How to Choose A Yarn Base

February 27th, 2021 IG Live Outline and References

How to Choose A Yarn Base

Let’s Talk Fiber Content

Why?

If substituting yarn in a pattern

Find a yarn similar in content and weight, so that it will behave in the pattern the way the designer intended. Each fiber content and blend of contents has characteristics that make them ideal for different reasons. If you have to make large changes, let’s say due to budget constraints, use the following information to understand how your changes will affect your final products.

If designing a pattern ask yourself

What is the purpose of the finished object? 

How and where will it be used / worn? 

How do you want it to behave? 

What utility will it have?

Use those answers with the knowledge of how fiber content behaves to make the best choice.

These are blanket generalizations as things like fiber quality, yarn weight and yarn structure will alter the effect of these fibers.

Fiber Content Categories

Natural, Semi Synthetic, Synthetic

Break down by 

Source – Look – Feel – Characteristics

Natural

Animal and Plant Fibers

Animal FibersVarious Wools from Hairy Mammals

  • Sheep
    • Source – Sheep (Many Breeds – Merino, Icelandic (Lopi), Shetland, Targhee
    • Look ranges from little to very fuzzy depending on preparation 
    • Feel ranges from soft to very itchy depending on quality
    • Characteristics 
      • good memory
      • good elasticity
      • resistant to moisture
      • moisture wicking
      • good insulation
      • good breathability
      • little to strong stitch definition
      • pills over time
      • moderately weak
  • Cashmere   
    • Source – Cashmere Goats (undercoat) expensive
    • Look – fuzzy, fine halo
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics 
      • lightweight
      • good insulation
      • lower stitch definition
      • moderately weak
      • lower Breathability
      • pills easily
  • Alpaca 
    • Source – Alpaca Breeds – Huacaya (most popular, fluffy) Suri (less common, silky hair like locks)
    • Look – fuzzy, fine halo
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • lightweight
      • good drape
      • moderately weak
      • no memory- doesn’t hold shape well
      • grows with wear
  • Camel 
    • Source – Camel (undercoat)
    • Look – slightly fuzzy
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • lightweight
      • good drape
      • some memory
      • moderately weak
  • Llama 
    • Source – Llama (undercoat)
    • Look – slightly fuzzy
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • very light (hollow core)
      • good drape
      • little to no memory
      • moderately weak
  • Mohair 
    • Source – Angora Goat
    • Look – very fuzzy halo with a high luster and soft sheen
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • very light 
      • very durable
      • good elasticity
      • wrinkle resistant
      • decent drape
      • little to no stitch definition
  • Angora 
    • Source – Angora Rabbit (undercoat)
    • Look – very fuzzy halo with a high luster and soft sheen
    • Feel – very soft silky feel
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • very light 
      • decent drape
      • no elasticity
      • little to no stitch definition
      • felts easily
  • Yak  
    • Source – Yak (undercoat)
    • Look – fuzzy
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • very light 
      • decent drape
      • good breathability
      • moderate stitch definition
  • Qiviut 
    • Source – Musk Ox (undercoat)
    • Look – fuzzy with a fine halo
    • Feel – extremely soft
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • very light
      • felt resistant
      • Delicate
      • little stitch definition
  • Vicuna
    • Source Vicunaa cousin of the llama
    • Look – fuzzy with a fine halo
    • Feel – extremely soft – supposedly the softest in the world
    • Characteristics
      • very warm
      • very light
      • good drape
      • little to no memory
      • little stitch definition
  • Silk 
    • Source Silkworms (Wild Moths make Tussah Silk, Bombyx Mori fed Mulberry leaves make Mulberry Silk)
    • Look – shiny, lustrous, smooth
    • Feel – smooth silky
    • Characteristics
      • very strong 
      • absorbs moisture
      • no elasticity
      • dries quickly
      • good drape
      • good stitch definition

Plant Fibers

Cotton, Linen, and Hemp

  • Cotton 
    • Source – Cotton Plant
    • Look – smooth
    • Feel – ranges from moderate to very soft
    • Characteristics 
      • good breathability
      • little insulation making it a cooler fabric
      • strong and durable
      • easy care
      • good drape
      • absorbent
      • no elasticity
      • moderately heavy
      • high water retention causes it to stretch and sag
      • can be splitty
  • Mercerization – a chemical treatment to make cotton take dyes better
    • Characteristic Changes to the Cotton
      • Stronger
      • Higher Luster/Shine 
      • More Absorbant
  • Linen  
    • Source – Flax Plant
    • Look – straw like appearance with slight sheen
    • Feel – ranges from moderate to very rough, softens with washing
    • Characteristics
      • good breathability
      • thin and sheer 
      • good drape
      • great moisture wicking
      • drys quickly
      • little insulation making it a cooler fabric
      • very strong
      • easy care
      • smooth texture
      • low elasticity
      • wrinkles easily
  • Hemp 
    • Source – Hemp Plant
    • Look – straw like appearance with small thread like fly aways
    • Feel – ranges from moderate to very rough, softens with washing
    • Characteristics
      • very durable
      • easy care
      • little insulation making it a cooler fabric
      • resistant to wrinkles
      • moderately stiff
      • no elasticity

