Knitting: For the Love of wool

My love affair with wool began while hiking in the Sonoran Desert where temperatures usually
IMG_0039fluctuate 30 degrees in a morning.  My affair continued when I started to knit and discovered all the beautiful wool yarns that are available.  What is it about wool that keeps you warm and dry when it’s cold, but also keeps you cool in the heat?  The scientist in me wanted to know.  It comes down to the fiber…

  • Wool fibers have pores.  This means they have little openings that allow them to absorb moisture, or perspiration and then release the moisture again when the air becomes dry.  Wool fibers can absorb 20-30% of their weight in water without feeling wet and while still maintaining the ability to warm you.  The moisture that is typically present in wool fibers also makes wool resistant to fire.
  • Wool fibers are crimped or bent.  Because the fibers don’t all line up straight, little pockets of air become trapped in the wool fabric.  These air pockets act as insulation and contribute to the warming ability of wool.
  • Wool contains lanolin.  Lanolin is an oily substance that is made in the sheep’s sebaceous glands and protects the fibers and provides some water resistance.  Lanolin is commonly used in cosmetics and is the best friend of nursing mothers.  The Lanolin gives wool its characteristic smell.  It also acts a bit like a detergent when combined with water, making wool a great choice for cloth diapers or “nappy pants”.   The lanolin content of the wool varies based on how much washing and processing a particular yarn has been subjected to.    So go ahead, knit with wool for Summer, Winter, inner and outerwear.  And even consider using fine Merino wool to knit for baby.

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