Day 1: A tale of two yarns

March 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week I’m going to change tacks a bit and join in on Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011!

Today’s topic is to discuss two yarns, comparing them, or just talking in general about what yarns and fibers one prefers to use.

My fiber focus has mostly centered on wool this past year. Back when I first began to knit, I used acrylic because that’s what my grandmother and my mom used. Later on, when I learned to crochet, I also used acrylic, and every time I took back up knitting and/or crochet I pretty much got sucked (pun intended) into the abyss of acrylic.

On second thought, perhaps always associating the word “suck” with acrylic is being, well, a bit unfair. It’s not really acrylic’s fault it’s not biodegradable. In fact, it makes great toys since it tends to knit/crochet to a firmer texture, and comes in lots of loud colors that kids love. But I think I associate acrylic with fiber unhappiness because for so long I spent time without much choice in yarn at all, the vast majority of which was acrylic, and very few patterns, even fewer of which could be remotely called stylish, or even functional. On one hand I was able to create a lot of designs unimpeded by patterns, but at the same time, three types of boring yarn don’t do much to inspire fashionable anything. Hence the dog coat for a poodle, and a lot of crocheted stuffed animals (amigurumi not being a term that I would learn until college).

Wool wins my hooks and needles and spindles because I love that it is such a forgiving fiber, which I find much easier to manipulate into k2togs or execute flawless crochet shells. Name a quality you’re in search of and I will probably be able to name a sheep breed, or at least my reference books could help me find an answer. Looking for smooth and silky? Try Bluefaced Leicester. In search of crunchy and rustic? Jacob yarn spun from the whole fleece might be a good choice. Cushy and squooshy? Polwarth! There’s truly a wool for every need, even housing insulation.

In some cases, buying wool (or at least animal fibers) can help save a way of life and a breed of sheep from being endangered; here Shetland in particular comes to mind. Buying local is also possible with wool, which helps me avoid buying fibers that are processed in a way that is harmful to the environment, to the workers, and to the animals. In some cases I’ve even been able to meet the animal who produced the wool and been able to see for myself that he or she is treated well.

However, I have to admit that I love other fibers too: cotton and alpaca have lately intrigued me. Hopefully Kif doesn’t think it’s animal cruelty though…


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