Skip to content

What’s all the hullabaloo about knitting with different sheep breeds and other animal fibers? Is it the yarn companies trying to sell more yarn? Is it some sort of knitting secret club? Can’t I keep knitting with Merino yarn for everything?

Are you ever disappointed in your knitting after you’ve finished something and worn it for a bit? Did you assume it was because of your knitting skills? Is it saggy, pilly or even felted?

Guess what: it’s not your fault; it’s the yarn.

If you are knitting yarn made from the wool of only one particular type of sheep, you are missing out on excellent yarn. Each breed of sheep or type of fiber has particular properties that can help or hinder the type of knitting you’re doing.

Look at these gorgeous yarns from Bare Naked Wools.

clockwise from white yarn: ghillie Sport, Confection Worsted, Kent Worsted, Better Breakfast Worsted, Chebris Worsted.

They all look like fine knitting yarns, but if you look closer you’ll see that each is a little different. Some are shiny, some are hairy, some look airy and some look slick. That is exactly different types of fibers and sheep breeds frolicking in your yarn.

When knitters think of choosing yarns, the knitting properties they usually think of are softness, durability and stitch definition.

When choosing yarns based on knitting properties there are usually trade offs. Sometimes you want softness over durability, or drape over elasticity. A key component to making those properties happen is the fiber in your yarn.

Left to right: ghillie Sport, Confection Worsted, Kent Worsted , Better Breakfast Worsted, Chebris Worsted.

Here are a few words and phrases that I’ll be throwing around, and what they mean to your yarn and knitting.

  • Staple length is the length of the fiber. A yarn with a shorter staple length fiber can have the tendency to pill and fuzz.
  • Crimp is the amount of zig zagging wave in a fiber. Do you remember crimping irons of the 1980s, and how your hair looked after a session? A crinkle cut french fry is another illustration of crimp. Yarns with lots of crimp are springy and elastic.
  • The fineness of the fiber is the diameter of a single fiber. The finer a fiber, the softer the fiber.
  • Luster is the inherent shine of a fiber. Yarns made with high-luster fibers take dye beautifully and seem to glow.
All the fibers: Cheviot, Corriedale, Romney, Merino, Alpaca, and Mohair.

I swatched five different Bare Naked Wools yarns that are different breeds and combinations of fibers. Check out the differences and what each has to offer your knitting.

Cheviot: Ghillie Sport DK (100% Cheviot)

Color: cream. 

This yarn is a workhorse. It’s a medium-fine fiber with a medium staple length known for its durability; it needs to be invited to felt. It is unexpected and wonderful to find a Cheviot yarn on regular offer from a yarn company.

Cheviot has a crimp structure that is helix (like DNA), which adds to its resiliency and spring. It is not next-to-the-neck soft for most knitters. It has crisp stitch definition and makes wonderful socks and outerwear that will last for years.

Corriedale: Confection Worsted (100% Corriedale) 

color: Cookies & Cream.

Corriedale is the Jan Brady of fibers, steadfast and underappreciated, ever present and overlooked. Yarns labeled “wool” are almost always part Corriedale.

The fiber is medium in fineness and in staple length, but with more crimp than a lot of other medium wools. Corriedale is soft enough for scarves and sturdy enough for dog walking mittens and outdoor sweaters.

It has good stitch definition and excellent elasticity and can be used for almost any knitting project.

In the MDK Shop
100% flufftastic Rambouillet is right here.
By Modern Daily Knitting

What About Blends?

Blends of fibers in yarn are where knitting gets fun. When done right, blends take the best of each fiber and minimize the not-so-great aspects for a really unique knit. Let’s take a peek at three different blended yarns.

Merino Wool

For most knitters, Merino is the standard by which all other yarn is judged, because of its softness. Merino is the main fiber in these blended yarns.

Merino is a very fine, short-stapled, crimpy wool. The good bits about Merino are it is crazy, kitten-soft, elastic and light. It’s also prone to pilling and felting and the overall durability and strength is not great. It not only feels soft, it looks soft too; it has a matte surface and softer stitch definition. That’s why Merino is great for a shawl, but not my first choice for an Aran sweater that I want to wear for 10 years.

