Monday 6 May 2019

Do You Know Your Worsted From Your Woollen Spun?

However long you've been knitting, whether it's a few months or most of a lifetime, there's some knitting jargon and woolly processes that you think you know but when it comes to explaining them, well ... that's where the things start to fall down.

When I went to Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March I thought one of the most interesting stands was that of The Woolist. Its the brainchild of uber wool lover Zoe Fletcher, whose recently completed PhD was on the subject of British sheep and wool characteristics for knitwear.

Zoe Fletcher image courtesy of The Woolist
For her studies she travelled the UK to see all the different sheep breeds. At Edinburgh Yarn Festival she displayed the results of her research along with some very interesting wool facts. There were also samples of different wool breeds to squish.

The Woolist stall at EYF

With thanks to Zoe, here are five interesting woolly facts:
  1. Worsted and woollen spun refer to what happens to wool before it is spun. Worsted-spun yarns have their fibre straightened and aligned before spinning, resulting in a smooth yarn. Woollen-spun yarns, however, aren't straightened before spinning, trapping air and resulting in a matte surface with a soft halo when knitted up.
  2. Superwashed means that the wool has been chemically treated to either remove the wool fibre scales or smooth them over with a coating. This helps to prevent felting and shrinking when cleaned in a washing machine.
  3. 72 is the number of British sheep breeds in the UK according to the British Wool Marketing Board in 2011.
  4. The most predominant British breeds are the Shetland, Bluefaced Leicester, Herdwick and Jacob.
  5. Wicking is a term that means taking water away from the skin. Wool is able to absorb up to 30% of its weight without feeling damp.
Thanks to Zoe Fletcher, The Woolist and the EYF guide.

Read about Edinburgh Yarn Festival in The Knitter magazine

My feature on this year's EYF, along with lots of photos of sumptuous yarn, is in the latest issue of The Knitter magazine, which is issue 137.

Image courtesy of The Knitter

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