Posts tagged ‘fiber’

A “Go To” Yarn Roundup

So I guess I sorta left the topic hanging yesterday. I gave all these criteria for my favorite yarns, now lets discuss what those favorites are!

Classic Elite Liberty Wool – $7.50/50g – 100% Superwash Merino Wool – Worsted

Ever since I first used this yarn about a year and a half ago this has been my favorite yarn to work with for any project requiring a smooth worsted wool. It has phenomenal stitch definition, is wonderfully soft, and has great memory. It was originally released in a pretty broad spectrum of colors, but it wasn’t until this year that they added some beautiful neutrals, thus solidifying it as my top favorite yarn.

Knit Picks Swish – $4.69/50g – 100% Superwash Wool – Worsted

Swish comes in at a close second. It has all the same features as Liberty Wool, but doesn’t seem to have quite the same quality. Which, as you can see, is reflected in the price. However, since it is cheaper, I do frequently consider it if I’m working with a smaller budget than usual.

Knit Picks Stroll – $4.69/50g – 25% Nylon, 75% Superwash Wool – Fingering

I haven’t found even a close competitor for this yarn. While there are other yarns that give stroll a run for its money either in the quality or luxurious feel of the yarn, none of them come close to the price. Every other sock yarn I’ve been tempted by is at least twice the price, and I really have a hard time spending $25 for a pair of socks on a regular basis. It does seem like there’s room in the market for a medium priced sock yarn. Knit picks will set you back around $10/100g, while every other brand costs $20-$25. I’d love to find some reasonably high quality sock yarn for around $15. If you know of any I missed, please let me know!

Knit Picks Gloss – $5.99/50g – 70% Wool, 30% Silk – Fingering

I love, love this yarn with no complaints. well, maybe one. It really should be made available in the stroll tonal colorways.

Knit Picks Wool of the Andes – $2.69/50g – 100% Peruvian Wool – Worsted

My favorite for any felting project. I haven’t tried Cascade 220 yet, so I can’t offer a good comparison. Anyone want to jump in on this one?

Berroco Lustra – $12/100g – 50% Wool, 50% Tencel – Single Ply – Worsted

This one is a bit different, but a lot of fun to work with. It has great stitch definition and the Tencel gives it a wonderful sheen.

Spud and Chloe Sweater – $15/100g – 50% Cotton, 50% Wool – Worsted

I like this one for baby knits that are intended to be a bit more heirloom quality. it’s incredibly soft, spun to be a bit hardwearing, and is thoroughly washable.

Berroco Remix – $10/100g – 30% Nylon, 27% Cotton, 24% Acrylic, 10% Silk, 9% Linen – Worsted

I was really surprised that I liked this one as much as I did. But I’ve now used it in three projects, and I always love the result!

I got a comment yesterday, but I’d love some other folks to jump in too. What are you favorite yarns? Why?

May 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm Leave a comment

Knitting Basics: Intro and Info on Choosing Yarn

Intro

Over the last couple years as I’ve taken knitting more and more seriously, word seems to have gotten around that this is what I do and that I’m the person to ask when newer knitters of my acquaintance hit a wall in their own pursuit of the craft. I love getting these questions, often I don’t have all the answers, but I usually can get them going in the right direction.

As I was answering an email today, I realized that each of these questions could turn into marvelous little blog topics and that blogging gave me a unique opportunity to explore a topic with a bit of depth and then it would be out there and available for others with similar questions. Now, I don’t flatter myself that I’m the first blogger who has ever addressed these topics. But the internet is a big place, and having good info in multiple places means that a new knitter will be more likely to come across something helpful, weather it’s my blog or someone elses.

Choosing Yarn

So the question I wanted to address today was choosing yarn. The world is a very, very big place when it comes to yarn, and it’s only getting bigger. There are more yarn companies and indy dyers popping up all the time. It’s wonderful to have all these wonderful options, but for someone just getting started, it’s really overwhelming. It wasn’t that long ago that I was completely ignorant of yarn fiber content and how to choose the best yarns for each project I tackled. But I actually got up to speed pretty simply, because in spite of  the zillions of options, most options seem to be some variation of the same simple concepts. Here’s how to approach choosing yarn.