Romney and Merino: Kent Worsted (60% Merino/40% Romney) 

Color: Beach Glass.

In the world of sheep, Romney is classified as a longwool. The staple is longer, the crimp is creeping toward wave. Longwools have natural luster, and Romney yarns have a sheen. The fiber is strong, and heavier than Merino. It has great stitch definition and drape. By itself, it makes garments that last a lifetime, but most people would need a layer between skin and sweater.

Mixed with Merino, in a 60%Merino/40% Romney blend, is a yarn where Merino softens and lightens the Romney and Romney lends stitch definition, durability, drape and sheen.

When I first touched this yarn, I said out loud, sweater. With this blend, you can feel softness and durability simultaneously, and it never tips to scratchy.

Alpaca and Merino: Better Breakfast Worsted (65% Merino/35% dehaired alpaca) 

color: Biscotti.

Alpaca fiber all alone is an incredible thing. It is neck-soft, silky and warm. It has a bit of crimp and is sleek and smooth with drape. It’s strong, durable and may fuzz, but doesn’t pill.

The downside of alpaca is that it is heavy and not terribly elastic. Garments knit with 100% Alpaca tend to grow over time. It can be too warm for some knitters, too (says the 50+ woman writing this with both air conditioning and fan blowing on her).

This yarn is such a sexy blend, 65% Merino/35% dehaired alpaca. It’s the one most people gravitated toward to squish when I had my samples out and about.

Merino and alpaca are soft in very different ways. Merino is airy soft, while Alpaca is silky soft. This combo is magic: Mr. Darcy coming out of the pond in his wet shirt-magic.

Merino brings softness, elasticity and lightness to this yarn, and alpaca brings drape, shine and stitch definition.

Mohair and Merino: Chebris Worsted (60% Merino/40% Mohair)

color: Frappe.

Mohair fiber comes from an Angora goat. The fiber is wavy without crimp, lustrous, strong and fuzzy. Mohair can vary in softness (depending on the age of the goat), from fireplace rug to the kid in KidSilk Haze. The fiber is heavy, not elastic, and so durable and strong that some call it “nature’s nylon.”

The blend of 60% Merino/40% mohair is another perfect pairing. The mohair in this yarn is definitely young mohair: not the sacred softness of kid mohair, but close. Just the combo of the shine of mohair and the lightness of Merino is enough to send me over the edge, but there is more. This is one of the few yarns I’ve knit with that is both soft enough to wear right against my neck and strong enough to make lasting socks. The Merino gives airy softness and elasticity, and the mohair brings liquid drape, all the shine, and Rock of Gibraltar strength.

See: different fibers and breeds in yarns aren’t some yarn company conspiracy or secret club. Knowing about the fibers you are knitting with can make you a better knitter, and using them is another knitting adventure that will make you happier with your knitting.

The next time you’re choosing yarn for a project consider exploring yarns spun from new-to-you wools and fibers. There is huge world beyond 100% Merino and 100% “wool.”

Get out there and try it!

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • I just finished a sweater in Better Breakfast DK and loved working with it. Great article!

    • And it’s such a great name; that counts for a lot in my book for some reason.

  • Perfect level of informative geekiness. Love it.

  • Excelent article! Precise and detailed information based on a lot of experience handling yarns.

  • This is a wonderful explanation and breakdown of fiber characteristics. It will have me making yarn choices in a new way. Thanks.

  • Very nicely put, especially with the photos.
    Plus, a Mr. Darcy wet shirt is a perfect visible explanation.

    • I do try to slip Mr. Darcy in whenever I can!

      • Humor + knowledge = super fiber goddess. Thank you!

  • I have two(!) sweaters made from Kent DK, both well loved, and often worn. I will just add, from this vast experience, the DK weight works as a worsted and is quite warm, even here in Minnesota.My experience with the Bare Naked Wools is that they have so much more loft than commercial yarns that they can be knit at slightly looser gauge than you might expect.

