Looking for a super soft, warm yarn? Merino wool fibers might be the perfect choice. I explore what merino wool yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 16, 2023.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Merino Yarn?
- What Do You Use It For?
- Common Blends Using This Fiber
- Where To Find It
- Interesting Facts
What Is Merino Wool Yarn?
Merino wool yarn is an animal fiber sold at moderate and expensive prices. This fiber is popular because it’s soft, non-irritating, warm, and nice to wear. They’re great for clear stitch definition. It’s available in all colors of the rainbow.
Here is a video tutorial by Lion Brand on what this yarn is.
This excellent breakdown of this subject will help you!
Here is a video tutorial by Lion Brand Yarn on what the superwash version of this yarn is.
This excellent breakdown of this subject will help you!
Where It Comes From
The Merino sheep is a breed of domestic sheep that produces the merino wool. They originated in Spain, and for hundreds of years there was an export ban on them so other countries couldn’t profit from breeding them.(1)
In the 18th century, flocks were sent to the courts of many European countries including France, Hungary, The Netherlands, Prussia, and Sweden. Many breeds have developed from the original.
These animals are bred and raised in many places in the world, like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and countries in South America.
How It’s Made Into Yarn
Spinning takes the raw material and turns it into yarn. First, wash the wool to clean it and remove impurities. Then, the fibers are combed or carded to align them. The fibers are spun by hand or machine. The spinning method affects the thickness consistency.
Types Of Merino Wool Yarn Breeds
- Australian Merino – this is the one with the softest fleece, and the standard other merino breeds are compared with. They don’t have horns. Rams of other breeds have long horns close to their heads, while ewes are hornless
- Booroola Merino – They’re like most other merinos, except they’re more likely to give birth to multiple lambs at once
- Delaine Merino – They’re mostly found in North America, prized for their long life and hardiness
- Gentile di Puglia – This is a breed native to Italy, often known as the Italian merino
- Merinolandschaf – They’re bred for meat and wool
- Peppin – A ram of this species produces up to 40 pounds (18kgs) of wool a year!
- Ramoubouillet – These are a French breed
How To Wash Merino Wool Yarn
Here are the care instructions for merino fibers.
- Wash in cool water with a mild soap. (Only machine wash wools marked “superwash” on the label.)
- Gently squeeze out water and roll in a towel to remove excess moisture. Lay flat to dry.
- Don’t iron or bleach.
Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using.
Does It Shrink When Washed?
If you’re worried about merino wool shrinking, don’t be. This fiber is less likely to shrink than other wool because of how it’s processed. The fibers are tightly twisted, so they don’t loosen up as much when wet.
How To Soften Merino Wool Yarn
Here is a quick and easy method to soften merino wool yarns. Washing it after you’ve finished knitting always helps! Don’t use fabric softeners, they reduce the merino wool’s ability to keep you warm or cool.
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What Do You Use It For?
Wondering whether you should use it to make a project? Here’s why this fiber is used to make yarn. I adore knitting with Merino wool. It feels lovely during the project and it is even better to wear!
I’ve made shawls and socks with this fiber and it makes my creative heart skip with joy! The range of colors are amazing. It’s often used for projects and things like shawls, scarves, sweaters, hats, mittens, socks, baby items (it’s gentle on the skin), blankets, and throws. It’s also used to make arm knit yarn.
Here’s a video about a fair isle sweater designer who uses wool to make her beautiful designs.
This knitting technique is beautiful!
Common Blends Using This Fiber
Here is a list of common blends using this yarn, and why they’re created.
- Silk/Merino – The silk adds strength and durability to the merino’s softness. This is a high-end yarn because of the two luxury fibers
- Alpaca/Merino – Alpaca wool is often blended with merino to add warmth and softness to the finished product
- Nylon/Merino – Nylon is added to socks and other items that need to be durable. The merino wool helps with moisture control and keeps the item from smelling
- Bamboo/Polyamide/Merino – A blend used for socks
Cotton fiber (fibre) and merino is another option, but it’s rare.
Where To Find It
Here’s where to find this yarn: at a yarn store, at big box stores like Michaels, Walmart and Joann, or in online brand shops. Here are brands or manufacturers of Merino wool yarns to try: Ella Rae, Debbie Bliss, Rowan, and Koigu.
What’s The Price Like?
This fiber is on the higher end because of how it’s processed and the demand. Blends are cheaper than 100% merino wool yarn. Light fingering weight, fine, and chunky weight yarn is more expensive than Aran, sport, or worsted weight.
Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.
- It’s used in next-to-skin garments because it’s so soft
- It can be shorn from the sheep twice a year
- In the late 19th century and early 20th century, it was sold in England as “Botany Wool”, having been imported from Australia.
FAQS About Merino Yarn
Is Merino Yarn Safe For Babies?
Yes, it’s safe for babies because it’s breathable so the baby won’t get too hot or cold.
Is Merino Yarn Ethical & Eco-Friendly?
Sometimes the sheep aren’t treated well in mass farming. However, they need shearing every year to keep them healthy. Choose merino yarn certified by the following groups.(2)
- Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)
- Certified Organic Wool
- Certified Animal Welfare Approved
- Certified Humane® Label
- ZQ Merino Standard
- Soil Association Organic Standards
- Climate Beneficial by Fibershed
It’s a natural, biodegradable fiber, however massive scale farming uses lots of land and water.
What Can I Make With Leftover Merino Yarn?
You can make a knitting project like dishcloths, coasters, jewelry, knit headbands, bookmarks, and amigurumi.
Is Merino Wool Itchy?
No, it’s not itchy, and it’s softer than regular wool yarn.
Is Merino Wool Good For Clothes?
Yes, it’s good for clothes because it’s moisture-wicking, insulating, temperature-regulating and odor-resistant.
Is Merino Wool Yarn Good For Winter?
Yes, it’s good for winter because it’s super warm.
Is Merino Wool Yarn Good For Summer?
No, it’s not good for summer because it’s too warm.
Do Merino Wool Yarns Pill?
Merino wool is generally unlikely to pill, as it’s so strong.
Can You Dye Merino Yarns?
Yes, you can, and acid dyes work the best.
Is 100% Merino Wool Better?
It depends on what you’re looking for and the type of project you are doing. My Kentia Wrap is 100% merino wool made with Koigu Yarn. It hasn’t pilled and it is so warm and beautiful to wear. This type of yarn is an investment, particularly when using it in projects requiring more yardage.
If your budget allows, I highly recommend it. A blend may be better for some projects because it’s cheaper and has different properties.
What Size Yarn Is Merino Wool?
Merino wool comes in different sizes or weights including, light fingering, fine, DK, worsted, Aran, and chunky.
What’s The Difference Between Wool And Merino Wool?
Merino is a breed of sheep that produces finer, softer wool. Merino wool is also more expensive than regular wool.
Why Is Merino Wool So Soft?
Merino wool is soft because the fibers are fine.
What Are The Differences Between Alpaca Wool And Merino?
Alpaca is softer than merino, but merino is more durable. They’re often blended together to get the best of both.
Its popularity is well deserved. Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!
- Wikipedia contributors. 2022. “Merino.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. July 25, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Merino&oldid=1100291017.
- “What Is Ethical Wool and Does It Really Exist?” 2020. Sustainable Jungle. June 14, 2020. https://www.sustainablejungle.com/sustainable-fashion/what-is-ethical-wool/.
- Knitting. 1984. Octopus Books.