Thursday, May 6, 2010

Let's talk yarn.

Oh, sweet yarn. The knitter's life force. Or kryptonite, depending on your perspective. If you're me, for example, it is the most incredible stuff on earth - woolly happiness. If you're my husband, on the other hand, it's the destroyer of all our financial hopes and dreams. It's all about perspective.

But since you're reading this, I'm going to assume that you A) are not my husband, B) are at least moderately interested in yarn and knitty things, and C) are physically capable of navigating away from my blog if talk about yarn completely bores you. Hopefully you won't do C though. :)

So yarn. There are so many different kinds of yarn and sooooo many different artisans who hand dye all of those different kinds of yarns. I can't possibly go through all of them, nor can I possibly go through MOST of them. So I'll just go through some of them. At a later date I will compile some pictures of different yarns dyed in the same colorways so my readers can get a sense of how different yarns take dye, side by side. Probably not tonight, though. :)

*DISCLAIMER: These are just my opinions as a humble little knitter. You may not agree with everything I've said, in which case I'd love to hear it!*

No discussion on yarn would be complete without this extremely popular yarn (and deservedly so). My good friend Theresa of Little Turtle Knits was one of the first hand dyers I know of to use this farm's yarn way back in the very early 2000's. Back then they were known as something else - of course the name escapes me right now. Since then, most yarn dyers have this yarn base as part of their repertoire, and rightfully so! I absolutely love Cestari yarns. They sell a few different types of yarn. The one most commonly found amoung hand dyers and knitters is their superfine merino, followed closely by their fine merino. I'll just be honest right now and say that I don't really know what the difference is between their Superfine and their Fine. I've never had the occasion to have both at the same time to compare. They are both easily recognizable as Cestari, and are both hardy yarns which soak in dye quite well and have what I would call a matte finish to them. I mean this as distinguished from something like Blue Faced Leicester or Eco Wool, both of which have a bit more sheen to them. I have to say, though, that my favorite yarn of theirs is their Traditional 2-ply yarn. In particular, I love their Blue Denim solid - this is what I use to make my Skeiny Jeans. When I first receive the skein, I must admit it's a bit rough to the touch. But once it's been washed, it has the butteriest feel to it - I just love it. It is also a very hardy yarn and will withstand most rough and tumble play. I love how natural it feels, how unprocessed. If you're looking for something that creates a stiffer, hardier fabric (especially cloth diapering longies) - you can't go wrong with Cestari.

Blackberry Ridge
My second favorite yarn - hereafter referred to as BBR. This yarn is thick and spongy - almost springy. If you pull on either end of a piece of BBR yarn it has so much stretch to it yet doesn't loosen its plies easily - it's very tightly plied. It is perhaps one of the softest yarns, in my opinion, and is VERY vibrant in terms of how it receives dye. It is a thick yarn and therefore doesn't have the most delicate drape. But it is SO incredibly soft, I highly recommend it for anything going against a little babe's skin. Since teeny tiny babes are not usually standing around much, I don't mind the stiffer drape. For cloth diapering, I absolutely love this yarn. The fabric it creates is very thick and really holds up well even with the heaviest wetters. It does not pill very much, nor does it felt very much.

Blue Faced Leicester
Another yarn base that is extremely popular in the knitting world, especially around Hyena Cart. It is also a pretty springy yarn, though it is much thinner in terms of the fabric it creates. The plies are thinner and slightly looser, in general, though it is still a pretty hardy yarn and will take rough and tumble play relatively well. I have found that it pills and felts more than either Cestari or BBR, but it also has a nicer, more delicate drape. I tend to use this for tops or delicate accessories. It receives dye rather boldly, in my experience, and has a bit of shine to it (as compared to Cestari or BBR). It is definitely a thinner yarn, though, and I often find that I need to use smaller needles in order to achieve gauge on patterns (again, as compared to Cestari or BBR). BFL is not one of my favorite yarns to knit with, personally, as I find it to be a bit "hairier" while knitting - though finished products done with BFL are quite beautiful.

I don't have an enormous amount of experience with Targhee, though I have used it some. It seems very similar to BBR to me, though perhaps a bit less refined. I find some thick & thinness to it, and have often found little chunky bits along the yarn. I happen to like that, so it's never been a problem for me. It is also *extremely* springy and very tightly plied. It's a very soft yarn to the touch, but creates a very thick fabric like BBR does.

Marr Haven
Oh, Marr Haven - how to describe you?? You are chunky, you are hardy, you are bumpy, you sometimes have little veggie bits and grass bits in you, you sometimes smell like a farm. All as it should be. MH has such an unrefined feel to it, you either love it or hate it. I love it. But it takes a while to get used to while knitting. It's a very sticky yarn, in the sense that it is not drawn easily over needles. If all you've got is wooden needles, hang it up sistah (or brothah). Invest in some metals if you're gonna be using Marr Haven. But once you've washed it - Holy Soft, Batman. Nothing butterier! It is pilly but not in the same way as other yarns are pilly. Marr Haven releases enormous chunks of yarn once in a while, but somehow the integrity of the fabric is never compromised. At all. It is HARDY. I have a feeling you could be dragged through town by your knees wearing Marr Haven longies and nobody could ever tell. Not that I'm encouraging anyone to do that. In fact, wow. What a horrible image. Sorry.

Again, I don't have too much experience with Purewool but what I do know of it, I like. It seems to be pretty tightly plied but less so than BBR or Targhee. It's springy and a very rounded yarn. It is also pretty soft to the touch while still maintaining a very nice drape. It's a forgiving yarn in terms of stitch mistakes (not that I make stitch mistakes - I am an EXCELLENT KNITTER), though I'm not sure exactly why. It blooms nicely and becomes even softer once washed.

Eco Wool
Shiny! I've only ever worked with this yarn twice but both times I was struck by how delicately shiny it was! The most beautiful sheen, truly. It was not as tightly plied as others I'm used to, and is a sort of flat yarn. By that I mean that when you squish it down, it flattens easily - the plies all lay side by side. I mention this in comparison to a rounder yarn such as BBR, Marr Haven, Targhee, or even Purewool.

Gaia Organic Merino
A very popular yarn, perhaps one of the most beautiful drapes I've ever seen worked up. The worsted weight is a very light worsted, bordering even on DK or sport (for those non-knitters out there, I mean that it's a really skinny yarn and you'd have to use smaller needles to avoid the fabric looking to holey). It takes dye brilliantly and is uber-soft. I highly recommend this yarn for a newborn layette. It does pill and felt easier than the hardier yarns I've mentioned, but with the littlest ones this doesn't seem to be as much of a problem. I use this most with tops and accessories.

I think that my posting time is up - my 4yo has fallen asleep leaning into my back. It's becoming increasingly uncomfortable (for ME - she's snoozing away like she's been drugged) so I'm going to carry her upstairs now.

Thanks for reading! :)


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