If, like me, you are a knitter and/or crocheter, then you probably have a stash of yarn: under the bed, in the closet, or, like me, a whole room devoted to yarn! [YES!] Here’s the big question: how well do you know your yarn? Oh, I’m not talking about the brand name, the content (wool, cotton, acrylic, etc), or even the color. No, I’m talking about how the yarn is made and why you would want to know this. For instance, I really like Lion Brand Microsoft – it is so, so soft, BUT-I try to find a suitable replacement for it at every opportunity because it is made from about a gazillion plies and if you don’t get every ply caught up in every stitch, it shows – forever! Unlike Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Worsted or Bulky, which is a single ply yarn that holds texture beautifully, felts like a dream, and there is little chance of splitting the yarn while knitting.
So how did I come about this knowledge of “plies” or strands of fiber put together to make a yarn? I learned to spin. Actually, I picked up a lot of information simply by hanging out with spinners, but when I began making my own yarn, then the wheels started turning (figuratively and literally). Much of what I have learned through spinning has helped me when choosing “yarn shop yarn”. There is a tiny yarn shop in New Orleans, Bornside Yarns, that has the best “benefit” for shopping there – if you want to try a yarn that they carry, just ask for a length to try. Since I no longer live in New Orleans, I now call up Bette Bornside and simply ask for a length, she sticks it in the mail, and I knit it up into a tiny swatch. This tells me a lot about whether I really want to use the yarn in a project – or not. If not, I can call up Bette, tell her what the yarn did that I didn’t like, describe the project I want to do, and she and I can intelligently discuss the properties of yarns that could work for me. (BTW, the website is www.bornsideyarns.com.) If, however, the yarn does exactly what I had hoped it would, I call her back and order the yarn.
This ability to “try before you buy” is invaluable. It will tell you if the yarn is round or flat, cabled or whatever. So how does this relate to knitting? Well, some yarns hold texture better than others. If you are going to make an all-over cabled sweater, better to get a yarn that will show off the cables; otherwise, why bother doing all that work? Some yarns drape well and some too much. If you are knitting a short vest that begins (or ends) at your waist, doing a loose knit in cotton won’t get you there (but you will have a lovely nightshirt that will touch your knees by the end of the first day you wear it!). Yarn content and plies can tell you a lot about how your project will turn out.
So how do you get this invaluable knowledge? Glad you asked! Right now, there is a thread on Knitting Daily (www.knittingdaily.com) about spinning for knitting. Check the archives for previous posts on this topic because there is great information being given. So, do you have to become a spinner to appreciate yarn? Nope. In fact, I feel it is my duty to inform you that spinning is a major fiber addiction (and I am a major fiber pusher – you have been warned!). Today’s Knitting Daily post refers you to a link where you can learn to spin by making a simple CD hand spindle. These are very inexpensive to make – I just made 9 for Sunday’s guild meeting for a total of $7.17, so they are less than a dollar each. I have spun some great yarn on CD spindles, and it is always a thrill to knit with yarn I spun myself. Give it a try and see how your yarn knowledge grows exponentially!
For those of you in the area, I will be bringing CD spindles to the NE GA Handspinners (which may be changed to Fiber Arts) Guild meeting tomorrow, April 6, from 1 – 4 p.m. at the William Harris Homestead (www.harrishomestead.com). Bring your knitting, crocheting, or whatever and join us for an afternoon of fiber fun. I will have spinning fiber available for anyone who wants to try their hand at spinning. Come join us and leave with your own little spinning kit! ( I TOLD you I was a fiber pusher!)
Here is a project I made from my handspun yarns: Nessie, the Loch Ness Sea Creature Hand Puppet