Types of yarn fibres – a guide for crochet designers
Updated: Oct 12
There are so many options in terms of crochet yarn fibres that you might feel overwhelmed when trying to pick the best one for your latest design. And you need the most adequate yarn to make your crochet project shine and hit that sales target.
That's why I created this guide where I describe the main types of yarn fibres, including their characteristics and uses. This is a resource that you can save and refer to whenever necessary.
If you are in a hurry, skip to the yarn fibres comparison table at the end, which summarises all the information. If you want to learn all the details, keep reading.
Wool – the versatile and timeless choice for crochet yarn
Wool yarn is a classic. It's known for its excellent insulation properties, making it suitable for both warm and cold climates. This crochet yarn is also highly elastic, a property that allows it to stretch and retain its shape well. Additionally, wool fibres have a natural crimp that gives finished projects a beautiful texture and drape.
But not all wool is the same. If you do a little research, you'll find that there are several breeds of sheep ideal for producing wool. And, depending on the breed, you may obtain a type of wool that is more appropriate for next-to-skin items of clothing or one that is ideal for home decor pieces, such as rugs.
Merino wool is the softest and finest type, perfect for garments and accessories. It comes from the different breeds of merino sheep, such as Booroola, Fonthill or Poll, being Australia the biggest producer of this type of wool. Items made from merino wool have to be washed with mild detergents and need to be dried flat.
A good example of a merino wool yarn is Rosy Green's Cheeky Merino Joy, which is made from 100% organic merino from Patagonia.
A totally different type of wool is the one that comes from the Romney sheep. Their wool is long, thick and coarse, so it's best suited for house items or outerwear. The fibre is semi-lustrous, with good elasticity. If would like to try this wool out, Blacker Yarns has available 100% Romney wool yarn.
Alpaca – luxurious softness and natural warmth
Alpaca yarn is renowned for its incredible softness and luxurious feel, which comes from the small diameter of the fibre. It's warmer than wool and doesn't have the itchiness often associated with other animal fibres.
Alpaca fibres are also hypoallergenic due to the lack of lanolin, being the right choice for those with sensitive skin. The natural warmth and the resistance to water of alpaca yarn make it perfect for winter accessories like scarves and hats, providing both comfort and style.
If you've bought this type of yarn before, you've probably heard the term 'baby alpaca'. Know that baby alpaca yarn doesn't actually come from baby alpacas. It's just a term that means that the yarn is from certain areas of the animal's body where it's softer.
I've designed a large cowl in Tunisian crochet using alpaca yarn, and it's fantastic for those cold winter days. But bear in mind that it will produce a heavier item than if you use other fibres.
I suggest The Alpaca Yarn Company's Classic Alpaca. It's a 100% baby alpaca yarn, with a wide range of colours available. The Alpaca Yarn Company is a small woman-owned business.
Cotton – lightweight and breathable for all seasons
Cotton yarn is a popular choice for crochet projects due to its lightweight, breathable and soft nature. These characteristics make it a good fibre for creating warm-weather garments and accessories. But be warned that cotton is hydrophilic, which means that it absorbs sweat. So this crochet yarn shouldn't be picked for creating sportswear.
This fibre is also a good option for home decor items because of its strength and durability. I made a shopping bag from a pattern published on Simply Crochet almost ten years ago, and it still lasts.
Additionally, cotton yarn is machine-washable, making it easy to care for and maintain.
The Portuguese brand Rosários 4 has a 97% cotton yarn called Galina with two beautiful colour options.
Silk – the elegance and sheen for special projects
Silk yarn adds a touch of elegance and luxury to any crochet project. It has a beautiful sheen that gives finished items a sophisticated look. Silk fibres are incredibly strong and durable, making them ideal for special projects that require both beauty and resilience. If this special project includes a lacy stitch even better because it will show off the drape of this fibre perfectly.
However, silk yarn can be more expensive than other options, so it is often reserved for those extra-special creations. It lacks elasticity as well. Therefore, it's not appropriate for heavy or slim-fit items. Silk is not recommended for pieces that get dirty easily as they have to be hand-washed.
