Sunday, January 27, 2013

Twenty Twelve Tip #2 - Know your fibres

When I first started in yarn craft, I didn't know a lot about fibres. I based my choice of yarn on the colour, the squishyness/softness and, mostly, the price. As a result, I usually ended up buying acrylic yarn. It was cheap, easily obtainable, with lots of colours and usually felt silky smooth. I would use this yarn for all of my different projects. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with acrylic or other synthetic yarns, when tasked with the right project. I saw natural fibre yarns as more expensive and more scratchy, so I didn't usually bother with them.

It wasn't until last year that I really clued on to the fact that different fibres had different properties and you had to find the right project to take advantage of those properties, and not be hindered by it.

For example, all of my amigurumi projects are made with acrylic. Initially this was due to the colour and price factor, but I later learned that acrylic doesn't have a lot of elasticity - the yarn itself doesn't really stretch - which is what you want with amigurumi, so it keep its shape. 
Mr Minion here is made of acrylic yarn. If I'd chosen a different fibre, he might not have held his shape so well. The pattern can be found here
This inelastic quality isn't so good in other projects, such as hats. In a hat, you want it to be able to stretch. Some of the stretch comes from the cast on and stitch you use - such as the ribbed brim. But, depending on the style of hat, you also want the body to stretch. When you're wearing a beanie, you don't want to feel like your head is in a vice (this is not totally reliant on the yarn, it also comes from the sizing). And with a tam or beret style hat you usually need to block it. Blocking doesn't work so well with synthetics, but it works very well with natural fibres (wool, alpaca etc).
I made this hat using an acrylic yarn. While it was the colour and weight (and price!) I wanted, it didn't work out too well for the hat. It has no stretch in the body so when I tried to block it, I didn't get the outcome I wanted. It isn't all bad, but I think I will make it again using wool. Find the pattern here
So when you're planning your next project, think about what properties it needs and choose the yarn accordingly. I've only covered a few things, but there are plenty of websites that cover that go into more depth about the different qualities of different fibres. But the best way to learn is to try! Get some different types of yarn, knit up some swatches or samples and get a feel for how each of the different fibres work.

No comments:

Post a Comment