It’s wool washing day here at Stargazer Fiber, and I am just so in love with this downy type of fiber that I had to share a few thoughts about the many different types of wool with you.
Today I am attempting to wash an insane amount of Shropshire wool that I got from a local sheep farmer. Shropshire sheep are raised for meat. But this breed also has wonderfully downy wool that needs to be sheared each year. Well, the local farmer isn’t interested in using the wool, but he also didn’t like just throwing it away. So, I picked it up for Super Cheap and started looking into Shropshire’s wool characteristics.
As it turns out, Shropshire is a lovely, medium grade, downy wool. Downy wools are excellent insulators!
All of this got me thinking, yet again, about how we’ve collectively become so enamored with the softness of merino wool. We’ve forgotten that there is a perfect wool type for every purpose.
Merino is short-stapled, fine wool. It is not nearly durable enough for making items that take a lot of wear (like socks). And yet we try to force it to be something it’s not. People blend it with nylon (plastic) in order to make it stronger. And it still pills and breaks because we’re using it for a purpose it’s not built for.
On the other hand, there are plenty of other types of wool that would perform much better, and last a lifetime! Socks need hardier wool and a longer staple length that holds the yarn together better to keep it from pilling. If you are making socks for someone particularly hard on garments, add in some mohair! Mohair is the natural version of nylon, adding strength and softness where needed. There’s no need to add plastic into your beautifully natural wool.
Hats and gloves also take a lot of wear… and while a squishy merino yarn might be fabulous at first, it won’t necessarily hold up to the abuse. Downy wools such as Dorset, Tunis & Shropshire are fantastic insulators. They’ll keep you nice and toasty. And being a sturdier fiber, they’ll last longer too! If the medium grade wool isn’t soft enough for your taste, blend in a bit of alpaca to add softness and even more warmth!
I’m sure there are many other examples I could toss your way, but we’re all intelligent individuals here. I think you catch my drift 😉
So next time you’re planning a fiber project, whether it’s knitting, crochet, or weaving… before you reach for the merino, ask yourself, is there a more suitable fiber I could be using? You’ll be surprised at how many options you can find.