Knowing Your Yarn

In the olden days, knitters had a very limited choice when it came to what yarn to use for their projects. Here in the UK, where we have an abundance of sheep, pure wool was really the only choice. Wool has many advantages when it comes to knitting as it is hard wearing, warm and breathable, but it is also difficult to launder and can be quite scratchy on the skin. Luckily, the choice of different yarns has grown considerably and even though many knitters still refer to everything as “wool”, there are many other blends or options for knitting with.


The major advantage of acrylic is that it is cheap. Acrylic is a man-made fibre and it can be made far more cheaply than natural fibres such as wool or cotton. However, acrylic can sometimes stretch out of shape quickly and many experienced knitters do not like the finish they get while knitting with acrylic yarn. It’s a good choice for baby clothes though as it will stand up to repeated washing. More expensive yarns are often blended with some acrylic in it to give it some of the hard wearing properties yet keep the feel of a more expensive yarn.


Cotton is an ideal choice for lightweight, summer knits and it can be dyed into a huge range of colours. Cotton isn’t as stretchy as other fibres though and can be awkward to knit with, depending on the sort of project which is being attempted. It can be easily washed and laundered though and this makes it a good choice for baby and children’s clothing. All major yarn brands have their range of yarns which contain at least a percentage of cotton.


One of the newer types of yarns on the market is made from alpaca fleece, either imported or reared here in the UK. Alpaca is very soft to the touch and is more suitable for people who have allergies to wool. Artesano 4 ply is one of the best known alpaca yarn brands in the UK and is widely available in stores and online. Artesano 4 ply comes in a range of great colours and shades which makes it suitable for both adult and baby clothing. The structure of the alpaca fibre is different from that of traditional lamb’s wool, which means that garments made with yarn containing alpaca can be up to 60% warmer than garments made with pure wool.


It’s unusual to find yarn which is 100% silk for knitting with, but many brands add silk fibres into their yarns as it gives the finished product a delicate sheen. Combining silk with merino wool, alpaca or even cotton makes a sturdy and long-lasting yarn which can be used for a variety of clothing and soft furnishing projects. Bamboo and silk is another popular yarn combination, and it is used by crochet fanatics as well as knitters as it produces a fabric which drapes well, making it great for using in shawls or clothing such as cardigans.

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