Phase 1: Consider

You’ll want to start by assessing your project, recipient, timing and the pattern you’re using.

1) Consider your project.

Most people, especially new knitters usually have a project in mind when they go to buy yarn. The kind of project you’re working on will dictate what the best yarn options will be. Is it a sweater? A scarf? A blanket? Socks? Mittens? For each of  these types of projects you’ll want to look for some specific features in your yarn.

  • Blanket – The sky is the limit here, you can pretty much get away with using anything.
  • Scarves – Most scarves are worn next to the skin, so you’ll want to choose something soft.
  • Sweater or other top – you’ll want to figure out if this is something you’ll wear next to your skin or will be layered over another shirt. If it’ll be next you your skin, you’ll want it very soft, if you’re going to layer it, you don’t need the fiber to be quite as soft, although typically, the more fitted the the garment, the softer you’ll want your fiber. There are some great yarns out there that work wonderfully for some projects that would make very uncomfortable sweaters.
  • Sock – These are interesting, while they are worn next to the skin, I have discovered that feet don’t seem to care quite as much about how soft the fiber around them is as your arms and neck seem to. You’re feet may be different.
  • Mittens – Again, close to skin, so the same rules apply. However much like your feet, your hands seem to be little less picky.

2) Consider the final recipient of your project.

This is very, very important. Is it for yourself, someone you can trust to care for your hand knitwear with the utmost care? Is it for a baby and are you going to want to be able to throw it in the washing machine? Is it for a dear friend, who loves your knitting but may forget to wash it properly? These are very, important things to consider.

3) Consider how long you’d like this project to take. 

Do you have a year to finish it? Or does it need to be done for a baby shower in a couple weeks? Yarns come in different weights, or thicknesses, and the thicker the yarn, the faster it’ll go. I’ll touch on this a bit more ins step 5.

4) Consider the pattern.

Does the pattern call for a specific kind of yarn? Usually the designer intended the pattern for that specific yarn, and you’ll get the best results by just following what they say. However, there are some very good reasons for substituting yarns, but it should be done carefully. At minimum, you should try to get the same weight and fiber content that is called for. I will go over all that should be considered in yarn substitutions in another “Knitting Basics” blog post.

Phase 2: Determine

Now it’s time to make some decisions!

5) Determine Fiber Content.

Based on the decisions you’ve made in the previous steps you’ll have a list of criteria for the yarn you choose. So you walk into your local yarn store or start shopping online. The options are endless. So let me give you a little outline of the various features you’ll get from different yarns. Generally speaking the fiberworld is divided into three categories, plant fiber, animal fiber, and synthetic fiber. Each one has it’s pluses and minuses. I’ve put together a chart to give you a general idea of the difference between each of these fibers.

Merino Wool Merino is sort of considered top of the food chain in the knitting world. It’s incredibly soft, fairly durable, and comparatively inexpensive when compared with your luxury animal fibers.
Peruvian Wool This is your basic wool yarn. It’s a bit scratchy, so I wouldn’t make a cowl neck sweater out of it. But it felts beautifully, and if you want to make a cheaper blanket, it’s a great option.
Superwash Wool Excellent for baby and kid knitting as well as socks as it’s essentially washable. This fiber goes through an extra treatment process that makes the yarn resistant to felting when washed.
Alpaca This fiber comes from animals that look like mini llamas. It’s very soft, however the tougher guard hairs can get into the yarn and make it a little “pokey” on occasion. It’s also about 4 times as warm as wool is.
Silk We all know what silk is. In the knitting world it is just as luxurious of a fiber. Often it’s combined with wool. And makes simply gorgeous final projects. One interesting note though is that silk is actually quite a bit warmer than wool, so it’s an excellent choice for hats and mittens to match your classiest coat.
Cotton This is baby knitting favorite. Totally washable, usually quite soft, it can also be very hard wearing as well. It does tend to pill a bit.
Bamboo Bamboo fiber is made from the pulp inside the bamboo plant. It is very soft and is often blended with other fibers to give it a beautiful sheen. Occasionally you’ll find a pure bamboo yarn.
Rayon/Modal This is a fiber that’s manufactured celulose out of naturally occuring polymers. That’s all I know about it’s orgin. I do know it’s a wonderfully smooth fiber that adds a lot of luxurious sheen when blended with wool or cotton.
Nylon A fiber that’s made from synthetic polymers. You will find nylon in most yarns designated as “sock yarn” as it gives the wools some extra durability.
Cheap Acrylic Avoid. I’ve heard it described as knitting with plastic grocery bags, and I couldn’t agree more.
Quality Acrylic Not all acrylic is created equal. Acrylic blends, especially ones manufactured by the higher quality brands can be quite nice to work with, and again acrylic is washable which is usually a bit win with people.

