Wool is a versatile yarn, and a favorite when it comes to making projects for fall and winter. Not only a favorite with experienced stitchers, wool can also make the list for beginners because it can be very forgiving. It’s easy to unravel and looks fantastic for any knit or crochet project.
Wool you be you be working with this sheepish yarn? Read on, as Gayle, our lead designer, shares 4 tips to become an expert at working with this naturally cozy fiber.
Wool is one of the most forgiving and satisfying fibers for knitters and crocheters because it responds so well to blocking after your pieces are complete.
Blocking is pinning your pieces out to their correct shapes on a flat surface (I like to do it with the wrong side of piece facing outward). Then you lay a damp cloth on the piece overnight or for a few hours until the cloth is dry. Linen tea towels or old pillowcases work best. Remove cloths when dry, unpin your piece and you should notice it will now appear to have more even texture over-all.
If you are in a hurry, you can follow the same steps above, but lightly shoot steam from a steam iron slightly hovering over the pieces instead of using damp cloths. They will need a couple of minutes to dry after steaming and then you can unpin them.
2. Finishing and Weaving in Ends
Since wool and wool blend pieces will block into shape so well, completing the finishing of your garment will be satisfying. Use the same yarn your project was made with to sew seams (unless the yarn is extremely bulky, then you will need to substitute a worsted weight yarn in matching shade for sewing). I love working the mattress stitch technique when sewing wool garments together since the yarn has great built-in memory and a forgiving nature that blends seams together so easily. When weaving in wool yarn ends you’ll notice that many yarns have a natural ‘tooth’ or texture that helps it grab into fibers as you weave the ends into work. This helps hold the ends in place and makes the ends less easy to detect than acrylic or cotton fiber. Try to always weave your ends into seam edges to avoid detection.
3. Hand Washing Is Not So Scary
Many people are turned off wool yarns that are labeled hand wash only. I actually will wash wool and wool blend items using the shortest, gentle cycle on my machine, with cold water and a very small amount of gentle soap. Place the item (with buttons or zipper done up — this is very important — and turned inside out) inside a laundry bag before placing in machine. Don’t add in any other laundry with this bag. The water MUST be cold to avoid felting and the cycle must be short and gentle. When the machine cycle ends, take the item out of the laundry bag and lay flat to dry. Take care moving around a wet wool garment. They will be heavy and prone to stretching. Give them lots of support when wet. I have a large laundry rack in my laundry room and I stretch a thick towel over some rails to create a flat surface for sweaters. This way air circulates above and below the item to help it dry.
4. Storing wool and woolly goods
As with many natural fibers, storing yarn and finished items requires some consideration. Take the time to store garments with buttons or zippers done up, folded smoothly. Never put hand knit garments on a hanger — that can lead to stretched out garments and hanger marks on shoulders.
If you’re storing wool yarn balls, make sure you’re keeping your stash in airtight containers. Big Ziploc bags are wonderful and practical for storing WIPs, and plastic storage boxes will keep your stash safe and ready until creativity strikes.
5. Pilling... Those Annoying Little Balls
Since wool has that natural ‘tooth’ or scale-like texture, it will attract itself in areas where the garment is rubbed together, like elbows and cuffs. Tiny balls of yarn form (called pills) and can make the garment look shabby. The best way to deal with pills is to use those special little pill remover tools with the sanding edge. I have also used packing tape or duct tape wrapped around my hand (sticky side out) and gently pressed on the pilled areas. Always washing your garment inside out helps avoid pills, and take the time to store garments with buttons or zippers done up, folded smoothly. Never put hand knit garments on a hanger-that can lead to stretched out garments and hanger marks on shoulders.
My Favorite Wool Yarns
I truly love Patons Classic Wool Worsted. The shade range is varied enough for all types of projects. It is equally great for knit or crochet projects and the gauge is consistently reliable. I’ve made a few crocheted afghans with Patons Classic Wool Worsted since there are so many inspiring shades for granny square designs. They’re wonderfully warm and versatile for the couch or the bedroom. I’ve also made several aran cable knit projects with Patons Classic Wool Worsted since the cable textures look wonderful in pure wool and I can block them perfectly.
But then again, I also love other yarns from the Patons Classic Wool family for its wide range of lush textures.