What kind of yarn fibre is good for clothing?

Hi there!

I am planning to make some crochet clothing (specifically a cardigan and tunic) for some gifts this year - maybe birthday, maybe Christmas. :wink:

I have really only made hats when it comes to wearable, some am wondering what everyone’s suggestions, recommendations, preferences are?

The tunic pattern uses llama/merino and there is no specific fibre for the cardigan. I don’t have much experience of fibres on skin.

Thanks!

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This is no easy question to answer. What’s itchy for one person is soft to another…

I’ll list some pros and cons

Cotton
Usually good stitch definition, but depends on how it is spun. Works well for summer clothes or for someone who tends to be warm. Makes heavy garments, compared to other fibers. Most likely not itchy unless the recipient is allergic to the pigment. Easy to wash for the recepient. Vegan.

Wool
Stretchier to work with than cotton. Warm fiber, suitable for winter gear or people who get cold easily. Can feel scratchy, both because of allergy and because many wools are a bit rough. Merino is softer, but will not work if the itching is due to allergy. Can be trickier to wash, but there are superwash and other machine washable options. Check l
The label!

Alpaca
Some say it’s softer than wool, some say it’s itchy. Warm fiber, similar to sheep wool in warmth. Not as stretchy as wool so the garment will drape differently. Most likely hand wash will be needed.

Acrylic
Comes in soft or scratchy depending on quality. Easy to care for, comes in many colours. Not as breathable as cotton and animal fibres. Not as warm as wool/alpacka, but warmer than cotton. Vegan. Not a super sustainable fiber for the environment. Difficult to ”kill” in the wash if your recipient is not used to caring for delicate garments.

Silk
Usually not itchy. Gives some warmth but will feel cool if it’s hot. Not fun to work with if you’ve got dry hands, but the results are very nice. Needs handwash with wool detergent or silk detergent.

Bamboo or viscose
Synthetic made from cellulose that can come from bamboo, pine trees or just about anything containing cellulose. No magical bamboo properties are left after turning it to spinnable fiber, but sellers will try to lie about it. Similar to silk or cotton in that it’s good for summer garments. Usually not itchy. More lightweight than cotton. Kind of slippery yarn. Vegan.

Tencel/lyocell/modal
Synthetic made from cellulose, but in a more environment friendly manner. Similar to viscose but a bit better at absorbing moisture (will absorb more moisture per weight unit). Good for summer garmens, indoor garments, sweaty people. Usually not itchy. Vegan.

Milk
Synthetic fiber made from milk. Similar properties to wool.

Combination yarns
The yarn will have a combination of the different properties. Combine too many fiber types and the yarn will want to get pilly.

Edit: how the yarn is spun matters. Softly spun super squishy yarn will tend to get fussy and pill easier than a tightly spun yarn with longer fibers.

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Very conprehensive!

For crochet, I’ve noticed that long period of working with cotton hurts my hands, because the yarn isn’t stretchy. I like crocheting with acrylics but I don’t like acrylic garments.

Personally for garments I prefer wool but people have strong feelings about wool. Wool is not vegan, and not all sheep are raised and sheared ethically - but some are and if that’s important to you, you can do research on that.

What I love about wool is that it will last for years and years and requires less washing than other types of material. Cotton requires a lot of water to grow and acrylics are made from oil. From a sustainability point of view, no material is ideal.

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This is especially apparent with crochet, as opposed to knitting. Most yarns are designed for knitters and are S-twist. When crocheting, this yarn’s twist loosens. So, S-twist yarn that has a nice, tight twist gives better results for crochet (and Z-twist is even better).

Personally, I like cotton and wool for garments because I have really sensitive skin. Cotton is soft and cool, has great drape, but loses its shape (not always a bad thing). Wool is warm but not suffocating, soft, and keeps its shape. Alpaca is also nice - it’s warm like wool, but drapes more like cotton.

What weight yarns do your patterns call for? We could all probably give you a list of favorites by weight and fiber.

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I’d go a little further as well

Cotton and other plant fibers - tends to grow unless mixed. So 100% cotton crop may end up a tunic at the end of the day, a tighter stitch helps but then it adds to weight. The resulting textile will not have stretch and bounce but can have nice draping depending on weight of yarn, stitch and construction.

Linen/Hemp - both seem harsh when new. They soften with washing and use and can be beautiful in sheen and drape. They are both wonderful for more drapey items just account for the fact after washing a few times your textile goes through a transformation. I would do a test swatch and wash and dry many times

Animal fibers (wool, alpaca, llama, quivet etc) Breeds are categorized as skin contact or outerwear, There are factors for the spin as well. Woolen spun is often lofty, light, fluffier (think boucle) and is great for warmth and weatherproofing but not as structurally sturdy. Worsted spun is spun tighter and smoother, its great for the strength (think sock yarns) offers more stitch definition (think cables) where as woolen spun will loose the definition of stitches as you work it up. Spin, stitch and construction also effect skin sensitivity. If you have a very tight stitch in a worsted spun merino normally known as one of the softest skin contact wools, the stitch density and texture can actually cause skin irritation but many associate that to the wool.
Many animal fibers naturally have guard hairs (like llama) if the guard hair wasn’t properly removed it can be like being stabbed with a needle! Baring allergies wool that is painfully scratchy may have just been improperly processed. Processing also effects the finished product and some processing techniques cannot be rectified. Wool is hair! You fry human hair with a perm or color or heat damage etc its never coming back! Its fried! You can put as much product on the hair as you like its never the same! Wool is the same way and many of the chemical stripping processes damage the fiber which then causes it to feel scratchy as well. All this you get more use to as you familiarize yourself with manufacturers, even indy dyers as the dying process has this risk as well though most indy dyers use same bases and same processing mills.
Better skin contact wools while soft, generally absorb sweat, can keep one both warmer/cooler due to absorption of sweat they have downsides as well as they usually pill easier.
Skin contact wools
alpaca - porocessed without guard hair
llama if processed correct
merino
bfl
lambswool any breed generally can fall into this catagory
good mohairs
cashmere
camel
angora
vicuna
shetland (can go either way I find depends on spin and manufacturing)
Qiviut
If really unsure try a mix! a 70 merino 30 silk, a bambo/bfl etc etc and for items like angora you are going to want a mix its HOT, items like cashmere, vincuna, qiviut and camel are pricey so a mix usually helps with the pricing

Outerwear
Icelandic
Sheltand
Rambouilet
Targee
Lower grades of skin contact wools also fall into outerwear

For care of wool what the recipient needs to know is they do not need to wash their wool with each use! A lot of wool does well and won’t smell being washed 1-2 times a season! For me washing is easy I fill a sink with a mild detergent, drop the items in and allow to sink. I let them just sink and sit for like 30 min or whenever I get back to them. I drain, push down a bit to ring out, place on towel and roll then lay flat. They dry pretty quick!

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Wow that is a lot of information! Thanks to you all for spending so much time explaining different aspects of yarn! I will spend the weekend absorbing all of this.

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The cardigan calls for DK. The pattern maker used yarn from an indy dyer, but suggested Lion Brand as having many suitable weight yarns. I can’t see any disclaimer of affiliate links.

The tunic used Sugarbush Rapture, which is 50/50 llamasoft and superfine merino, worsted weight #4.

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It is a lot but overtime you get use to manufacturers you prefer as well. For gift giving never fear the acrylic or a mix! Cost point is better and they don’t pill as much. Really good wool and my own hand spun I reserve for the people I know will appreciate that.

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