Spinning yarns about yarn construction

Sunday in class there was a question about yarn construction. The woman had attended a knitting retreat recently and was concerned that the other attendees seemed to have special antennae for sussing out a DK from a worsted from a bulky. She felt the only way she could tell was to do a swatch.

Which really is the only way to tell.

But I started going off about yarn, how a single-ply can be all lofty and fat and still be considered worsted, whereas a plied yarn can appear thinner but also be worsted. That the air contained in the single gets smished down in the knitting, whilst plied yarns hold their girth better.

Suddenly I stopped in my tracks. "I am totally making this up," I admitted.

Though I review yarns for a publication, I suspect it's my facility with adjectives, not my deep and abiding fiber knowledge that maintains this gig. And deadlines. I can meet a deadline. OK, maybe it's the adjectives....


In the course of doing this, I've learned a truck load about yarn. Most of it based on personal observation rather than at the knees of veteran fleece judges or yarn manufacturers. I've learned that I have a preference for cabled-yarns, they're so springy and finished looking. I tend to adore silk-wool blends, but find cashmere kind of "meh" unless it's of extremely high quality; give me baby alpaca any old day, but blend it, I find 100% alpaca is obstreperous. Acrylics and novelties have their place. Linen and hemp rock. And there's nothing like a fine cotton, organic especially, for easy-on-the-skin baby clothes.

I get confused about things like crimp and twist-per-inch, S-twists and Z-twists and there's a lot about sheep breeds I don't know. But that's what keeps it compelling. You can spend a lifetime learning about the fiber arts and never get bored.

I suppose as a teacher it's fine to pass along opinions as long as I cast them as such. And to learn from my students, fellow teachers and industry professionals. We're all WIPs.


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