A Type of Wool
for Every Occasion

A Type of Wool for Every Occasion

Everything you need to know about winter knitwear gauges and fineness in order to choose your ideal Zanone item


here are so many technical terms in the knitting jargon - often combined with even more indecipherable figures - that sometimes it’s easy to get confused. Most of the times, all you need to do in order to choose the right piece of knitwear is touch it, feel it against your skin or wear it, but if that is not possible (for example, when you are buying online) it can be helpful to have a small basic understanding of the main (and, in a way, fascinating) aspects of the knitwear world.

Carded wool and combed wool

The first major difference is between two large families, that of carded wool and that of combed wool. In the mill, the freshly sheared raw wool is washed, beaten and lubricated. The shorter and thicker fibers are used for carded wool, which is therefore heavier than average, has a soft, slightly puffy, hairy appearance and is very warm. Among carded wools, cashmere is the most sophisticated and silky of all.

Combed wool is born from the raw material’s longer, thinner fibers, and it looks smoother. Slim and lightweight, it loses its hairiness through the "combing" process, which consists in ordering the fibers and selecting only the longer ones. Zanone’s pateted Flexwool is an excellent example of a combed yarn, originating from highly selected Australian varieties and processed in Italy through advanced spinning technology, in order to obtain an extremely thin and light mesh.

combed wool
combed wool

Carded wool
Carded wool

The gauge, or how to evaluate the fineness of a knitted fabric

Under the "Material and product care" label of each Zanone garment, the fineness is shown as a one- or two-digit gauge number. The gauge is a measure of fineness that indicates the number of needles per inch in the textile machine. For instance, a "gauge-12" label means that the machine has twelve needles per inch.

It sounds complicated, but it is actually not: the more needles there are, the thinner are the yarns that make up the fabric. A lower number of needles, on the other hand, will indicate the use of a larger yarn. The gauge number is inversely proportional to the fabric’s fineness: a high gauge number indicates a thin fabric, while a lower number indicates a thicker fabric.

The gauge indicates the number of needles per inch in the textile machine
The gauge indicates the number of needles per inch in the textile machine

Picking your ideal item

The type of processing (carding or combing) and the gauge both contribute to the fineness of a knitted fabric. So, what’s the best strategy for choosing among the many items from Zanone’s winter collection?

Should I opt for a carded or a combed fabric?

A thin and lightweight combed wool knitwear piece looks perfect under a jacket in the office and on a formal or semi-formal occasion. A warmer and thicker carded wool sweater is more suitable for cold climates and open air, leisurely occasions. Cashmere is a world of its own: while being a carded wool fabric, it still remains rather thin. The Zanone wool and cashmere pullover has an average 12-gauge fineness and it is suitable for all occasions.
Textile machines at work
Textile machines at work

High or low gauge number?

The desired fineness of a knitted item is inextricably linked to your own needs. Generally, a thinner, high-gauge number fabric is deemed more valuable, but this is just an erroneous bias because there is a number of very valuable woolen fabrics with a low gauge count. The Zanone Yak and merino crew-neck sweater, for instance, has a gauge-3 fineness and yet it is made from absolutely rich fibers that offer unique warmth and softness.

The fineness of a knitted fabric is also related to its weight: a garment with a gauge-18 fineness such as the Zanone Flexwool crew-neck sweater will weigh between 180 and 250 grams, whereas a gauge-5 item like our pure merino turtleneck sweater will weigh between 400 and 700 grams.

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