Your Guide to Buying Affordable Wool

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Your Guide to Buying Affordable Wool

Wool is used in a variety of crafts, including knitting, weaving, sewing, embroidery, and crochet. Finding the right wool can be tricky and this becomes even more difficult if you are trying to keep the costs down. However, if you know what types of wool fibres are available, then the selection and buying process become easier.

The cost of wool is heavily influenced by the type of fibres used. Fibres are classified by their construction and sources. As a general rule, natural and luxury fibres are more expensive than synthetics and synthetic blends. While some may not like the idea of using synthetics, it is important to note that the manufacture of these fibres has been developed and refined over the years and modern synthetics can resemble natural fibres. Learn how to reuse wool for even bigger savings and how to choose the right wool for your project. Wool is available from craft and hobby shops, department stores, supermarkets, and online, from eBay.

Types of Yarn

A ball of yarn is also known as a skein. A ply is a single strand of yarn. Yarn comes in a variety of plies, weights, and materials, including wool. Multi-ply yarn is made up of a number of plies twisted or otherwise grouped together to form one strand. The weight of the yarn refers to its thickness. There are three main types of yarn: filament, textured, and spun.

Filament Yarn

Filament yarn contains very long fibres twisted or grouped together. Monofilaments are used for industrial applications, not for creating fabric. Silk is a natural filament, but synthetic filaments are often used to create effects like those of silk.

Textured Yarn

Textured yarns are usually synthetic continuous filament yarns that have been treated to create various effects. These yarns may be coiled, crimped, curled, distorted, or given a false twist. They may resemble spun yarn.

Spun Yarn

Spun yarns were traditionally made by hand using a spinning wheel. Modern spun yarns can be manufactured in factories or handspun. These yarns can contain more than one type of fibre.

Types of Wool

Most, but not all, wool comes from sheep. In addition, different breeds of sheep yield different types of wool, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The table below lists types of wool with a short description.

Type of Wool

Description

Lamb

From a lamb's first shearing

Merino

Soft

High quality wool

Pure new

Also called virgin wool

Made from fleece

Not recycled

Shetland

Harvested from sheep native to the Shetland Islands in Scotland

Icelandic

Also known as Lopi

Extremely soft

Washable

Chemically treated to destroy the fuzzy outer layer of fibres

Mohair

From the Angora goat

Stronger than wool

Very soft and warm

May be scratchy

Alpaca

Silky texture

Very strong

Lightweight

Cashmere

Soft

Warm

Not very strong

Wool is warm, absorbent, and soft, but can shrink if laundered in a washing machine. Many wool fibres tend to be fairly expensive, but most are available as blends. A blend is created by combining two or more natural or synthetic fibres.

Wool Blends

Wool blends are readily available. Blended wool is easier to use, garment care is simpler, and the wool is more durable. In some cases natural fibres are blended to strengthen one of the materials used in the mixture, for example cashmere is often mixed with merino wool for added strength. Wool blends tend to be more affordable because expensive fibres are blended with less expensive fibres to keep costs down. If you would like to use an exotic type of wool, but find that the wool is too expensive, look for cheaper wool blends.

Synthetic Wool

Synthetic wool is manufactured and not harvested from animals. These fibres include rayon, nylon, acrylic, and polyester. They may be blended to imitate certain natural fibres. Some are also blended with natural fibres to make them more affordable and durable. Synthetics are easy to launder, making this a great choice for hard wearing items or baby clothes that need to be washed frequently. Synthetic wool is available in a huge selection of colours, textures, and weights.

Colours of Wool

Wool comes in three main colour types: solids, semi-solids, and variegated. Solid colours are machine dyed and uniform in appearance. Semi-solids are hand dyed and may have a number of shades of one colour in a single skein. These colours have more depth and tend to look great when used to make jumpers and simple items. Variegated wool features a range of colours, which can be contrasting or complementary. Due to the unpredictability of the colour pattern created in the final product, these wools should be used with caution.