The best bet is to choose a blend of silk and other fibres, such as wool or alpaca. The silk brings sheen to the fabric and the other fibres elasticity and durability.
If you want to try working with 100% silk yarn, you have available Knitting for Olive's Pure Silk, with a wide range of colour options. If a silk blend is a better option for your project, Juniper Moon Farm has in their catalogue a silk blend yarn (50% merino, 50% silk) called Findley.
Acrylic – affordable but harmful to the environment
Acrylic yarn is a budget-friendly option that is available in most yarn shops. The wide range of colours and textures makes it attractive for designers because it allows them to create a piece that is colourful without it being unaffordable for crocheters.
Likewise, acrylic fibres are easy to care for as they are machine-washable and resistant to shrinking or stretching. Therefore, acrylic yarn is ideal for children's clothing or any items that are going to be washed frequently.
Despite all the positive characteristics, we can't ignore that acrylic is not environmentally friendly. It's made from acrylonitrile, a manufactured chemical, and fossil fuels are used in its production.
And let's not forget about the marine pollution caused by microplastics, a hot topic among environmentalists. Every time we wash an item made of acrylic yarn, small particles are released and end up in the oceans. Avoiding the use of this type of yarn can contribute positively to this global problem.
If you decide that acrylic is indeed the best material for the piece you're designing, Premier's Colorfusion DK has good reviews.
Bamboo – shiny like silk, breathable like cotton
Bamboo grows rapidly and is easy to take care of. Therefore, it seems to be a sustainable and eco-friendly source of yarn. But the truth is that it depends on the process used to transform the bamboo into yarn.
Bamboo viscose is obtained through the use of chemicals that may pollute the environment if not disposed of appropriately. However, it's also possible to produce bamboo yarn through a mechanical method, which only uses mild chemicals.
Regarding its characteristics, bamboo yarn is soft, lustrous, breathable and strong, and has a fantastic drape. It could be a good replacement for silk if you want to list a more affordable type of yarn in your pattern. But you need to bear in mind that it lacks elasticity and tends to lose shape.
This type of yarn is ideal for summer clothes or accessories due to being moisture-absorbent, making it very comfortable to wear on hot days. It's not a bad choice for children's garments either because it's usually machine-washable, even if in gentle cycles.
When it comes to antibacterial properties, you'll find many sources claiming it has a fact but that hasn't been irrefutably proved. Some studies confirm it, others don't.
I leave you with a suggestion for a bamboo yarn from the brand Stenli.
Types of yarn fibres comparison chart
Type of fibre
Elastic, excellent insulation, good drape, can be itchy, wash on gentle cycles or hand wash
Garments and home decor
Soft, not itchy, warm, hypoallergenic, heavyweight
Lightweight, soft, breathable, durable, highly absorbent
Summer garments and accessories, and home decor
Beautiful sheen, strong, inelastic, hand wash, expensive
Garments and accessories
Affordable, wide variety of colours, easy care, not environmentally friendly
Children's clothes, dishcloths and blankets
Soft, breathable, strong, questionable transformation processes, inelastic
Summer clothes and accessories, and children's clothes
* Based on a scale of one to five, where one is the most affordable and five is the least affordable.
When choosing the best yarn fibre for your crochet design, you should bear in mind several factors: softness, breathability, weight, elasticity, drape, care, and durability, among others.
Crocheters will expect you to recommend the type of fibre that will produce the best results for the item in question, so choose wisely. And the ideal yarn will also be the one that makes your design look its best among the competition.
If you need further help on this topic, you can check the article where I explore other aspects that should be considered when choosing yarn for a crochet pattern besides the type of fibre.
Cristina Magalhães is an editor, proofreader and crochet tech editor who works with businesses, content writers and individuals.
She edits business documentation, marketing materials, LinkedIn profiles, CVs, cover letters and crochet patterns.
Get in touch: email@example.com