Monday, March 28, 2011

Yarns, the good and bad

Woot woot, it's Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! Hooray for Eskimimi for organizing! Today's topic is "A tale of two yarns," and we are to discuss the yarns we love and hate. However, unlike most knitters, I don't harbor overwhelmingly strong feelings about yarn. Gasp! Shocking! I appreciate some yarns more than others, but I don't go out of my way to seek out rare or valuable yarns, and, since clearing my stash, just get what I need for the next project and don't squee too much about yarns in general. However even in my rather asperger spectrum of feeling toward yarns, some do end up a little lacking or superior compared to the others...

The only times I feel compelled to buy yarn is when I am traveling--if I visit another town's LYS, I do try to get something "local," or at the very least something unavailable  at my own LYS. So when I was in Boise, I got some Jojoland Melody.

Soon, they became these Knotty or Knice socks, way back in October of 2008.

Cute, eh? Check out the detailed twisted-stitch cables.

Unfortunately, this yarn did not hold up well. At all. They have been washed cold twice in the machine, and flat dried, and in the process they have felted and fuzzed terribly. I should have known about the fuzz, because the yarn shed fuzz that got formed into a "donut" around the yarn while I was knitting, but who knew it would become so, well, scraggly-beardy?

These socks don't stretch anymore, and now they are teeny little boots. I have small feet, and even so, it kind of feels like my feet are bound, and subsequently I have not worn them in a long time.

Saddest of all, the pretty (and tedious) cable pattern has been obliterated by the fuzzing and felting!

In the end, this yarn disappointed terribly, and taught me a valuable lesson: don't be tempted by the colorway no matter how pretty, it's the base yarn that's important!

As for good yarns...the longer I knit, the more I graviate towards sock/fingering weight (I believe that's 4-ply for the Europeans/Brits) yarn, even for non-sock items. Many sweaters and tops knit with heavier yarn have started to droop (or just make people look bulky), moreover a lot of fun vintage patterns are written for fingering weight yarn. Besides, sock yarns, specifically, are (supposed to be) designed with additional qualities that make them good for socks, but are advantageous for other garments as well. They are 1) non itchy, 2) sproingy, and 3) machine washable (and sometimes dryable). Also, except for uber-high-demand brands/colorways (madelinetosh and wollmeise, I'm looking at you!), they tend to be inexpensive and get good yardage. I've made a lot of sleeveless tops, as they are my fave thing to knit, and the only two I wear regularly are the ones knitted with sock yarn: Golden Poplar and Jersey.

Both are knitted from "sock" yarns which have held up nicely in shirt form. First, about Golden Poplar. It's knit from nice, cheap, Knitpicks Stroll (way back in the day, in 2009, when we walked uphill both ways and only like 1000 people were on Ravelry, it had the less sexy name of Essentials).

 It is 75% superwash merino wool and 25% nylon, and the nylon helps it keep its shape. Here it is almost 2 years later (this was finished in July 2009), looking pretty much the same! (Sorry about the weird shadow; that is the biggest patch of sunlight today.)
Even the underarm portion, which tends to be the first area to get felted and icky, looks pretty good, after an estimated 10-15 wearings.

The yellow Jersey is knit with Spud and Chloe Fine, which is 80% wool and 20% silk. The wool itself is tightly spun for sproingines, and the silk gives it a lovely sheen.

This yarn knitted up easily without splitting or fuzzing, and, while this top is only 6 months old (done in Oct 2010), it has held up through several washings and bounced back to its original shape. Oddly enough, it is a hand-wash but machine-dry yarn (!). This yarn was a souvenir from a trip to Denver, and I am wishing really hard that a LYS starts carrying this yarn soon!

So there you go, one "bad" sock yarn and two "good" sock yarns, with lessons learned. I am working out the math to knit up one of the great 70's dresses from the vintage patterns that Betty sent, and I'll be using one of these "good" sock yarns for sure!

PS: To see all other 2KCBW posts of this topic, click here.


mooncalf said...

Oh I wish we had knitpicks in the UK. And I wish we had Spud & Chloe too.

I an see that today's Blog Week subject matter is going to be very bad for my budget as I see all the lovely yarns that people love.

I don't always read your blog in a browser. Do you have a new design? I like it.

Julie said...

awesome yarn reviews!! That's great to know about Knitpicks Stroll, I haven't used that yet. Or the Spud and Chloe! I'm going to participate in this as well, but starting tomorrow. I didn't want to detract from Mod Mondays.

tina said...

yOU ARE A WAY BETTER WOMAN THAN I. I wimped out, took the 5th, pled insanity. :) GREAT post Yo-El!