    • agreed! the high quality fiber and lack of chemicals in processing allows the fibers in our yarns to retain much more of their natural spring; they will work with a wider range of needle sizes and offer stable fabric in more gauges than yarns that are more “tamed and consitified”.

    • This is my favorite yarn too – I am almost done with my first sweater in it. I’m planning one in the Better Breakfast Fingering weight soon afterwards.

  • Thank you for the wonderful information. Now I have to save this where I will remember!

    • Hi Minnesota!

      You can save it right here in your MDK account.

      At the top of the article, on the left side (just under the Comment symbol), there is a little flag symbol. Click it and it turns red and then you’ve saved the article.

      Whenever you want to view it, click your profile symbol up at the top (it looks like a person’s head and shoulders), and then click “saved articles,” and it comes up for you.

      We should maybe explain this to people as it’s quite useful when you don’t want to have to find something again but you know you will want to access it again in the future.


      • That is so awesome! Just like MINNESOTAE, I was thinking I need to save this somewhere that I will be able to find it again later. I am totally going to save this to my account just as your too suggests! Thanks so much for the useful info!

      • Thank you for explaining how to save articles!

  • Super helpful! My husband loves alpaca but I got cranky about it after I knitted him a sweater that just lengthened and lengthened, especially in the arms. But there’s no denying that alpaca takes color BEAUTIFULLY – my main criterion for a yarn, I think. Second after that is the bounce of wool, how it lifts away from your skin just a little. I’m excited to see a mostly-wool blend with “dehaired” alpaca – maybe it’s our ideal as a couple!

  • I just learned that Angora goats and I have the same hair! Well, it sure looks that way in the Mohair and Merino photo!

  • Excellent article! Thank you very much.

    FWIW, I tried the link,, but it didn’t work…I ended up typing it in and got to your lovely website just fine.

    • Thank you, Jean, link repaired. Wouldn’t have known without your heads up!

  • oh jillian, thank you for such a wonderfully warm review of our yarns; i SO enjoyed reading about them form the pen of someone i admire. you said so many things that i’ve said to myself as we designed them; your expertise in fiber goes right to the heart of each yarn. thank you again!!

  • I’ve been spinning and knitting Lincoln recently. It’s a bit coarse but that doesn’t bother me. I’ve heard Shetland spins up well and resists pilling, so that is on my to-do list. Thanks for the alpaca info – I noticed today that my SO’s scarf had fuzzed – now I know why!

  • Thank you Jillian, I enjoyed your article and look forward to reading your book.

  • I love your focus on mixed fibers- I’ve never seen such a great explanation of them!

  • Interesting article. Love spinning and knitting Romney.

  • What a great article! I’ve been confused about yarns that have a blend of a superwash wool with a non-superwash wool. Why would they do that? Seems like you would lose the advantages of the superwash by blending it with a feltable wool. Any words of wisdom from the wool cognoscenti?

  • Thank you so much for this great information.

  • Which is more swoon-worthy, Mr. Darcy or Bare Naked Wools Better Breaksfast Worsted? Before I read your article, Mr. Darcy would have won, but now BNW Better Breakfast Worsted gets my love!

  • If you had to pick THE best yarn for felting, which would it be?

  • Kids, you do realize that every time Jill is featured we are treated to a master’s course in wool? Spinners everywhere are bowing down. (I’m doing the “my eyes your eyes my eyes your eyes” thing with two fingers. Is there a name for that?)

  • Hi, great article! May I ask your opinion regarding Teeswater wool? I find it very soft with amazing sheen.

  • Hi, I enjoyed the info. Two questions pop up for me: how does blue face leicester wool fit into this, and what about the effect of different spinning methods on the yarn?

  • Thanks for the info!

  • Great information and thanks for the laugh. I crocheted a part alpaca sweater (I’m over 50) and have found that I get pretty dang hot in it even though it’s a loose double crochet stitch

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping