Common Yarn Types for Knitwear: A Comprehensive Guide

 

How do you decide what yarn to use? How to choose yarn for a pattern? Yes, maybe you don’t know it completely, so let me first briefly introduce you to some commonly used yarns.

 

When choosing the right yarn for your knitwear, it’s important to understand the different types of yarn used.  The yarn used in knitted sweaters is made from textile fibers processed into yarn and can be divided into two major categories: natural fibers and synthetic fibers.  These fibers are usually over 1 cm in length and are polymer compounds.

 

Different types of yarn

 

1.Natural fiber

 

Natural fibers are divided into two categories: plant fibers and animal fibers.

 

  A. Plant fiber (Cellulose Fibers)
  1. COTTON: Cotton is the most produced natural textile fiber in the world.  It has good alkali stability and is suitable for desizing, scouring, mercerizing and other treatments.  Bleaching is done using oxidizing agents such as NaClO, H2O2 and NaClO2.  Dyeing can be achieved with direct dyes, reactive dyes, vat dyes, sulfur dyes, insoluble azo dyes, etc.
  2. LINEN AND RAMIE: These fibers are also cellulose-based and have similar properties to cotton, although they are less common.
  B. Animal fiber (Protein Fibers)
  1. WOOL: Wool is made from a protein called keratin.  It has a unique structure consisting of scales, cortex and medulla (the latter is absent in young wool).  Because of the interlocking scales, wool felt feels like it rubs against water.  Wool is sensitive to prolonged boiling, leading to partial hydrolysis, especially in the presence of steam, hot water and alkalis.
  2. Other Animal Fibers: This category includes angora (rabbit), camel, mohair, and silk.  These fibers have specific properties and uses in the knitwear industry.

2. Synthetic fiber

 

Synthetic fibers are divided into artificial fibers and synthetic fibers.

 

 A. Man-made fibers

These fibers are produced from natural raw materials and chemically processed into regenerated cellulose or protein fibers.

  1. RAYON: Rayon is the first man-made cellulose fiber, made from wood or cotton linters.  It has excellent strength and moderate elasticity.  Different types of rayon include bright rayon and dark rayon, offering varying degrees of shine and texture.
 B. Synthetic fiber

Synthetic fibers are made from simple organic compounds synthesized into polymers and then spun into fibers.

Common types include:

  1. NYLON: Nylon is the first synthetic fiber made from non-cellulosic materials.  It has excellent resistance to bleaching and sunlight, making it durable, with good elasticity and luster.  Nylon can be dyed with disperse dyes and acid dyes.
  2. ACRYLIC: Acrylic fiber, also known as polyacrylonitrile, is a synthetic fiber known for its stability in weak acids and weak alkalis and its excellent bleaching performance.  However, it easily generates static electricity.
  3. POLYESTER: Polyester is known for its ability to retain pleats and blends well with cotton and wool, providing good resistance to everyday chemicals, detergents and sunlight.  However, it has poor acid and alkali resistance and poor sweat absorption.

 

Processing and Handling in Yarn Production

 

Textile fibers often contain impurities such as wax, pigments, and minerals in cotton and linen fibers; sericin in silk; and lanolin and plant matter in wool.  Chemical fibers may contain oil and dirt.  These impurities require various purification treatments before and after spinning, such as desizing, carbonization and scouring.  In addition, the fibers are bleached or dyed to obtain the desired color, and most of them are bleached or top-dyed.

Special treatments such as mercerized cotton enhance yarn properties.  However, such processes can damage the fibers over time, especially with darker dyes, which will show more severe damage.

 

 

Fiber Characteristics in Knitwear

 

Each type of fiber has unique properties that affect its use in knitwear:

 

  1. Shrinkage and Felting: Compared with plant and synthetic fibers, natural fibers such as wool and animal hair such as cashmere are more prone to shrinkage and felting.
  2. STABILITY AND CARE: Synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester offer high stability and resistance to environmental factors, but may lack the comfort properties found in natural fibers, such as breathability.

 

Seasonal Yarn Selection

 

Knitwear yarn selection often depends on season, effect and price. Different fibers provide different levels of warmth and comfort.

 

A.Spring and Summer Yarns

 

For warmer seasons, lightweight and breathable yarns are preferred:

  1. Cotton and Linen: These plant-based fibers are cool and breathable, making them perfect for lighter garments like summer sweaters and tops.
  2. Rayon and Bamboo: These man-made fibers mimic the properties of natural fibers, often providing better breathability and moisture-wicking properties.
  3. Viscose, Silk, Glycyrrhiza and Paper:
  • Viscose: This regenerated cellulose fiber is soft, breathable and similar to cotton.
  • Silk: Known for its luxurious feel, silk is lightweight, breathable, and has excellent moisture-wicking properties, making it perfect for summer wear.
  • Glycyrrhiza Fiber: This eco-friendly fiber has natural antibacterial, deodorizing and regenerating properties, making it a great choice for sustainable and functional summer clothing.
  •  Paper Fiber: Also known as Japanese paper, this fiber is very breathable and cool and is often used in summer clothing.
B.Autumn and winter yarn

 

For cooler seasons, warmer and more insulating yarns are optimal:

 

  1. Wool and Wool Blends: Wool provides exceptional warmth and is perfect for winter sweaters, scarves, and hats. Blends with synthetics like acrylic can improve durability and reduce costs.
  2. Alpaca , Cashmere , Mohair, and Angora:
  •  Alpaca: Softer and warmer than wool, alpaca provides luxurious warmth suitable for high-end knitwear.
  • Cashmere: Known for its extraordinary softness and warmth, cashmere is another high-end option.
  • Mohair: Made from the hair of the Angora goat, mohair is durable, warm, and has a distinct luster.
  • Angora: Sourced from the Angora rabbit, Angora fiber is extremely soft, light, and warm, making it ideal for luxury winter garments.

Yarn Pricing: Budget to Luxury

 

The price of yarn can vary greatly based on the type of fiber used:

 

  1. Budget-Friendly Yarns
  • Blended Yarns with Viscose, Nylon, Cotton, Acrylic:

These blends provide a cost-effective option while retaining desirable qualities such as breathability and durability.

  • Basic Cotton and Synthetic Blends:

Widely available natural fibers like cotton and synthetic blends offer a balance between cost and quality.

 

  1. Mid-Range Yarns
  •  Linen, Hemp, High-Quality Cotton, Low-Proportion Animal Wool Blends, Pure Wool:

These fibers provide higher quality and better performance, suitable for those looking for an improved feel and durability without breaking the bank.

 

  1. Luxury Yarns
  •  High-Proportion Animal Wool (Alpaca, Cashmere, Mohair, Angora):

These fibers are renowned for their superior softness, warmth, and texture.

  • High-End Specialty Fibers and Custom Hand-Dyed Yarns:

These are tailored for premium markets offering unique colors and textures.

 

Additionally, even within the same fiber composition, yarns can vary in grade. For designers unsure about the best yarn for their projects, feel free to send an inquiry. We offer a free yarn consultation service tailored to your design needs and budget, ensuring you get the best solution.

 

Conclusion

Understanding the various types of yarn fibers is essential for anyone involved in the knitwear industry, from producers to consumers. Knowing the properties and suitable treatments of each fiber type ensures the creation of high-quality garments that meet desired standards of durability, comfort, and aesthetics. Additionally, considering the seasonal suitability and price range of different yarns can help tailor products to specific markets and customer needs. In a constantly evolving industry, staying informed about the latest advancements and maintaining an awareness of the fibers’ unique characteristics will continue to be crucial for success.

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