Reusing Wool from Previous Projects

If you have one or two unfinished projects lying in the back of a cupboard or you knitted an item that you will never wear, consider unravelling it and reusing the wool. The wool should be washable as it has to be laundered to remove the wrinkles.

Carefully dismantle the garment, taking care not to cut the wool that makes up the panels or body of the item. Undo the woven ends using a large blunt needle or crochet hook. Unravel each piece from the tied off end and wind the wool around someone's hands or the back of a chair as you go. Once the entire item has been unravelled, loosely knot two or three pieces of wool around the unravelled wool to prevent it from becoming tangled.

The wool will be fairly crinkly, so it is best to wash and straighten it before using it again. Wash the wool, still tied, in tepid water using shampoo or wool washing powder. Leave the wool dripping wet and hang it over a broom between two chairs to air dry. The wool's weight should straighten it. Once dry, wind the wool into balls to reuse.

Choosing the Right Affordable Wool

The type of wool that you need to buy depends on the type of project that you are undertaking. Most patterns include suggestions for types of wool. Heavier wool is better for winter clothing as it is usually quite warm. If the item is to be worn or used frequently, then choose a machine washable wool. Decide how much you want to spend before selecting a fibre. Synthetics and blends tend to be more affordable than natural or luxury fibres. Handspun and dyed wool is more expensive than mass produced varieties, so take this into account to keep the wool affordable.

The ply required should be indicated on the pattern. If you are knitting, the table below can be used as a guide when choosing the most appropriate ply.

Wool Ply

Projects

1, 2, and 3

Delicate lace

Baby clothes

Socks and gloves

4

Baby clothes

Heavier socks

Lightweight tops

Double knitting (DK)

Double weight of 4 ply

Widely used and versatile

Suitable for most projects

Aran

Heavier than DK, lighter than chunky

Warm or outdoor clothing

Chunky

Outdoor clothing

Winter jumpers

Super chunky and large knit wool is rarely used to knit clothing. Both are excellent for creating soft furnishings. Large knit wool can also be used for chunky scarves and coats.

How to Buy Affordable Wool on eBay

Due to the large number of sellers on eBay, prices remain competitive. So, finding affordable knitting supplies is easy. To find affordable wool, simply type a phrase, for example, "blue mohair wool", into the search box that can be found on any page to see the items listed by eBay sellers. Narrow your search results by choosing the most appropriate item features. If you would like more control over your search, then use the advanced search option.

Before You Buy on eBay

Before buying affordable wool on eBay, always take a few moments to learn about the item. Click on an individual listing to view the item listing page. Here you can find all of the information that you need about buying the wool that you want, including the full item description, any images of the item, buying options, the seller's accepted payment methods, postage and packaging costs, and the seller's feedback information. Use the "Ask a question" link to get in touch with the seller if you have any questions about the listing.

Get to know the seller by clicking on the number next to his or her username on the item listing page. This allows you to see what other buyers have to say about this particular seller's products and customer service. Use this information to make up your own mind about what you can expect when buying from the seller.

Conclusion

Wool is used for various types of crafts, but most often for knitting and crochet. Prices and quality of wool vary, but it is relatively easy to find good quality wool at affordable prices if you understand the terminology used to describe the different fibres. Luxury and natural fibres, such as cashmere and alpaca, tend to be more expensive than synthetics or blends. In some cases the rarity of the animal or the cost of farming increases the price.

Synthetic fibres have been improved since they were first developed and resemble natural fibres more closely than their earlier counterparts. In addition, they are easy to clean and can usually be machine washed. If you are making items that will be used often, consider using affordable synthetic wool. If you want to make something special with luxury wool, research the blends available and choose one that closely resembles the luxury fibre. eBay sellers offer a wide selection of natural and synthetic wool in a range of colours and weights, making it easy to find exactly what you need at an affordable price.

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