The most expensive yarns in the world

A ranked list of the rarest wool and fibers on this planet available for knitting and crochet

Even a knitting beginner might be aware of incredibly soft fibers like cashmere or angora wool. But what are the most expensive yarns in the world? Are there rarer and more exclusive yarns than that? Certainly, and in this article I’m going to rank them by rarity and softness!

Let’s dive right into these luxury yarns!

#1 Vicuña

close up shot of vicuna wool

The unspoken top spot belongs to the Vicuña. These wild camelids live across the altiplano in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia at altitudes of above 4,000 meters. It’s an endangered species that only recovered in the recent decade. Trade is heavily regulated. A single one-ounce skein can cost as much as 300 USD, and scarves range between 2,000 and 3,000 USD.

two vicuna sitting on the grass eating

Vicuña yarn is not only special because it has a very low micron count but an incredibly high comfort factor (99 points out of 100 possible). I have a full article on vicuna yarn where I go into greater detail here. High-quality Vicuña yarn needs to be hand-shorn and hand-sorted. Each of the free-ranging animals only produces around 500 grams of wool per year. Together with its overall scarcity, the extremely labor-intensive production process explains the high price.

Price: 900-1200 USD per 100g
Softness: 8-14 microns
Availability: 2-3 vendors worldwide; yearly production ~12 tons

#1.2 Paco Vicuna

4 skeins of paco vicuna yarn in two tones on a table

In recent years, attempts have been made to cross vicuña back with the domesticated alpacas. The result is called “paco-vicuna”. The fiber these animals produce is almost as soft as their ancestors’ but with a longer staple length. It also comes in different tones and not just the usual cinnamon color.

close-up of a couple of skeins of paco vicuna yarn

Most importantly, paco-vicuna can be raised in the U.S. Currently only super small-scale farms dedicate themselves to bringing yarn to the market and it’s still very difficult to come by.

Price: 350-550 USD per 100g
Softness: ~12-20 microns
Availability: Only available directly through small breeders in the USA; yearly production: unknown; possibly less than 1 ton.

#2 Cervelt™ 

two cones of super expensive cervelt lace yarn on a table

The possibly rarest fiber on this planet is called Cervelt™. There is only a single manufacturer located in the North of New Zealand that found a way to turn the incredibly soft undercoat of the local red deer into an incredibly soft fiber.

close-up of a very smooth cone with cervelt yarn

The yarn feels decidedly different and almost a bit stiff before you wash it the first time. It’s said to be rather durable. However, that is nothing I was able to confirm myself. On the other hand, I can confirm that the yarn is extremely springy with an unusual degree of elasticity.

Price: 400-500 USD per 100g
Softness: 13 microns (very low variation!)
Availability: 1 manufacturer worldwide; yearly production ~1.5 tons

#3 Qiviut

two big skeins of quivit yarn natural color on a table

Qiviut (typically pronounced ki-vee-oot) is the soft down of the musk ox. These free-ranging animals live far up north in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. At the beginning of the short summer, they shed their highly insulating undercoat in a relatively brief span of time. The locals collect these sheddings, sort them, and turn them into incredibly soft yarn. Some small farms also breed musk oxen.

close-up of dyed quivit yarn in red and blue - you can see the fluff very well

Qiviut is very fluffy, almost cloud-like. I would attribute this characteristic to the prevalent spinning method and not so much to the fibers themselves. It’s also said to be exceptionally warm. That’s another attribute I cannot confirm myself and it seems to be a myth repeated without question.

Of course, it’s incredibly soft and warm. But so is cashmere or fine merino yarn. Typically, it’s the spinning method that defines how insulating a fiber is. The looser and fluffier the thread, the more air pockets are being created and the warmer it will feel.

Price: 350-500 USD per 100g
Softness: 12-14 microns
Availability: Only small-scale production for knitters; 5-6 tons

#4 Guanaco

two small skeins of super expensive guanaco yarn on a table

Guanaco are close relatives of the Vicuña. They are a bit larger and typically live at lower altitudes. This might explain why their downs are a tiny bit sturdier – still, incredibly soft! They are also quite a bit more abundant (the population is estimated to be around 2 million across the Andes).

close-up guanaco yarn knitting - a very intereting two ply spinning method

Interestingly enough, knitting quality yarn is very rare to find. While the locals do seem to collect the fibers from the herds, very few of the yarn make it to the international market. As of now, there are only 2-3 shops that sell the rare fiber online.

