Faces of Wool: Merino Sheep, Part III
Welcome back to Faces of Wool! In this series, we’re discussing a variety of fiber animals. Our two previous posts discussed Merino sheep and fiber: the history of the breed, where they’re raised, and the characteristics of the fiber. In our last post about Merinos, we’ll discuss the fiber as used in yarn and textiles.
There are three general groups of merino fiber: fine, medium, and strong. Although all merino fiber is generally considered fine when compared with other fibers and it’s all soft enough to be worn next to the skin1, there are variations in quality that are important to consider when selecting fiber for a project. If you’re looking to make a garment or accessory that can be worn without another layer, such as a delicate sweater or shawl, look for a fine (or even extrafine or ultrafine) fiber for maximum comfort and coziness. For more utilitarian pieces such as everyday scarves, a medium or strong fiber would be appropriate. (But see fact #3 for important care information!)
Merino fiber is predominantly white! You probably already knew that, but it’s one of the things that makes this fiber it so versatile: most of it is literally a blank canvas, so dyers can really play and experiment with color. Some of our favorite yarns and fibers are merino! The yarn I’m using to make my first sweater is 90% merino, and it is absolutely lovely to work with.
Merino wool felts easily, so you should avoid agitation when cleaning or handling merino fibers, yarns, and fabrics. If you’re making a project that will require frequent washing, such as a pair of socks, consider using another fiber that won’t felt as easily.
We could say a lot more about Merino sheep and their fiber, but there are so many other breeds to cover! In our next installment, we’ll move on to a different fiber family. But in the meantime: what Merino facts did we miss? What animal do you want us to cover in this series? Let us know in the comments!
Yours in fiber,
1. Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius, The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers from Animal to Spun Yarn (North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2011), 135.
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