 

A more detailed PDF version of this chart can be downloaded here.

Take all this info with a grain of salt. There are huge variations between brands using the same fibers. It really is best to get your hands on the actual yarn and make an assessment for yourself. At the very least, I recommend reading the comments for a yarn you plan to buy on ravelry or some other favorite yarny site.

6) Determine Weight.

Usually a pattern will tell you what weight yarn you’ll need. Yarn weight terminology isn’t very intuitive at all. But here’s the rundown: Super Bulky and Bulky yarn is the thickest, then comes heavy worsted, and worsted, followed by double knitting, sport, fingering, then lace, in that order. Like I said earlier the thicker the yarn the faster it knits up. However, it’s also worth pointing out that some weights typically work well for certain types of projects.

  • Lace – As you may have guessed, this weight yarn is usually used for lace work.
  • Fingering – Typically used for socks
  • Sport – This is sometimes called baby weight yarn, probably because this weight is often used for baby knitting.
  • Double Knitting (DK) and Worsted  – These are your typical sweater weight yarns.
  • Bulky – Lots of “quick knits” are designed with bulky for obvious reasons.

So there you go, you’ve got the basics of navigating your Local Yarn Store. I will say that the information in steps 5 and 6 is just to give you a frame of reference. Any yarn that you get your hands on and want to work with could work for whatever project your looking to start.

Have fun shopping!

January 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Scheming and Planning

I fell in love this weekend. I had so much fun going to the smoky mountain spinnery. My only regret is I didn’t have enough time to be there all day long. I got to try the ashford traveler I’ve been eying and the majacraft rose. The rose was beautiful, and treadled so smoothly that even I could appreciate it, but it was WAY outside of even my theoretical price range. The little ashford is perfect though. I’m totally convinced that that’s the wheel I’m saving for.

Chuck was my hero in that store. For some reason I’m rediculously shy in private little establishments like yarn stores. So I stood there looking at the ashford trying to figure out how to start spinning on it without attracting any attention whatsoever. Which considering that there was nowhere to sit was pretty impossible. What a sight I would have made trying to peddle the wheel while squatting! So as I stood there stupidly petting the pretty piece of wood work, Chuck took charge and asked the owner for a stool I could use. 20 seconds later I was spinning! Like really spinning! On a wheel! The owner commented that I was going pretty fast and putting a lot of twist in it. Which I guess makes sense, since I’m always attempting to spin hard wearing sock yarn, so I’m always putting tons of twist in my spindled yarn. But I appreciated her comment. That’s how I learn, not with lessons, but with people commenting on things, letting me know there are different ways to do things to gain a different effect. So I reallized I didn’t have to pedal like a mad woman to make a light and lofty worsted weight yarn for a cuddly winter sweater. But still, over twisting or not, I was spinning.

I totally romanticize what having some new toy will do for my life. All I can think about with this little beauty is how much I want to settle down on cold nights while Chuck reads me a book, or how in the spring I’ll have dinner all ready and spend the last hour of my day spinning on the porch waiting for Chuck to come home. Such peaceful and homey little visions!

So now the scheming and planning for how I’m going to save my money begins.

