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How do I Choose the Best Merino Yarn?

By Greer Hed
Updated May 16, 2024
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Merino yarn is yarn spun from the wool of Merino sheep that is usually softer and lighter than most other types of wool yarn. It is usually spun using either two or three individual plies, and comes in a range of different weights from lace to super-bulky. Merino wool tends to be very fine, so it is not as warm or durable as some other types of sheep's wool, but its softness is ideal for craftspeople with skin that is sensitive to itchier wools. When deciding on the best merino yarn, it is usually prudent to consider what project will be knit, woven or crocheted with the yarn. In general, merino wool is ideal for creating baby clothes and blankets, lace projects, and delicate clothing that will not be exposed to a lot of hard wear.

Garment patterns frequently specify the weight of the yarn necessary to complete the project. Yarn weight is a measurement that defines how thick the strands of yarn are, not how much the yarn weighs in ounces or grams. Lace weight yarn is usually the thinnest available weight of merino yarn, and is appropriate for making airy, lacy projects such as shawls and scarves. The next heaviest weight is fingering, which is most often used for making baby booties, socks and gloves. Sport, double knitting (DK), and worsted or aran are the most common yarn weights that can be used to make a variety of garments, accessories, or housewares. Bulky and super-bulky are very thick yarns that are commonly useful for making projects that need to be crafted quickly.

Some varieties of merino yarn include superwash wools that have been washed in an acid bath or coated with polymers so they can be machine washed without felting. Felting occurs when untreated wool is exposed to heat and agitation. When wool garments shrink in the wash, it is because they have begun to felt. Therefore, a superwash merino yarn is a good choice for a project that requires easy care and frequent machine washing, such as a baby blanket. Some projects, such as knit bags, may require intentional felting to make the finished fabric more firm and durable, so in these cases an untreated merino yarn is more desirable.

Color is also an important consideration when choosing a type of merino yarn. Some yarns are solids that are dyed in a single, all-over color. Kettle-dyed merino yarn will usually be a shaded solid that has subtle tone variations, while hand-painted yarn is often a variegated mix of many different colors. Knitting, crocheting, or weaving with hand-painted yarn can cause large pools of color in a handmade project that some craftspeople may find undesirable. Solids or shaded solids in light or bright colors are usually best for showing off a detailed stitch pattern that would get lost in the many colors of a variegated yarn, while hand-painted yarn can add color and interest to a simpler project.

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