December 18, 2014

Fabric Friday: Wool Knits

Oh the rarity that is wool knit. Today's Fabric Friday is all about wool knit. So what does this mean exactly? Again, wool is the fiber type and knit is the type of fabric (weave/knit structure) we're dealing with. Knitted fabrics are actually knitted on large knitting machines. They are either knitted flat - meaning they have selvedge edges running along each vertical edge - or they are knitted in a tube. I've seen both in different fiber types, but let's get back to wool.




Wool knit is not easy to come by. I rarely, if ever, see them (even as a fabric store owner with some good fabric getting connections). When I see them, I snatch them up like they are going out of style!


I like to think of wool knits in 4 categories - just to keep it relatively simple. There's wool jersey - this means that the cloth is knitted from a single yarn. Think t-shirt weight. I also classify wool rib knit in this category too. A good quality wool jersey will have a nice drape and will be soft.  The nice thing with jersey weight wool knits is that they can be fairly thin and they will still last you a good long while if you keep the moths at bay. Wools are awesome in this way. Wool jerseys sometimes have a bit of spandex (or Lycra) in them, for recovery (meaning it won't stretch out of shape and never come back!).


Wool Double Knit is next. To create a double knit, two fabrics are knitted simultaneously at the same time which creates thicker, denser cloth. This is one of my favorites. Wool Double Knit (or ponte knit too) usually doesn't curl making it easier to handle and deal with and it's just beefier than your average jersey. It's lovely cloth. Sometimes, double knits have some spandex in them too, just for nice recovery.


Third category is Boiled Wool. Boiled wool is kind of special because it's formation is actually made from boiling wool, hence its namesake. It can be made from either a woven or knit wool and from there the cloth is boiled and agitated. This causes the wool to shrink in both directions and creates a lofty sort of cloth. Additionally, it tends to have a nice amount of give in the cross-grain. Would make a perfect Oslo - the new Seamwork cardigan. Ends up being a bit of a sweatery knit with nice bumpy irregular texture. Very warm too.


Sweater knits comprise the fourth category. Even though boiled wool is kind of a sweater knit, I tend to put it in its own category because it's formation is a little bit special. Sweater knits can be regular knit or raschel knit - meaning it has more of a lacy feel to it. These are generally, well sweatery. Think sweater and you have the idea. They sometimes feature interesting designs in the knit - like cables and such. My apologies for featuring a boring solid color photo for the sweater knits - I don't have any fun or funky design wool sweater knits on hand! Several sweater knits are made of wool or are a wool blend (I see these often coupled with acrylic, polyester or nylon).

Since we've covered fiber types, I thought I would also mention that I mostly see merino, cashmere and angora rockin the knits. In fact, I daresay, I've never seen a merino wool that wasn't a knit - what about you? If you come across these in wool knit yardage then it's worth it to take a closer look and possibly even add to your stash. These particular types are usually quite soft and little fluffy.

Do have any wool knits in your stash? These are worth having!

For more about Wools, visit the Working with Wool Section!

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18 comments

  1. Oh oh thank you so much for this whole series! I've never sewn with wool knits before, but it is about time.

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  2. Wool knits and silk jersey are my absolute favorite. I'm always stocking up on them when I can. Thanks for this series. I was never quite sure of the difference between them all.

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  3. I just finished making a dress from a 50s Claire McCardell pattern out of merino wool jersey from The Fabric Store in L.A. It's a wonderful fabric to sew with! Now I'm making a wrap from a wool sweater knit. Once you get the hang of it, it's very satisfying to sew with these fabrics. Also merino jersey is known for its ability to not get smelly, which cuts down on cleaning.

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  4. Oh, I love wool knits! Here in Norway wool is much used during the winter months, and I buy most of my wool knits from http://www.janusull.no/produkter/63/ull-paa-rull. Right now I'm wearing my new favourite dress that I made from this fabric: http://www.janusull.no/detaljer/UR4805-814-175/83--merinoull-14--polyamid-3--elastan#.VJQzfV4CI. It's a heavy french terry and so, so soft and cosy. I use wool knits a lot when making clothes for my girls, too. They generally always wear wool as their base layer in winter.

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  5. Thank you so much for this wonderful series. I know you spent a lot of time gathering the pictures and doing research. I will bookmark it for future reference, although I do admit I have several pieces of wool in my freezer at the moment

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  6. Well done on this series. Unlike most of your readers whom I presume to be US or North Americans, all my sewing is done in either wool, cotton or silk. Wool is so easy to work with. This needs to be spelt out quite clearly. Over here we can buy "Woolmark" fabric which is very washable. I would encourage sewers to try it. Wool sews better, sits better.

    Happy Christmas.

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  7. Very interesting series, I learned a lot! I have a question: what is the difference between boiled wool and felt?

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  8. Boiled wool is felted, after it's knit or woven. Fabrics labeled "wool felt" are usually felted right from the fiber without being spun/knit/woven first, so they tend to be quite thick and sturdy. Since boiled wool has an underlying structure in the fibers, it doesn't have to be felted as firmly to make a lasting fabric, so it often has a lot more drape per thickness.

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  9. Sunni, thanks for introducing more people to he joys of wool knits! Although I'm an American, like a lot of your readers across the pond I've converted to wearing almost exclusively silk and wool knits as base layers during the winter. It's so much warmer, more luxurious and just more awesome than cotton, etc. And yeah, wool is pretty much always a dream to sew!

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  10. Oh how right you are - sadly, wool knit is a rare breed. If I spied wool double knit - especially locally - I would buy up the lot!! LOL Even on the West Coast of Canada, where the weather tends to be relatively mild, the damp can make us feel chillier than the temperature would dictate so a wool knit garment is an absolute joy to wear - and just lovely to sew with as well :)

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  11. Thank you so much. Very informative!

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  12. This is a brilliant series. I love working with wool. Both the wiven and the knitted kind. As Iselin said, we have a good source of knitted wool fabrics in Norway at Janus. They are a producer of wool underwear that last year decided to go on the market with wool fabrics also. They have beautiful wool Terry among other things.

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  13. We get a lot of merino knits over here; there's a wonderful factory in the North Island that makes a lot of merino knits and they are lovely to wear and to work with. Not cheap, but well worth it in my experience.

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  14. I always thought boiled wool was a sturdy woven fabric for coats. So I was really confused when Lauren/Lladybird recently made a tshirt from boiled wool. Thank you for solving the mystery!

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  15. Well this post comes at the right time! Over Thanksgiving, I bought a brushed wool knit on Emmaonesock.com (they have a whole section dedicated to them - link below). I haven't dealt with this type of fabric before, so sewing with them was a new adventure (regular or ballpoint needles? Straight or zigzag stitch?). I'm not sure the one I have is any of the above categories. It has a face side with a paisley pattern, but the wrong side is solid grey, so it should be a double knit? But it curls to one side and isn't as thick as a ponte. Any idea of what kind this is? If you look on the page, 5 he one I bought is the Etro teal brush wooded.

    http://www.emmaonesock.com/fabrics/woolknits.asp?c=58

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  16. Loved reading through this series. I'm lucky enough to live with in driving distance of The Needle and Thread fabric store in Gettysburg PA. Wool (and linen!) fabric for days!
    http://woodedhamlet.com/about_us/index.html

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  17. Double knitting isn't done with two strands held together; it is a method by which you create two layers of fabric using a single piece of yarn, so that each side has the little Vs characteristic of knits. It does create a thicker fabric and is much less prone to curling than typical knits (which are done in stockinette stitch, so that one side shows the little Vs while the reverse has little bumps).

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