November 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm 2 comments

Into the Mountains

Tomorrow my husband and I will be taking a fun little trip into the mountains of Tennessee. I’m very excited. I grew up in the northeast, and I’ve seen the green and white mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire at their peak multi-colored leaf seasons, but now I get to see the smokey mountains at their peak. How fun!

The best part? The Smokey Mountain Spinnery. How could the best part of a trip not have to do with fiber? I’m especially excited because there will be spinning wheels there to touch and feel. I’m hoping to have a little money saved in the next few months to buy a wheel, but I don’t know exactly which one I want. Based on my internet research, I’m leaning towards the Ashford traveler as it’s very versatile. I’m hoping they’ll have one there I can try out, which will be a trick since I don’t really know how to spin on a wheel yet.  I’ve gotten the advice from a couple different people to take lessons first then buy the wheel, but I don’t like to spend money and I have a decent track record for teaching myself a lot of things. I taught myself how to spin on a spindle and that turned out to be a rather successful endeavor. I also taught myself almost everything I know about knitting after my grandmother covered the knit and purl stitch with me. So I’m pretty confident I can muddle through figuring out a wheel on my own. But muddling through that in front of people at a store, now that could be a different story.  

We’ll be back on monday with the verdict on these two very important matters…

1) Can I teach myself to spin on a wheel in public without getting self conscious and freaking out?

2) Have I decided which wheel to be shameless about dropping hints to my husband about?

I know… quite a cliff hanger of a blogpost….oh the drama.

November 11, 2010 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

I just want one

Since I’m leaving my full-time job in a couple of months so I can be the super busy full-time wife and homemaker I want to be, Chuck and I have been revisiting the idea of pets. We both like animals and would love have a small hobby farm someday. We keep trying to figure out what kind of animals we can currently have on our little 1/3 of an acre. Obviously the livestock we’d like to have on our hobby farm is impossible, so we keep running through the list of standard (or not so standard) pets that lots of little suburbanites seem to enjoy.

Cat’s are out, I’m deathly allergic to them. That’s probably a slight exaggeration, however given that I literally seem to have a harder time breathing in a cat-hair coated home, gives my pause about that becoming my home.

Flying Squirrels. Yes, you read right. Chuck wants a flying Squirrel. Since they’re illegal in this state, I have an easy out. 🙂 All joking aside, the domestic breeds are pretty cool pets I’ve heard. Our state just doesn’t want people trying to tame them out of the wild. It’s actually a pretty dumb law.

Dogs. We have this thing that pets should be cheap or they should pay rent. Dogs don’t seem to fall in either category. I really don’t feel like stretching our food budget to include a 50 lb. dog that doesn’t do anything but make me walk him and look sweet. And no, companionship isn’t really a rent-paying skill in our minds. Chuck and I are very content with each others companionship and have tons of wonderful friends to keep us busy. So we really can’t justify the expense.

Goats. These guys totally pay their rent. Chuck and I love goat’s milk cheese. Win-win in my mind. But we don’t have a fence up yet, and can’t really afford it yet. Not to mention the maintenance of these guys is a little above what we can commit to right now. You can’t just drop them off at a goat kennel when you’re going on vacation. But they’re definitely in our future.

Sheep. See above.

I was starting to reconcile my brain to the fact that we wouldn’t have animals till we have our grown up house with that little bit of land. Untill this last weekend when we went to the rabbit exhibits at the state fair and got to see the angora rabbits up close. They’re adorable. I had wanted one a while back, but given up on the idea since I didn’t have enough time after work to take care of them. That problem is about to be solved. I did a little reading, and it turns out they make wonderful pets. You can house train them, and they’re very docile. They do require grooming twice a week. Oh shucks, you mean I have to sit down and pet and comb this little guy two whole times every week? Well, I guess I’ll just have to suck it up.  I’ll also get to harvest and use the wool they produce. Very exciting for this little fiber enthusiast.

The only barrier to this little pet is our floors. Even if we house train the wooly wabbit, he may forget fairly often about where he’s supposed to go. Not too often but often enough to make our carpet smell like pee. Not cool. One of the home improvements that is very high on our list is redoing our floors with laminate wood. That would make it much, much easier to clean up after an occasional accident.

