During the insane polar vortex many of us are experiencing this winter, there was one quality that became essential: the warmest wool. When knitters heard about temperatures dropping below zero we panicked, knitting up socks, hats, mittens and scarves that will protect us and our friends from the insane cold. But which wool is the warmest?
While wool preferences vary from knitter to knitter, we’ve narrowed down the warmest options for socks, hats, mittens and scarves. Show the winter who’s boss and consider some of these wools.
The important thing to remember about socks is that they’re going to be on your feet, which means there’s going to be a lot of movement and friction. You’ll also want to factor in a bit of stretch and elasticity to your yarn so that your sock doesn’t start to droop after a few wears.
The great thing about choosing yarn for socks is that most companies make yarn that’s very clearly labeled “sock yarn.” The Counterpane Sock above, for example, uses Lorna’s Laces Solemate Yarn that’s made of superwash wool and nylon — clearly a yarn made just for socks!
But finding the warmest wool for socks comes with a challenge: is the warmest wool going to make you itchy? Just because a wool is the warmest doesn’t mean it’s also the best wool for your socks. Some of the warmest wools out there are also coarse and don’t feel great against your skin.
Deborah Robson, instructor of the FREE Craftsy mini-class Know Your Wool, recommends using long wools like Wensleydale and Blue-Faced Leicester for socks. She says they’re sturdy enough to last a long time, while also showing great stitch definition.
For hats and scarves
Hats and scarves don’t have as many rules as sock yarn because there are so many more options to choose from as far as yarn weight and design. For many, the most important part of choosing the warmest wool for hats and scarves is softness.
Hats and scarves are two winter accessories that spend a lot of time against your skin, so you want to choose a wool that’s both warm and soft. Knitters’ opinions on this will often differ, depending on skin sensitivity and sometimes even allergies. One way to find the perfect hat or scarf yarn is to test possible yarns before you knit up the entire project. Knit a small swatch and rub it against your neck or forehead (not in public, of course). Is it itchy? Did it make your skin break out or feel uncomfortable?
To satisfy both warmth and softness, consider a wool blend. Alpaca, for example, is very soft and warm and while it’s not suitable for socks, it’s a great option for hats and scarves. Even synthetic fibers can team up with wool to make a warm accessory. The Schachenmayr Cap with Cable Pattern Kit pictured above is knitted with Schachenmayr Original Lova, a blend of acrylic, wool, and polyamide.
Mitten yarns follow many of the same rules as yarn for hats and scarves when it comes to the warmest wools. If you want to abandon wools completely and go for something like the cozy, soft 100% baby alpaca in the Olga’s Mittens Kit seen above, that’s OK too. The only restrictions are those you set yourself. If the yarn works with your skin, then go for it!
One thing to keep in mind if you’re designing your own mittens is to be sure that no matter what type of wool you use, the gauge should be tight. Open, lacy stitches have no place with mittens that are meant to protect you from the cold!