Unmarked yarn: is it wool?

Back in the day I bought a couple of bags of mystery yarn from a 2nd hand store. I think three of the uh, skeins? are wool as they feel rough/coarse like wool. They’re kind of off-white in colour. No labels on them.

I can take photos if necessary. Is there a sure-fire method to tell if a yarn is wool or manmade?

You can tell if it is wool or a wool blend.

Wool, or anything made from animal fibers (alpaca, wool, cashmere) is elastic. It springs back into shape when stretched. Smell like sheep when wet. And if lit with a flame, smells like burning hair. FYI, it resists burning, so you may only be able to singe it. But it smells the same.

Acrylic is also elastic. But has less memory & doesn’t spring back quite as well. It smells like plastic when lit. And melts into a glob.

There are probably articles on the web with more details. But those are the key differences.

You can use the burn test:

Overly simplified:

Acrylic melts
wool smells like burning hair

I lit a bit of it, doesn’t smell like melting plastic, smells kinda weird. It did eventually catch fire (i did this test near running water to avoid danger btw.) It feels so coarse, like my old scottish wool sweater I just assumed it’s some kinda wool.

Could be rug yarn. I haven’t seen it for a while. But you used to be able to buy hanks of yarn specifically for rugs. They are coarser because they are designed to handle floor traffic.

If the yarn is scratchy unknit, then I don’t use it against my skin. Still works for felted bags though.

I have some yarn that looks like wool, is very rough and scratchy, but I know for a fact it isn’t. I don’t know that stretchiness is a definitive test. Burning may help, but you could knit a small swatch and try and felt it. If it felts it’s probably animal fiber. Or it could be superwash. Sometimes mystery yarn remains a mystery. :shrug:

How about trying a felted join with 2 pieces? It only works with wool & other animal fibres.

There’s a video on the knitting tips page here at KH. (I could hear it but not see video on this computer, so didn’t include the link. Probably my ancient software.)

Here’s another link with photos & a description:

I was going to suggest spit felting a join. Wet 2 ends (you can use water, you don’t really have to use spit), overlap them between your hands and rub them back & forth together quickly. If it’s wool (not superwash, though) the join will hold.

It could be a wool/ synthetic blend. I have a mystery skein or two in my stash that I am fairly certain are a blend, they burn the same way yours did.

I tried getting a strand wet and rubbing the heck out of it, it didn’t seem to do much? Also, it does seems stretchier than my Red Heart yarn. Definitely did not smell plastic when i burned it, though I can’t say it smelled the same as human hair burning.

Do a comparison, take a known piece of acrylic yarn and wool yarn and burn the known yarn. How does this compare to the unknown?

I don’t remember where i heard of this, but wool yarn will dissolve in bleach. I’ve used this method several times for determining if a particular yarn is wool. Just snip off an inch or 2 and let it sit in a bit of bleach, and see if it disappears. Have tried burning with acryllic and cotton yarn, but it doesn’t help me figure if it’s wool or not. lnknit41