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What are the types of yarn? Comparison of 3 Main Yarn Types
Posted on: 3 Apr, 2019

types of yarn

Yarns are divided into two main groups- natural and synthetic. It is also important to recognize that these vary from sustainable and ethical yarns.

Sustainable and ethical yarns

Sustainable yarns consider the impact of the yarn on the environment. While ethical yarns consider the equality and wellbeing of the workers and natural sources of the yarn fibers.

Most sustainable / ethical yarns:

are free of toxins

come from recycled material / up-cycled material

have minimal to no negative effect on the environment

are biodegradable

adhere to fair trade guidelines

insure the safety of the natural sources of the yarns


Let’s take a look at the differences between natural and synthetic yarns.

1. Natural

The fibers of natural yarns come from living organisms, such as plants, animals, or insects.


what are plant fibers?

There are various plant elements are included as plant fibers : seed hairs, stem fibers, leaf fibers, and husk fibers.

what are common plant fibers used?

Bamboo, jute ( vegetable fiber), linen (flax stem fibers), cotton (seed fibers), hemp (the bast of the plant Cannabis sativa L), and ramie ( bark fibers) are commonly used plant fibers.


How are natural fibers used?

Many plant fibers grow in fields. Some structures of the plants may be grown for other purposes than to be made into rope or yarn for cloth– such as, for nutritional purposes or to make another product.

The fibers of a plant might also have various purposes in the production of other products.


how are plANT fibers collected for use?

Collecting plant fibers is a lengthy process. Once the plant has been harvested, it goes through a process of boiling (and in some cases, grinding and pressing) to break down the cells, and then spinning to wind the fibers into yarn.


why are plant fibers used?

Every year new plants are harvested in fields and regenerate in the following years. Plant fibers are strong and naturally grown. Many plants clean the air, produce food, or offer versatile uses.


weighing your options

Once plant fibers are joined, they are used to create clothing, upholstery, and interior decoration. Here are some points to consider when deciding on plant fiber yarns.


Plant fibers are breathable.

Plant fibers come in a variety of textures and types.

Plant fibers are renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable.


Natural fibers are sold at a higher price point.

Not all natural fibers are readably available.

Natural fibers can be damaged due to temperature and moths.

Plant fibers can be difficult to spin.




Animal fibers are natural protein fibers that consist of keratin. These fibers are spun by spinners to create common yarns, such as wool and silk. Not all fibers consist of the same properties, therefore they have different textures.


Hand spinner use animal fibers from animals to create yarns. Yarn textures range from very soft to rough. Depending on the texture, these yarns can be used in a variety of way, from clothing and accessories to furniture and other interior decorations.



Animal fibers are a natural product and it is renewable because the animals produce or grow back the fibers each year.


Some common animal fibers used are silk, llama, yak, wool, cashmere, mohair, alpaca, merino, and angora.



Most adult animals are sheared once a year, in order to remove its fleece. With proper professional skills, shearing does not hurt the animal. Usually electrical shears or sheering machines are used, but not uncommonly are hand shears used too.

In recent years, Ahimsa silk is created as a more humane method of retrieving silk from the silk worm cocoons- collecting the silk only once the moths have naturally left their cocoons. However, in the long history of sericulture, silk worms have been boiled or gassed in order to unravel the silk within its cocoon. In some places, the silk worms are often consumed after.


Once animal fibers are joined, they are used to create clothing, shoes, and accessories.Here are some points to consider when deciding on animal fiber yarns.


Animal fibers are breathable.

Animal fibers come in a variety of textures and types.

Animal fibers insulate.

Animal fibers are renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable.


Natural fiber are sold at a higher price point.

Not all natural fibers are readably available.

Natural fibers can be damaged due to temperature and moths.


2. Synthetic

Synthetic fibers are formed from man-made materials.


what are synthetic fibers?

Synthetic fibers are man-made fibers- therefore, they are fibers not found in nature. Most synthetic yarns are petroleum-based, which take years to break down naturally, but create a durable yarn.

What are common synthetic fibers?

Acrylic, nylon and polyester are common man-made fibers. Often synthetic fibers are blended with natural fibers– for example, the blend of polyester and cotton creates jersey (a T-shirt material).

how are synthetic fibers used?

Everyday items such as clothes, waterproof materials, and outdoor supplies are made completely or partially from synthetic materials.



Why are synthetic fibers used?

Synthetic fibers are more durable and resistant than natural fibers. They tend to be more flexible and resist stains better.

Mixed blend yarns

Often synthetic fibers are mixed with natural fibers to strengthen the yarns– there are mixed-blend yarns. In this case, the synthetic fiber is used to keep the shape and structure of the material, while the natural fiber gives the insolation of the material.

Weighing your options

Once synthetic fibers are joined, they are used to create everyday items. Here are some points to consider when deciding on synthetic fiber yarns.


Synthetic yarns are more durable.

Synthetic yarns come in a variety of textures, colors and types.

Synthetic yarns are more affordable.

Synthetic yarns are biodegradable after a few years.


Synthetic yarns melt easily and are flammable.

Some synthetic yarns fibers have a rougher texture– which could be uncomfortable to wear for a long time.

Synthetic yarns are not breathable.


There are many types of yarns to choose from. Both natural and synthetic yarns can be used in your weaving to create interesting design, texture and color. With some experimentation, you can find what yarns work best in your projects.

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