It is possible to make something that looks like wool, either with plant materials or, more usually, petrochemicals.
Cotton and linen, two common plant-based yarns, can look the same but are cooling rather than insulating, flammable rather than inflammable, heavy rather than light, and liable to stretch irreparably rather than keep its shape. Other plant-based fibres such as viscose and ramie (e.g., bamboo, sugarcane, cornsilk) are similar. Their production, and that of cotton in particular, is also rather bad for the environment.
Petrochemicals, such as acrylic, are sweaty, very flammable (and melt into your skin when they do, which is oodles of fun at the Burns Unit), appallingly bad for the environment for centuries, and are only “easy care” if you wash them on the same cycle as wool – and even then, they shed microplastics into the watercourse and thence to rivers, lakes and seas.
I love making hats and gloves, and I like designing sweaters. But you do you.
One thing I would suggest is that you go through your wool stash and sort it by brand, name and dye lot, e.g., Red Heart, Supersavers Solid Aran, 234 Saffron . Once you know how many balls you have in each, you’ll know the approximate yardage, e.g., 5 balls at 364 yards(333 meters) per ball = 1,820yds (1,665m).
Then, with that information, you can go to Ravelry and look for patterns that use up to 1,820yds (1,665m) of Aran weight yarn:
1,706 pages with 25 patterns per page.
Alternately, you can search for Red Heart Supersavers Aran yarn:
You can reduce the hits on your search, such as only lace patterns, only adults’ patterns, only Icelandic patterns, etc., etc.:
But it’s a good idea to know what yarn you’ve got before you wade in and find the One Perfect Pattern – and then realise you don’t have the right yarnweight or yardage.
Just, ya know, don’t go knit-crazy with your cabin-crazy…
Angora goat fibre, aka mohair, has its own qualities. It’s primarily used for making suits as it’s quite hardy, but it’s not usually suitable for next-to-skin garments.
Meanwhile, in the sheep world, there’s a humongous range of qualities. Merino and Blue-faced Leicester for under-clothing and babywear, Wensleydale for silk-like, drapey clothing, Icelandic for sturdy cold-weather outerwear, Shetland for lightweight but warm socks and sweaters, Scottish Blackfaced for carpetting, through to mixed-breed meat-sheep’s scraggly fleece that’s only good for house insulation or composting.
Goat genes would add nothing that isn’t already available in one or other sheep breed.
The current handcrafts fad was started by two beginners’ books – Stitch ’N Bitch and The Happy Hooker, both by Debbie Stoller. Most of the handcrafts magazines I see also have an absolute beginners’ section at the back of every issue. The former, as I recall, used photographs, and the latter are more likely to use diagrams.
My learning style is primarily visual, secondarily kinaesthetic (doing), and not remotely auditory. I find diagrams easiest to understand:
photographs somewhat less so because people’s hands can get in the way more than help:
and I prefer watching a living person who I can slow down or ask to repeat an action over video tuition. I have heard of some folk learning by ear, but I don’t even get how that’s possible.
Diagrams are more common in older books such as this one – here’s an example of a typical page:
I’d suggest you consider whether perhaps your learning style lends itself to ‘book-learning’ in the first instance, and see if YouTube or a live tutor might help you more.
Researching yarns probably takes up more of my time than knitting it, or designing. I spend a lot of time on Ravelry, Yarnsub, and the various yarn manufacturers’ sites, finding out as much as I can about yarns, comparing them, looking at examples of projects worked in them, and reading yarn reviewer blogs. Sometimes I’ll know what fibre content I want (or have to use), sometimes I’m looking for certain colours in the same range, sometimes I’m looking for an equivalent yarn to one that’s no longer available.
While I’m fortunate to have a standard LYS, a locally-grown luxury and rare breed LYS, and an independent dyer practically on my doorstep, I still don’t have access to many of the yarns I want. Hand-painted silk, yes. Mushroom-dyed mohair from an Angora goat flock down the road, yes. Cheap ‘n’ squeaky acrylic, no problem. But not Manos Silk Blend, not MadTosh Pashmina, not Nerd Girls Clever, not Jamieson and Smith Cobweb. I can also pick stuff up at yarn festivals, they don’t happen frequently enough – and I can’t plan for inspiration or design calls around them.
One thing I do commonly, with yarns I can’t pick up locally or in a timely manner at wool festivals, is order small amounts of the yarns in contention for a design from an online stockist or the manufacturer. I’ll get a skein (or one skein in each colour if it’s a colourwork design) and see how it works up. Sometimes, I can order these try-out skeins along with a bigger order for another design where I know what I want and how much, other times I’ll get a lot of try-out skeins for many designs that are still in concept. This has recently worked out to be quite expensive for a modern Fair Isle I’m working on, as I’ve had to order multiple shades from different brands as far away as Canada, Norway, Iceland and the US. But mostly, it’s a fairly economical method – and even if I decide not to use Brand X, at least I now have some Brand X to try-out elsewhere.
Or just make another hat. Never can have too many hats!
Pooling is something that yarn does, not something yarn is. It is usually undesirable, but sometimes planned.
If you have a yarn like this, the colours can form unwanted blobs, instead of spreading out in a nice way:
This is a massive problem with variegated or multi-coloured yarns, especially those gorgeous handpainted skeins you picked up at a wool festival for a small fortune, only to realise they look prettier in the skein than they ever will knitted up (~looks mournfully at the “special” shelf in her craft room~).
BUT: if the colour changes are regular, you can do a thing called ‘planned pooling’, which produces effects like this:
Trimming is the same as cutting, in hair terms – except less hair is removed. Trimming wool does not help the sheep; it leaves most of the wool in place which is uncomfortable and unhealthy. In addition, the trimmed wool ends would be too short to have any commercial value and would end up in landfill. As wool flocks would no longer have any commercial value, thousands of sheep farmers would go out of business and their flocks would be slaughtered. Those industries dependent on sheep wool would have to turn instead to synthetic alternatives which are very damaging to the environment.