We’re still talking about yarn today. Yesterday was all about the different thicknesses available; today is about the different fibers you’re likely to come across as you shop for yarn.
If you purchase your yarn from a craft store or supercenter type store, you will likely be limited to acrylic yarns. Acrylic is a byproduct of oil, so acrylic yarn is basically plastic. Don’t let that deter you though; not all acrylics are created equal. Some are really terrible and some are softer and cozier than wool. Acrylic is very easy to care for (almost all are machine washable and dryable) and easy on the budget, so it’s a great choice for knitting or crocheting items for babies and children.
The next most popular fiber for yarn is probably wool. There are as many different types and feels of wool yarn as there are species of sheep (and llamas and alpacas, and…). That is, quite a lot. Most of the pure wool yarns I’ve worked with tend to be pretty scratchy, but with some TLC and wool wash, they soften up.
Cotton is a popular yarn for making things like washcloths and summer garments. It’s cool and breezy, but also tough. It can tend to be pretty heavy, so it’s not ideal for heavier clothing like winter sweaters.
These are the main types of yarn I’ve seen as “pure.” There are also a nearly infinite number of blends on the market. Some of the lower-cost companies have wool-acrylic blends available, for example. I’ve used a cotton-bamboo yarn for a shawl I made, and that yarn has a nice drapy quality that was perfect for the shawl. I’ve tried that same yarn for other projects (a sweater and a pair of mittens), and it was no good for either of those. If you’re making socks, the best yarn to find is a wool-nylon blend. They nylon gives you the strength you need for the heels and toes, while the wool keeps it from being a nylon sock.
This list barely scratches the surface on yarn fibers, but it covers the kinds I use most, so I’m going to leave it here. Come back tomorrow for the next most important thing you need to knit: needles.