I've noticed that a lot of people tend to have one go to, fail safe fiber. For most, this is either wool or acrylic. I've been thinking about that lately, and am slowly coming to the conclusion that it is because, as fiber artists, we simply have too many choices. I mean, there was a time when you were pretty much limited to your flock, and maybe your neighbor's flock. No more. Now you can get alpaca, six kinds of wool, silk, a couple kinds of cotton, acrylic, nylon, a few flavors of rayon... just by going to your local yarn store, or even closer, the internet. This is a good thing. But it is difficult to know or predict how each of these fibers will behave, alone or in blends, so we tend to have a go to.
And it is true that a good wool yarn can be made to do just about anything, as can acrylic if you know what you're doing. But it might not be the best answer. So I've decided that I'm going to do some posts on fiber types. Because once you know the basics, it becomes so much easier to get the effect that you want. Now, it is of course possible to just always get the same yarn (or a comparable blend) as the designer used to make their pattern. I encourage this, frankly, however it's not always going to be what you want to do. Sometimes the recommended yarn is unavailable. Sometimes it's too expensive. And sometimes you just want a bit of a different effect than the designer got. All perfectly valid reasons for a substitution... and if you know your fiber, there will be fewer unpleasant surprises along the way.