Semi-Synthetic Fibers

Rayon and Most Superwash Treated Wool

  • Rayon – (chemically processed cellulose fibers)
    • Source – cellulose fibers (commonly from various woods and plants like bamboo)
  • Two Main Chemical Processes
    • Viscose (can be used on label instead of rayon) – uses harsh chemicals on cellulose fibers
      • Viscose from bamboo (Ravelry states Rayon from Bamboo) 
      • Modal – made from “particularly high-quality cellulose” using the viscose process
    • Tencel – uses the lycocell process that involves a special solvent and less harsh chemicals
      • Look – smooth with a high shine and luster
      • Feel – very soft and silky
      • Characteristics
        • excellent drape
        • strong and durable
        • breathable
        • little insulation making it a cooler fabric
        • no elasticity
        • loses strength when wet
  • Most Superwash Treated Wool 
    • The Chlorine-Hercosett method is the most common form of Superwash Treatment. Wool is treated with harsh chemicals & then coated in a polymer based resin (becomes plastic).
      • Look – adds a slight shine/luster and smoother finish
      • Feel – adds a slightly softer feel
      • Characteristic Changes to the Wool
        • felt resistant
        • less elastic (grows with blocking)
        • heavier
        • very weak once coating wears off

Synthetic Fibers

Acrylic, Nylon, and Polyester

Petroleum based polymers (plastic) – use fossil fuels

  • Acrylic
    • Source – Polyacrylonitrile- petroleum based polymer resin (becomes plastic)
    • Look – slightly fuzzy
    • Feel – ranges from soft to very itchy
    • Characteristics 
      • lightweight
      • moderately warm
      • strong and durable
      • moderate elasticity
      • easy care
      • felt resistant
      • pilling ranges from little to moderate
      • resists wrinkles
      • drape ranges from little to moderate
      • sometimes squeaky to work with
  • Nylon 
    • Source – various synthetic polymers composed of polyamides (plastic)
    • Look – smooth and shiny
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics 
      • very strong and durable
      • good elasticity
      • good drape
      • water repellant
      • pills easily
  • Polyester (chenille / faux fur)
    • Source – polyethylene terephthalate (a synthetic polymer)
    • Look – smooth and shiny
    • Feel – very soft
    • Characteristics 
      • strong and durable
      • holds hape
      • water repellant
      • dries fast
      • wrinkle resistant
      • easy care
      • little to no breathabilit

Please send me a message if you think I failed to include something important or if you think I used a faulty reference.

Important Considerations for Another How to Choose A Yarn Base Talk

Yarn Weight (thickness)

Yarn Construction (single, chainette, boucle) and Spin (thick and thin, woolen vs. worsted, z spin for crocheters)

Yarn Color/Novelry Appearances (tweed, heather, marled, variegated)

Environmental Impact (sustainability and carbon footprint)

References

Fiber Content Basics (references that include many fiber types)

https://www.marthastewart.com/1108119/choosing-knitting-yarn

https://spinoffmagazine.com/angora-myths-facts/

https://www.hemptopia.com/types-of-yarn/

https://www.spinderellas.com/fiber-facts#:~:text=Vicu%C3%B1a%20is%20world%20renowned%20for,animal%20fiber%20in%20the%20world

Cashmere

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-is-cashmere-made_n_5877de30e4b0b3c7a7b04b81

Camel

https://www.britannica.com/topic/camel-hair#:~:text=Camel%2Dhair%20fibre%20has%20greater,and%20is%20warm%20and%20comfortable

https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/camel-hair-shows-shape-memory-/1017333.article

Qiviut

https://www.qiviut.com/

Llama

Yak

Mohair

Vicuna

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/sustainability/inside-the-business-of-vicuna-the-wool-worth-more-than-gold

https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/fashion/world-softest-vicuna-wool-extinction-5362390/

https://bellatory.com/clothing/The-Rarest-Fabric-in-the-World

Silk

https://yarnsub.com/articles/fibers/silk

https://www.silkbeddingdirect.com/tussah-silk-duvets-35-w.asp

Hemp

https://cfda.com/resources/materials/detail/hemp

Linen

https://www.britannica.com/technology/linen#:~:text=Linen%2C%20Fibre%2C%20yarn%2C%20and,discovered%20in%20ancient%20Egyptian%20tombs

http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Linen.html

Cotton

https://knitfarious.com/knitting-with-cotton-yarn-properties-uses-more/

https://www.britannica.com/technology/mercerization

http://blog.lionbrand.com/mercerized-cotton-yarn/

Semi Synthetic Fibers

https://bthechange.com/how-viscose-rayon-fabric-masquerades-as-bamboo-clothing-b-the-change-media-89f0e3038179

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rayon#Modal

Superwash Treatments

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1478-4408.1975.tb03228.x

http://consciouslycrochet.com/truth-superwash-wool/#:~:text=The%20Hercosett%20Superwash

https://www.making-stories.com/blog/why-is-superwash-yarn-not-sustainable

https://www.making-stories.com/blog/are-there-sustainable-superwash-options

%20Treatment,-For%20those%20who&text=To%20overcome%20such%20issues%2C%20the,more%20resistant%20to%20temperature%20changes

https://www.schoeller-wool.com/35588/Products/Industrial-yarns/EXP/index_group.aspx

GOTS Standard

https://www.global-standard.org/the-standard

Synthetic Fibers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrylic_fiber

http://polymerdatabase.com/Fibers/Acrylics.html#:~:text=Acrylic%20Fibers&text=For%20a%20fiber%20to%20be,vinyl%20acetate%20and%20methyl%20acrylate.&text=It%20is%20manufactured%20as%20a,hairs%2C%20and%20spun%20into%20yarns

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyester

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