So hopefully that adorable little guy in the picture is in our future. We’ll see how quickly we can save for that floor. 🙂

October 25, 2010 at 11:17 am Leave a comment

Freezing your Buns off is the Mother of Knitwear Design

Its officially fall. Oh, I know I was going on and on about how beautifiul fall is the other day, and it is. You’d think that a blog post waxing poetical would sorta mean that it’s officially fall. However, we’d missed the inagural event. I hadn’t yet had my annual freeze my buns of session because I under dressed because I hadn’t taken fall and it’s low temperatures seriously yet. That happend this weekend. My dear friend got married this past weekend.  It was a beautiful outdoor wedding, and I was so excited for her. She’s waited a good long time for this day, and I was so delighted to witness the event. BUT…the tempurature was way lower than I expected. I wore pantyhose, one of my warmer but still short sleeved dress, and had a cute black wrap. Totally didn’t cut it. By the time the ceremony was over Chuck was taking off his coat and draping it around me shoulders. By the end of the evening, I was so cold I was getting a bit dizzy and nautious. Wierdest thing I’ve ever experienced.

Side note: Can I just say I love being married. Instead of panicing and wondering what was going on and continuing to marinate in the cold and just get sicker. My wonderful husband carefully guided me straight into the house, found the shuttle back to our car and got me warm as quickly as humanly possible. Once I was warm I was so much better. Like I said, wierd.

One of my friends there, who also happened to be a bridesmaid, was much more prepared for the evening. She had the most beautiful hand-knit mohair stole that matched her dress perfectly. I was inspired. I’m a knitter, and I don’t have a single elegant artical of clothing for just such a time. What’s wrong with this picture? This must be fixed.

So yesterday was spent with some blueberry suri dream prototyping a shrug. I only had the blue on hand, but if it works as I am hoping, I’ll be making another in black to go with my more formal dresses. I’ve never actually knit with that yarn. I’ve had a ball on hand to play with for a while, but not really done anything with it. I feel like I’m knitting a cloud, it’s just so unbelievably soft. The best part about it is that I think I can make about 50% – 70% of the shrug with just one ball. That means that I can get a whole gorgeous alpaca/wool shrug for under $12!

October 18, 2010 at 9:19 am Leave a comment

Another New Convert, Me!

Back in May I went to the Carolina Fiber Festival. It was absolutely thrilling. It was my first fiber festival, and I only could spare an hour or two, but I still managed to snag a sweater quantity of 100% alpaca, a merino/silk batt and a few ounces of undyed lama/icelandic fiber. I was absolutely entranced by all the unspun fiber billowing around me. I loved the alpaca yarn, but I suddenly wasn’t as resolved as I had been about not getting into spinning. I decided to buy a few ounces of cheaper fiber for practicing, and something inexpensive, but gorgeous to motivate me to learn. I would use my little home made spindle, so if I never really took to it, the whole failed experiment would only cost me $15-$20.

I’d tried to spin on my little spindle before, but didn’t really get a good rhythm. This time, it took. I worked on it in spurts. I’m comfortable enough with knitting to bring it around with me, but not yet with my spindling. So I really only had those precious few hours I could grab on an occasional slow weekend. Eventually, I made it through all 3ish ounces of the icelandic/lama blend. With a quick tutorial on how to dye with coffee, this is how it turned out.

I’m actually quite thrilled. I was surprised how quickly I finally got it and how normal this yarn really looks! I can’t wait to make some cabley socks with it after my christmas knitting is done.

So now my aspirations have gotten higher. All I can think about is spinning and dying, techniques I want to learn, fibers I want to try, projects I want to knit with handspun yarn. While in Savannah, GA last weekend, I got a chance to stop in at Wild Fibre, a very, very cool LYS that stocked all kinds of fiber. I even got to touch some milk protein fiber. They were selling this gorgeous deliciousness by the bump. I got enough for socks… of course.

I’m sitting here trying to remind myself that I’m knitting on a deadline for christmas… but it’s calling me, oh, how it calls.

September 30, 2010 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment

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