense in making it harder for a mother, especially since most mothers also hold fulltime or parttime jobs outside the home.

Whatever yarn we choose to knit with, the important thing is THAT WE KNIT! It's all about the love in the gift! It's also about what you can afford to use, or what you have access to! Just keep knitting! And sharing your beautiful projects! I admire all the projects I see in Whatcha Knitting. I don't usually pay any attention to the type of yarn. The most outstanding feature is the knitted item itself, and who its for!
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Old 07-11-2013, 03:30 AM   #14
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I thought this thread quite interesting - and it sure scared me about getting to close to fires with the clothes I'm usually wearing

What I wonder though - if you do not really care about the different qualities in wear, can one just use 100% acrylic for a 100% wool pattern (given the gauge is similar)? Or is there something else to consider DURING KNITTING?
For example, does it stretch out (and not stretch back) more so you have to reknit your sweater every half year or so? Just wondering.
It seems so easy...
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Old 07-11-2013, 01:23 PM   #15
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Thank you for bringing this thread back to life; I hadn't read it before.

Re. acrylic vs. wool--my personal experience, although limited in knitting (I have lots of crochet experience), is that the stitch definition in acrylic isn't as clear as that in wool. Over the past five years, I made myself several hats in a 75% acrylic/25% wool blend which can be washed in the washer and dried in the dryer (to restore the "spring"/"bounce" in the acrylic) vs. one hat out of wool (Knitty's Coronet

Now, it's of course possible that the washing-machine treatment itself has blurred the stitches in the acrylic-based hats, but the hand-washed Coronet hat's cable band and stockinette crown are as clear as the day I finished the hat approx. February 2012. Likewise an all-wool diagonally patterned Cascade 220 hat with a crocheted Koigu ruffle (because the hat, a class pattern, was too short). Pattern is just as clear as it was Summer 2011.

I've almost finished my first wool shawl and will be able to provide comparative information on it vs. my long-time acrylic crocheted shawl (made at a time when wool was completely beyond my means) in a few months.
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Old 07-14-2013, 06:26 AM   #16
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I mostly knit with natural fibers or washable wools with the exception of some baby items. (I agree with ArtLady on gifts for new moms.) I haven't found a big difference with acrylics and wools however but I have to admit that I hand wash everything. Cotton is the one fiber that I have found does stretch out and so I'm careful about the kinds of things I knit with cotton, usually simple patterns, nothing too heavy that will add to the weight of the fabric.
I'm interested in DCM's experience too and hope we get to hear about the crocheted shawl results.
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Old 07-14-2013, 02:39 PM   #17
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Just to add to the great discussion here: it's much easier to twist cables in wool than acrylic because the fiber "gives" much more easily. For garments, I like superwash wool as it's much more fire safe than acrylic and has the benefit of being easily washed. Given a preference, I'll take superwash wool over acrylic any day.


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Old 07-14-2013, 10:19 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by newamy View Post
Wool and alpaca are protein based natural animal fibers. They both insulate naturally.

Natural fibers come from renewable resources. Acrylic does not. However acrylic is in much of our modern clothes and carpeting. I don't know anyone with wall to wall 100% wool carpet.
Well said....Natural fibers are best. I love my all wool tapestries and small area rugs.
Happy Wet and Wild Spring!
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Old 07-14-2013, 11:49 PM   #19
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Baaahhhh! wool all the way, baby! Washable wool for baby stuff.

The earliest surviving knitted object is a pair of socks discovered in Cairo, where the dry climate preserved them. They are knitted in two color stranding and dated from 1200-1500 A.D. Women made the yarn, and MEN did the knitting! How things change.
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:17 PM   #20
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I much prefer natural fibres to acrylic too, no scientific formula behind it, just personal preference to use something more natural and organic, although I like a bit of nylon in my sock wool for better wear.

What does concern me a bit though is the dyes used.... just because our wool is a natural product, doesn't always follow through that the manufacturer has used natural dyes too. So for those of us who prefer to use something natural over something man made, is it really as natural as we'd like?
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