Quick Question

Hey guys....I have a quick question that I don't know if there is a quick answer for...

I was just given a ton of yarn from my uncle that he is getting rid of. There are some gorgeous colors and I am really excited to start playing around with them. But none of them have labels...I know that some of them are hand spun and dyed....

Is there a way to tell what materials they are made of...i.e. wool, alpaka, etc....? Or is this something you learn over time with feeling them all before and just knowing?



Parrot's picture

I haven't been working with yarn for a long, long time, but it is something that comes over time to identify fibers, I think, esp. to distinguish between natural vs. synthetic.  You might also take some to a locally owned LYS and talk with someone there.  I know my LYS where I get much of my good yarn, the owner is very knowledgeable and can tell the differences between many of the yarms.  Good Luck! . . and lucky to get the stash!



JPaul's picture

There are a few tests you can try at home.  How good your results are will depend on what you're working with.  Blends of fibers might give you misleading results, but you should be able to determine if you have a natural or synthetic material (all or partially synthetic).

One is the burn test, where you light a small sample on fire and observe how it burns, how it smells and what the resulting charred bits of fiber look like.  Imagine burning hair.  When you smell it, you know exactly what it is.  Here is a link that gives you results to look for: http://www.fabriclink.com/Burntest.html

This link also has results for burn tests, but also includes a chemical test that can help you determine if you are working with a natural or man-made fiber: http://www.fabrics.net/fabricsr.asp 

There is also a bleach test.  Household bleach will dissolve protein fibers (try warming it a bit before you use it for the test).  This means wool and silk, of course, but also the new fibers made of soy or milk proteins.

Hope this is helpful. -John

Parrot's picture

Thanks!  This is why I like this site so much; learning new things all the time, and everyone is so willing to share information and tips.


ulf's picture

I always do a burn test such as JPaul described. Natural fibers leaves only carbone when burned and you can crumble the burned ends between the fingers. Acrylic fibers melt and leave a little lump in the end. If it's a blend there will be a lump that can be crumbled. At least you know if it's natural or acrylic fibers.

ScoobySnacks's picture

You guys are the bomb!

Thank you so much for all of your helping suggestions.

I can tell my house is going to smell great this weekend with me burning wool and such.....

Thanks for all of the insightful ideas and links!

kiwiknitter's picture

You might want to consider the purchase of a WPI (wraps per inch) tool kit.  This is a small wooden calibrated dowel and a reference card.  With this tool you will be able to determine the weight (thickness) the the yarn.  I have found this to be a handy device when I want to use some left-over wool (I don't have a stash of wool for future projects, just a lot of unused wool from past projects).  The WPI kit can be purchased from www.patternworks.com.

Friends don't let friends knit drunk.

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  ~Billy Connolly