Although I enjoy knitting most types of yarn and love metallic and shinny fantasy yarns, when it comes to wearing the hand-knitted garments I feel more comfortable when enveloping my body with natural fibres. Nothing beats the feel of cool cotton and linen in the summer. Having grown up in a Mediterranean country, a clean cotton t-shirt and a pair of jeans or linen loose trousers was my uniform when the hot weather struck.
But what I’ve realised lately is that wool also has its advantages all year round. I’ve been researching properties of protein-based fibres and here’s what I found so far:
Wool is very comfortable and is the only fibre that can absorb up to 1/3 of its weight in moisture without feeling wet or clammy as the moisture immediately starts to evaporate into the air.
Wool is thermodynamic, and therefore an amazing insulator – when the weather is hot, wool can keep the body cool and the heat out, yet when the weather is cold, wool will keep the body warm and the cold out!
Other benefits of wool include resilience, as well as easy care. Wool maintains its shape virtually forever, and it’s very easy to clean – as long as you know the basic rules for cleaning wool: treat it gently, avoid excessive shaking and water that is too hot or too cold unless you want to turn your garment into a reduced, felted version of its former self.
Wool is one of the least flammable of fibres, having high fire resistance due to its unique composition (keratin) and high water absorption (it doesn’t melt if it comes into contact with flame) – great for sitting round a camp fire!
It is relatively free of static problems because its chemical structure and water-absorbing properties make it a good conductor.
Angora is an extraordinarily soft fibre produced from the fur of the Angora rabbit. Angora fibres are hollow, which gives them loft and a characteristic `floating’ feel. They’re exceptionally soft and possess the highest heat retention (two-and-a-half times warmer than sheep’s wool), and best moisture-wicking properties of any natural fiber.
Pure angora fibres are rarely spun on their own because they are so fine and fragile. Rather, they are blended with other wools to increase warmth and enhance softness. Angora wool can be worn outside in very cold conditions and then immediately worn inside without overheating.
Alpaca is extremely fine, compatible with wool, and the same as wool is thermodynamic, has excellent insulating or thermal qualities (remember? it keeps warm in the winter and cool in the summer).
It has a rich silky sheen and a higher tensile strength than wool.
Alpaca contains no grease, oil or lanolin and does not smell for this reason it is naturally hypoallergenic. It does not retain water. It is a filament like silk, and like silk, it is fine, silky, soft and lightweight as well as strong and durable.
Alpaca is resistant to rain and snow. It is naturally resistant to shrinking or stretching. It has a naturally elastic yarn, perfect for knitwear.
Silk. Because of its natural protein structure, silk is the most hypoallergenic of all fabrics
An all-climate fabric, silk is warm and cozy in winter and comfortably cool when temperatures rise. Its natural temperature-regulating properties give silk this paradoxical ability to cool and warm simultaneously. Silk garments thus outperform other fabrics in both summer and winter. Silk worn as a second layer warms without being bulky.
Silk is highly absorbent: it can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Silk will absorb perspiration while letting your skin breathe.
In spite of its delicate appearance, silk is relatively robust. Its smooth surface resists soil and odors well. Silk is wrinkle and tear resistant, and dries quickly.
While silk abrasion resistance is moderate, it is the strongest natural fiber and, surprisingly, it easily competes with steel yarn in tensile strength.
Silk takes color well; washes easily; and is easy to work with in spinning, weaving, knitting, and sewing.
Silk mixes well with other animal and vegetable fibres.