28 August 2012

Favorite types of yarn

There was a post on Ravelry awhile back about favorite yarn weight... That one's easy, for me: DK. DK (Double Knit) yarn is between sport and worsted weights, and it's thicker than sock (fingering) yarn. For reference, if I hold two strands of sock yarn, I get what is approximately a worsted weight. I like DK because I can sub it for anything from a fingering weight to a worsted and get nice results. That may sound crazy, but it always seems to work out in gauge for me.

That is a dk-weight shawl, made from Tosh Merino dk. The pattern called for lace, but a hard blocking left me with a scarfy shawl that had more substance than a lace would give me. And, if I'm being wholly honest, I tend to like the colorways in dk yarns better than others.

But I wasn't planning on talking weight, anyway. I wanted to talk about structure. And I'm going to use the lovely yarns from Little Red Bicycle to illustrate.

Okay, so there are so many ways to make yarn. There are single ply yarns, which are just spun fiber. They're kind of fuzzy and tend to pill more than their plied counterparts. Here's a single:

2-ply yarns are like singles, except they're half as thick, and two of them are twisted together. A lot of lace yarns are 2-ply, but sock yarns can be, too:

Here's a 3-ply, which adds another ply to the mix. It looks twistier, doesn't it?:

There's a 3-ply technique called Navajo plying, which takes one long single and spins it in such a way that it actually creates three plies as you spin it, which is kind of neat! Here's an example from Eleven Hills on Etsy:

There are a ton of other plying/spinning methods to create yarn, too. Boucle, for example, is made by using two different tensions on singles. So you get loopy bits all of the yarn. My favorite type of ply, though, is a braided ply, like Cascade Eco Cloud:
Can you see the difference here? It's like a bajillion little chains make up the yarn. I find it's wonderfully stretchy and mooshy, and you can knit up something bulky that doesn't weight too much, because the yarn isn't solid... All those teensy gaps act like air pockets when knitted up. It's not as robust as a super twisty yarn, and it doesn't shed or pill as much as a single-ply yarn.

One of my favorite pairs of socks were knitted from a braided cashmere yarn, and I was too much of a beginner to realize how incredible it was... The ball band is long lost, and I wish I could figure out what the brand was! I wouldn't call braided yarns rare, but the few you see are generally pretty plain. I'd love to see an indie dyer experimenting with them, though!

Tell me your favorites, or help me solve my mystery yarn! It's definitely a high percentage of cashmere, and that's just about all I know.


(I'll be picking a giveaway winner soon!)

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