What are microns?
True or False? Wool sweaters are scratchy.
Well, it depends on the wool you use and how it's been blended. Wool & Palette's Merino/Rambouillet cross breed wool is 21 microns soft. What does that mean?
First you need to understand microns. A micron is a unit of measurement. One micron is 1/25,400 of an inch. In wool, the micron system is the most technical and accurate system of grading the softness or coarseness of fiber. The lower the number, the thinner the radius of the shaft, the softer the wool.
Have you ever spent a month or more knitting a sweater only to find out the yarn is too scratchy to wear? The label said it has Alpaca in it, what gives? It should be super soft right? What's amazing is that your skin can feel the difference between 4 microns of fiber.
This means you can have a yarn that has been skillfully blended but the 'softer fiber' (low micron count alpaca) and the 'coarser fiber' (higher micron count Falkland wool*) are too far apart on the micron scale and your skin can feel this difference. It's this gap in texture that tells your skin something isn't right. For a successful wool blend you can't just throw some merino in with a batch of coarse wool and think it will soften the coarse wool. Or you can, but the wool won't be soft enough for next-to-skin garments. I wish I knew this before I spent over a month knitting this beautiful sweater pattern from Amy Christoffer's "Savory Knitting" called Paper Birch Pullover. It's available on Ravelry.com. I love this sweater but it just sits in my closet. It's too scratchy to wear. Even if I wear a tight-fitting, long-sleeved shirt underneath to protect my skin I can still feel the wool against my collar bone. And I end up scratching my neck all day.
Today I am casting stitches to make this sweater again, only this time with Wool & Palette worsted weight yarn. And what's really great about this weight is that although it's classified as a 'Worsted weight' it actually falls within the acceptable wraps per inch of a DK yarn, which is what the pattern calls for. It is versatile enough to knit for DK and Worsted weight projects because of its soft, fluffy nature.
If you want to read further download this link. It's called "Wool grades and the sheep that grow the wool."
I reference it all the time for various reasons. For one, I just find learning about sheep and wool and their origins to be a fascinating subject. At your next socially distanced or fully vaccinated gathering you can 'wow' your friends with your newfound sheep knowledge!
*Falkland wool - Falkland wool is not a breed, it is wool grown in the Falkland Islands. The yarn label from the batch of yarn I bought didn't indicate what breeds the yarn consisted of so it's impossible to track and quantify the micron count. From my research, it is likely one or more of the following breeds: Corriedale, Romney, and Polwarth. It was very high-quality wool with a good luster and a pleasant but not obsessive crimp. I would certainly buy this yarn again but for an outerwear project.