Sittin’ and knittin’ - 07/20/11
There’s no pattern this week. Anyone who wants to be a serious knitter needs to understand several things, one of them being today’s yarns.Years ago, we didn’t have the choices we have today. There were basically only three kinds of yarn; wool, cotton and silk. But the modern spinning methods have made new and exciting yarns that can be divided into two basic groups - natural and man-made fibers. Today’s yarns are some of the finest ever made.
Wool. This is an amazing fiber that has been with us for centuries. Several varieties of sheep exist which gives us a variety of fleece. The natural colors are white, gray, brown or black with white fleece preferred for dyeing. Wool is warm, durable and elastic and has excellent insulating properties. It’s easy to clean, keeps its shape and with proper care should last for years.
Mohair: This is a soft durable and luxurious fiber. Yarn makers often blend mohair with other fibers to help them cling together and make them easier to work with.
Angora: This is an expensive fiber that comes from the Angora rabbit. Because the fibers are only 3 to 5 inches long, it is difficult to spin and is usually combined with other fibers during the spinning process.
Cashmere: This is a luxury yarn that comes from the fleece of the Kashmir goat. Cashmere yarn is extremely soft. The demand for this yarn far outweighs the supply. Therefore, it is expensive.
Alpaca: This yarn comes from the Alpaca, an animal found in parts of South America. There are some Alpaca farms in this country now. This animal produces a fine, soft and lustrous fleece.
Silk: Silk is spun by the silkworm. Because it tends to stretch, yarn makers usually combine it with other fibers such as wool or acrylics.
Cotton: This is one of the oldest and most available plant fibers. Cotton is popular because it absorbs moisture, dries quickly, washes easily and is non-allergenic. It has little elasticity so you should check your gauge often when knitting with 100% cotton yarn.
Linen: This is produced by the flax plant. Linen tends to be stiff so is usually combined with other fibers before it is spun into yarn.
Now we move to man-made fibers usually called synthetic yarns. These were developed prior to World War II and have become very popular because of their price, and the fact that they can be machine washed and dried.
Due to changes in their processing, many synthetic yarns now resemble the texture of natural fiber yarns.
Nylon: This s the strongest synthetic fiber available. It is often used to reinforce sock heels and because of its strength, yarn makers usually combine it with other fibers.
Acrylics: This was developed as a substitute for wool. It looks like wool, and is very easy to care for. But, it doesn’t have the insulating and water-resistant qualities of wool.
Micro-fiber: This is a newly developed fiber. It is thin and lightweight. It resists pilling and holds its shape very well.
For instance, cotton is more resilient when combined with micro-fiber.
When you are selecting yarn, this should give you a better idea of what to look for. Another suggestion is if you are making something with a pattern, use a solid color yarn. Also avoid using textured yarns with a fancy stitch as it won’t show up. Plain yarn, on the other hand, works well with a fancy stitch.