Price: 280-550 USD per 100g
Softness: 10-20 microns
Availability: Only small-scale production for knitters; yearly production: unknown

#5 Arctic Fox

three skeins of arctic fox yarn - two dyed in a grey tone

Artic Fox could be, even before Cervelt™, the least known and rarest yarn in the world. I only learned about it 3 years ago myself. The Inuit have been hunting arctic foxes for centuries. The pelts have always been highly-priced but only recently did I come across arctic fox yarn.

close-up of artic fox yarn that shows the fluffiness very well

I’m only aware of two little communities that produce small quantities of yarn each year – and even that is typically a blend. It’s a slightly grey, extremely fluffy yarn that feels extremely soft.

Price: 270-340 USD per 100g
Softness: unknown
Availability: no industrial production at all; yearly production: unknown; probably less than a ton.

#6 Arctic Hare

artic hare yarn - two skeins of the super light and expensive fiber

The Inuit also hunt Arctic hares for their meat and pelts. Much like the Arctic fox, the downs can also be turned into yarn. Again, I’m only aware of two shops that sell it as a blend of merino and silk. Much like Angora, it’s very soft, fluffy, and almost dazzlingly white.

close-up of arctic hare yarn - super light with medium fluff

Price: 270-340 USD per 100g
Softness: unknown
Availability: no industrial production at all; yearly production: unknown; probably less than a ton.

#7 Bison

5 skeins of bison yarn in a dark rich brown color

Once nearly extinct in the wild, bison have made a comeback. It’s estimated that the current population is around 500.000 – although few of them actually live in the wild. In fact, quite some of them are slaughtered for their meat and pelts every year. While certainly very far away from an industry, some industrious spinners have started to sell bison yarn.

bison yarn close-up - looks very soft

This is a labor-intensive process where the downs are combed from pelts and then sorted. These downs can be as thin as 16-18 microns (numbers online are all over the place and I’m not sure how factual most of them are). Yet, the guard hairs and outer layers can be much thicker.

As a result, you will be able to find a very wide field of qualities. Depending on how well the raw fibers were sorted, you could end up with a skein that is as soft as Cashmere or something that reminds you a bit more of your local homespun sheep wool.

Price: 130-300 USD per 100g
Softness: 17-55 microns
Availability: only small-scale vendors; yearly production: unknown; possibly between 5-10 tons

#8 Lotus Silk

two lotus silk yarn cones displayed on a table

Silk is typically produced by the mulberry silkworm. However, the stems of lotus flowers (and the leaves) can also be turned into what the locals call lotus silk. These incredibly fine, yet sturdy fibers are extracted manually and then spun by hand.

close-up of lotus silk yarn - it looks very rustic and irregular

The result is a yarn that’s unique, expensive, and highly-priced by the locals. Not for its softness. It’s rather coarse. Neither for its sheen or luster. It’s rather dull and brown. They cherish it because lotus flowers are so deeply entwined with local beliefs throughout Asia (especially in Buddhism).

Price: 150 USD per 100g
Softness: 5-8 microns
Availability: Only one vendor worldwide; yearly production: unknown; possibly less than 5 tons

#9 Possum yarn

three skeins of possum yarn in different colors from New zealand

Ever since New Zealand was colonized it had a massive problem with invasive species. As a result, the endemic flora and fauna crashed – with my species now extinct or critically endangered. Possums are one of these animals that quickly adapted to the local conditions and wreaked havoc.

close-up of a ball of possum yarn

New Zealand set itself the goal to be predator-free until 2050. In the process, many of these invasive species are being hunted down – millions of possums are among them. To fund some of these endeavors, some of the pelts are turned into yarn. Since the staple length is so short, the soft downs are only sold as a blend.

