According to Wikipedia
“Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibers, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery, or rope making.”
But did you know there are hundreds of different types of yarn created from natural and synthetic fibers? Each type of fiber has a specific quality and some are better than others depending on the project you are creating. Most crafters only know the yarns that are sold at big box stores like Joann’s & Michaels and have never tried merino superwash wool, cashmere or silk (which are my go-to yarn blends). Now I will be honest, when I started crocheting I didn’t know what cashmere felt like or that it was goat hair. And I definitely would not have tried anything that had wool on the label since I was “allergic” to it. What I didn’t know was that I am not allergic to wool, I am sensitive to yarns that still had guard hairs, lanolin, heavy dyes or even cleaning chemicals that were used in the manufacturing of the yarn. Another unknown fact was that if I washed and blocked the finished project a lot of these “sensitivity” issues would be taken care of. Now I know you are probably wondering why I would want to buy yarn, create a stunning new cardigan, wash it and wait a painful amount of time for it to dry just to find out if it is wearable or not. Well, luckily I now know which yarns I can use and which ones to stay clear of. When I find a new squishy silky yarn the first thing I do is rub it on the back of my neck. If the yarn can pass the neck test the next step would be to start working with it, I will start itching within the first 10 yards. On the very rare case that the yarn passes all of my tests, the garment is complete and I find that I can not wear it, I will graciously gift it to a friend or family member who will love it just the way it is.
Here is a list of the top fibers sold at yarn shops and even some more exotic choices. I know you will check some of these because I never would have thought some were actual fibers that could be used to create a project.
Natural fibers include: Wool, Merino wool, Pure new wool/virgin wool, Shetland wool, Mohair, Cashmere, Angora, Llama, Yak, Alpaca, Camel, Opossum, Musk Ox, Wolf, Buffalo hair, Cat, Dog, and Turkey or Ostrich feathers. Silk, Cotton, Linen, Rayon, Soy, Hemp, Nettle, Bamboo, Jute, Corn, and other unusual yarns made by using plant-based materials
Synthetic fibers Include: Nylon, Acrylic, Vinyl, Viscose, Polyester and even Plastic shopping bags!
Now I know that cost is a consideration for many of us, but over the years I have learned that “you get what you pay for”. If I am spending my time creating a garment or gift, I want it to be made with the best quality yarn possible. I will research which will have the best drape or which manufactured the softest for a baby. Of course with the large about of fibers on the market, there will definitely be pros and cons for each. Here are a few of the ones you should consider when purchasing your next skein.
Natural fiber Pros:
*Warm even when wet
*Takes dye well and resists fading.
*It’s a natural, renewable resource.
*It has antibacterial properties.
*Holds stitch definition better
*Can be blocked to hold shape
*Generally soft and nice to wear against the skin.
Synthetic fibers Pros:
*Easy to care for
*Usually can be machine washed and dried.
*Costs less than natural fiber yarns.
*Easy to find in stores.
Natural Fiber Cons:
*Most wools need to be hand washed, unless you get a superwash blend.
*Some find it itchy and uncomfortable.
*It can felt if accidentally washed
*Generally can cost more.
*Can not be dyed easily.
*Does not breath well.
*Will not keep you warm when wet.
*Is not fire resistant, will melt when it comes into contact with a heat source.
*Can be squeaky when you are working with it.
*Will not wick away moisture.
*Can not be blocked, must be ‘killed’ with an iron in order to shape the piece.
I know most of you have a favorite brand or blend to work with but I have a challenge for you. Google your closest local yarn shop and go there, feel the different fibers, even smell them. A friend recently had me smell the yarn she was buying and I stated it smelled like a farm! That was a good quality for her, (since she is a fiber spinner) it meant that the fibers were not overworked in the cleaning process. Now, I don’t really smell my fibers but I definitely feel to see how soft they are.
Whether you want to try a fancy blend or a simple skein, please try something new. Feel free to comment below with your new favorite finds, I am always in the market to add to my collection.
Till next time!