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Scarf yarn is yarn that is used for making scarves. Since scarves are not fitted and can be almost any length or width, they are among the most versatile items a fiber artist can make, and may be knit, crocheted, or woven from almost any kind of yarn. Scarf yarn may be almost any yarn weight, the term used to describe how thick an individual strand of yarn is, not how much the yarn weighs in pounds or ounces. The fiber used in scarf yarn may be animal fiber, plant fiber, or artificial fiber made from polymers and other industrially-derived substances. A scarf designed to be delicate or fashionable would likely require a different yarn from one that is specifically designed to keep the wearer warm.
Lace weight scarf yarn, which resembles heavy thread, is usually the lightest weight available and is often used by fiber artists when crafting a lightweight scarf with an intricate lace design. Fingering yarn is slightly thicker than lace weight, and is often used to make socks, but may also be used to create lacy scarves. Sport, double knitting (DK), worsted, and aran yarns are some of the most commonly used yarn weights for scarves, as they are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, neither too thick nor too thin. Bulky and super-bulky weights are both very thick yarn weights that tend to be very warm and somewhat heavy. Yarn gauge, a way of measuring garment sizing by counting the number of stitches per inch, is usually not crucial when making a scarf, so it is seldom difficult to substitute one yarn weight for another.
In modern times, many fiber artists express a preference for yarns that come from natural sources, such as animal fibers. Scarf yarn may be made from sheep's wool taken from a variety of breeds of sheep, such as Merino, Corriedale, or Blue-faced Leicester. Alpaca, vicuna, and camels all produce very soft, very warm fiber that can also be spun into scarf yarn. Cashmere and mohair come from different breeds of goats, the Cashmere and Angora goat, respectively, while Angora rabbits produce angora fiber. Silk is also considered an animal fiber, as it is produced from the cocoons of silkworm larvae.
Another type of natural fiber is plant fiber, which tends to be lighter and cooler than most fibers taken from animals. One of the oldest textiles woven from plant fiber is linen, which is derived from the fibers of the flax plant. Scarf yarn may also contain plant fibers such as bamboo, soy, cotton or hemp, and can even be spun from more unusual sources such as sugar cane and banana palm.
Artificial, man-made fibers are less popular in modern times, due to their tendency to pill and their often rough texture which can be hard on fiber artists' hands. Man-made fibers are often machine washable, however, and a good alternative for individuals who are allergic to wool or other animal fibers. Nylon, acrylic, microfiber, and viscose are all man-made fibers that might be used in scarf yarn. Often, these artificial fibers can be found in a blend with natural ones.