Wool 101

Wool 101

5 Pointers for Working with Wool from our Lead Designer, Gayle.  

  1. Blocking

Wool is one of the most forgiving and satisfying fibers for knitters and crocheters because it responds so well to blocking after your pieces are complete.

Blocking is pinning your pieces out to their correct shapes on a flat surface (I like to do it with the wrong side of piece facing outward). Then you lay a damp cloth on the piece overnight or for a few hours until the cloth is dry. Linen tea towels or old pillowcases work best. Remove cloths when dry, unpin your piece and you should notice it will now appear to have more even texture over-all.

If you are in a hurry, you can follow the same steps above, but lightly shoot steam from a steam iron slightly hovering over the pieces instead of using damp cloths. They will need a couple of minutes to dry after steaming and then you can unpin them.


  1. Finishing and Weaving in Ends

Since wool and wool blend pieces will block into shape so well, completing the finishing of your garment will be satisfying. Use the same yarn your project was made with to sew seams (unless the yarn is extremely bulky, then you will need to substitute a worsted weight yarn in matching shade for sewing). I love working the mattress stitch technique when sewing wool garments together since the yarn has great built-in memory and a forgiving nature that blends seams together so easily.   When weaving in wool yarn ends you’ll notice that many yarns have a natural ‘tooth’ or texture that helps it grab into fibers as you weave the ends into work. This helps hold the ends in place and makes the ends less easy to detect than acrylic or cotton fiber. Try to always weave your ends into seam edges to avoid detection.


  1. Unbeatable Warmth and Comfort

Wool is naturally thermal, so it provides great warmth with little weight. Because wool is a natural fiber, it also breathes and has the ability to wick moisture away from your body. Wool is incredibly absorbent and cozy to wear outdoors and indoors.


  1. Hand Washing Is Not So Scary

Many people are turned off wool yarns that are labeled hand wash only. I actually will wash wool and wool blend items using the shortest, gentle cycle on my machine, with cold water and a very small amount of gentle soap. Place the item (with buttons or zipper done up-this is very important and turned inside out) inside a laundry bag before placing in machine. Don’t add in any other laundry with this bag. The water MUST be cold to avoid felting and the cycle must be short and gentle. When the machine cycle ends, take the item out of the laundry bag and lay flat to dry. Take care moving around a wet wool garment. They will be heavy and prone to stretching. Give them lots of support when wet. I have a large laundry rack in my laundry room and I stretch a thick towel over some rails to create a flat surface for sweaters. This way air circulates above and below the item to help it dry.


  1. Pilling…Those Annoying Little Balls

Since wool has that natural ‘tooth’ or scale-like texture, it will attract itself in areas where the garment is rubbed together, like elbows and cuffs. Tiny balls of yarn form (called pills) and can make the garment look shabby. The best way to deal with pills is to use those special little pill remover tools with the sanding edge. I have also used packing tape or duct tape wrapped around my hand (sticky side out) and gently pressed on the pilled areas. Always washing your garment inside out helps avoid pills, and take the time to store garments with buttons or zippers done up, folded smoothly. Never put hand knit garments on a hanger-that can lead to stretched out garments and hanger marks on shoulders.


My Favorite Wool Yarns

I truly love Patons Classic Wool Worsted. The shade range is varied enough for all types of projects. It is equally great for knit or crochet projects and the gauge is consistently reliable. I’ve made a few crocheted afghans with Patons Classic Wool Worsted since there are so many inspiring shades for granny square designs. They’re wonderfully warm and versatile for the couch or the bedroom. I’ve also made several aran cable knit projects with Patons Classic Wool Worsted since the cable textures look wonderful in pure wool and I can block them perfectly.

I also love Patons Classic Wool Roving or Patons Colorwul for their lofty hand. Projects are so fast to finish and perfect for quick gifts.



Gayle -Gayle, Lead Designer at Yarnspirations



  1. Wool can do something acrylic can not: conserve body heat when wet. Acrylic can’t do that. The man-made textiles people successfully convinced the sporting population that man-made is “better”, as they claim it “wicks away the sweat”- I find that claim questionable. I do not think wool is “itchy”, I think it is just the fiber halo that may tickle, that is what might feel itchy to some. Using a good fabric softener may help with that issue.

    MATTRESS STITCH: I overheard a designer on a popular PBS knitting program wonder out loud why it is called “mattress stitch”: Wonder no more, Einstein- it’s called that because that is how we sewed mattress ticking together. We used to make our own mattresses in our American history, stuffing them with horsehair, goose down or feathers, and they needed changing every now and then, so we had to re-sew them each time they were re-stuffed or cleaned. Hence, the mattress stitch- to sew the mattress again. No mystery- it is called mattress stitch because we used it to SEW MATTRESSES… Gee I wish I could have yelled at that lady through the TV!

  2. Hi, My mother taught me to knit when I was 11, & I will always thank her for it. I have not only made numerous jumpers for my children/grandchildren/friends, but also helped to raise funds for PICU at So’ton General. St James Society for the homeless, Age Concern & Wessex Cancer Trust. I now take a knitting class at a local Day Care Centre. I love my knitting & it’s created friends all over. Problem is, I keep on running out of wool.

  3. Someone mentioned that wool itch ; I found out that a certain wool did not when I was selling sweaters. A sheep farmer sold me some yarn that did not it was Rambouillet wool but hard to find. Gloria

  4. Thank you for your informative article, Gayle!

  5. You didn’t mention that wool itches. Can you recommend a wool yarn that doesn’t itch?
    Thank you.

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