Due to the short staple length and the rather straight hairs (very little crimp or curl), the yarn will feel a tiny little bit more itchy than other fibers with a comparable thickness. During the spinning (and wearing) process, these thin hairs end up sticking out.

Price: 35-50 USD per 100g
Softness: 17-18 microns
Availability: At least one major manufacturer in New Zealand; multiple online shops; yearly production: 40-50 tons

#10 Mink Cashmere

mink yarn skeins in two different colors

Mink have been hunted (and later bred) for their fine fur since ages. China has always played an important role in the fur trade. In recent years, I have seen a selected few manufacturers use the longer hair of the tails and turn them into yarn. This is another super short-staple length yarn that typically is only available as a blend (with angora, merino yarn, etc).

close-up mink yarn that looks a bit like fine cashmere

Personally, I remain a bit doubtful when it comes to the quality of the yarn. I suspect that quite some of the skeins marketed as 100% mink actually contain other fibers as well. And, perhaps more importantly, you might be aware that the mink (and Chinese weasel) are often raised in very small cages in questionable conditions.

Price: 30-45 USD per 100g
Softness: unknown; possibly in the range of cashmere (~14-18 microns)
Availability: yearly production: unknown; possibly 10-50 tons

Other expensive yarns

This list is certainly only a beginning. Basically, you can turn anything that has fur into yarn. If you look around the internet, you will even find spinners that will turn the sheddings of your dogs or cats into yarn.

Cashmere, Angora, and Baby alpaca are certainly also lovely yarns that exhibit many of the qualities I highlighted in this article. By comparison, these are both cheaper and more abundant.

Then there are yarns like golden orb spider silk that is simply not available commercially.

One could also mention Shahtoosh yarn that is banned from not only trading but even owning in a lot of countries because of conservation concerns. Shatoosh is (or rather was) made from the downs of the Tibetan antelope and is typically regarded as the finest animal hair in the world. The diameter ranges from 6.25 to 16.25 microns and it’s thus even finer than vicuna.

Anyway, that was my list of the most expensive yarns in the world. Comment below if you have any questions.

10 thoughts on “The most expensive yarns in the world”

  1. Hi thanks for an interesting comparison. Surprisingly you don’t mention mohair which has a smaller production volume than alpaca and ranges from 17 to 27 for kid mohair and 28 to 40 for adult. Very few outlets supply 100% mohair because of its cost. Angora goats are also the most efficient fibre-producing animals in the world. Ethically produced mohair is distinguished by the Responsible Mohair Standard.

    Reply
  2. Opossums are also in the US and, because of climate change, are as far north as Minnesota. They are protected and people are made aware they are special animals. They provide humans with snake bite venom because they are entirely immune to snake bites. I have never thought of them as yarn providers–thanks for the insight!

    Reply
  3. There is a shop in Banff alberta that sells qiviut and it is truly an amazing yarn it is part of my stash as it were and I’ve just recently begun using it, I have to agree that it was expensive when I purchased it originally and now it’s prohibitive. Warmth couldn’t say, beautiful texture most certainly, get article, enjoyed it immensely

    Reply
    • Hi I’ve handspun and knit a fingering weight ( one ply )
      Musk ox brany and mittens.
      I can say it’s not my first choice for warmth in the least. Never mind the micron count or the bit about hollow fibers…it’s downright cold. I also tried using it as a liner in leather mittens and it really want worth using.. if it was a heavier weight it might be ok but it’s very over rated in my opinion.
      Not worth the money.
      Angora wool is the all time warmest fiber in my experience.
      I used to have angora rabbits as pets the English angora is the warmest.
      The French is a beautiful long hair too.
      Great personality on both this breeds.
      Cashmere is the lightest weight and warmest for the size of yarn.
      Good price in comparison to all the others too.
      It’s always my first choice of warm fiber.

      Reply
  4. Norman,
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!, to you and your family.
    Milou here…
    Your articles are always so interesting and easy to readI I’m delighted with your site’s tips, patterns and everything else related to knitting.
    Thank you so much for all your good work and patience
    detailing stitches and tricks, I’m a fan of yours and I only wish “The Best” for you.

    Reply

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