Posted by: thatjen | August 10, 2008

Random Knitting Question

Hi yarnheads!

There’s a crafts closet in our complex, and it has tons of yarn stuffed into the shelves.  Does anyone know how to tell if yarn is wool or synthetic without a label?  I need 100% wool for a little project but don’t care about color, etc., so if there’s real wool there it would be fantastic.


  1. The best way to tell is to set it on fire. Acrylic will melt like plastic, cotton will burn like paper, and wool will put itself out.

  2. Muahahahaha! (says the pyro)

  3. Yep. Burn it. Wool might smolder a little, but it won’t burn like cotton will (and you can probably tell cotton from wool by touch – it’s the acrylics/synthetics that fool me.) If it melts, it didn’t come from a sheep. (Or goat, or whatever.) 😀

  4. If you don’t want to burn it, try to felt the edges- syn and cotton won’t attach by felting, animal will.

    fray the edges of two pieces. spit on them a little. put together and roll reallllly hard between your hands until it gets hot hot hot. pull. if it is now one piece- it’s animal!

    (this is also good for attaching skeins)

    If you need help, I can come and help (we live around the corner)

  5. Or if you don’t feel like setting the place on fire you could just wet it a little and sniff. Wool always smells a bit, well, sheep-y to me, when it’s wet. Are you going to tell us your project or keep us in suspense?

  6. JT advised trying to felt the yarn, but that will only tell you if it is a non-superwash wool. A superwash treated wool won’t felt, just like the acrylic. Stephanie Purl McPhee (the Yarnharlot) has a great book called “Knitting Rules!” in which she talks about several methods for trying to figure out what a yarn is made of.

  7. Alison, it’s a pretty boring project – make felted wool dryer balls – more info to come in the next Tightwad Tuesday! 🙂

    But, felting is essential, so thanks JT and Sarah for your further comments.

    Those of you in the neighborhood, if you smell a smoldering, “sheep-y” smell, you’ll know I am about to commence on the project!

  8. heh – I was going to say – the burning thing never fails…

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