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Favorite Fiber/Yarn For Knitting?

For all the years I’ve been knitting and spinning, I’ve had the chance to knit with a lot of different fibers.  I’m not sure I could pick a favorite fiber/yarn.

Narrowing Down My Favorite Fiber / Yarn

First of all, there are no fibers with which I wouldn’t knit.  But there are factors to various yarns that make knitting more or less enjoyable for me.  What factors affect your preference for yarn/fiber? Here are mine (in order of importance for me).

  • Smoothness
  • Crimp/Stretch/Give
  • Gauge
  • Resulting Fabric Drape
  • Ease of Splitting
  • Tightness of Twist and Ply

All of the following statements are generalizations.  There are circumstances where my opinions might even be the exact opposite.

Smoothness

I like smoother and silkier yarns.  This eliminates some fibers right off the bat.  I’m not usually a fan of Romney or Shetland.  They are usually scratchier than I prefer.  While I loved knitting with Icelandic wool, I found the resulting fabric to be a bit more itchy than I like.  I don’t like raw silk. I find it very harsh.  Hemp is very hard on my hands as well.  And the last fiber I would choose to work with is pet hair…even if it was blended with wool.  It’s harsh and scratchy.

Crimp/Stretch/Give

When I knit, I prefer using a fiber that has some “give” or stretch to it.  Cotton, hemp, tencel (and most other vegetable fibers) seem to have no give. Silk has little or no give either.  So while I love how smooth and soft silk can be, I find it difficult on my hands to knit with it.  For most of these stretchless fibers, I prefer when they’re blended with wool or acrylic to provide more bounce.  For those times when I need to knit with cotton, for instance, I will only use it if it’s mixed with acrylic.  This blending gives it a softness and makes it a lot easier on my hands when I knit.

Gauge

I have always preferred finer yarns for knitting.  Knitting with US 9 (5.5 mm) or larger is very hard on my hands, arms and shoulders.  Fingering weight to DK weight yarns are my preferred weights of yarn.

Resulting Fabric Drape

Normally, I want yarn to create a fabric that holds some shape.  Loftier yarns or yarns that bloom when you wash/block them are typically what I look for.  This varies based on the kind of garment I’m making.  I don’t typically want a scarf or a shawl to be stiff. But when it comes to a sweater or hat, I want the fabric to have inherent shape to it.

While I love knitting with fine alpaca, I am not a fan of the resulting fabric for a garment that is worn.

Ease of Splitting

Knitting goes faster if the yarn isn’t prone to splitting easily. This is a very minor factor, as I can work pretty easily with yarns that split.  But when it comes to tinking or knitting when I’m tired, it’s a little easier to knit with yarns that don’t split easily.

Tightness of Twist and Ply

Mostly when I’m using the yarn to cast on or sew up a garment, the twist and ply become more important for me.  Both casting on and sewing with yarn effects the twist and the ply of the yarn.  If it’s too loose, the yarn can fall apart on me during casting on or while I’m sewing up a garment. Single ply yarns are the most difficult to use for long-tail cast ons or sewing up a garment.  My biggest fear is when I do a sewn bind off with a loosely spun/plied yarn.  If the yarn breaks in the middle of my bind off, it’s a pain to fix.

Twist and ply also affect the finished fabric as well.  A very tightly spun/plied yarn can create a fabric that is too smooth for my taste.

Acrylics

For a few reasons, I prefer natural fibers.  There are a lot of excellent reasons for using acrylic yarns, and I will use them.  Technology for extruding synthetic fibers has advanced a lot since I first started knitting.  Most of the acrylic yarns I tried when I first started knitting were hard and harsh.  Today’s acrylics are often softer than any natural fiber could possibly be.  When I’m knitting garments that need to be machine washed, I will go to an acrylic yarn.  But they are never my first choice.

Favorite Fiber/Yarn

If I had to choose a single fiber to knit with the rest of my life, I would probably go with Bluefaced Leicester or Corriedale.  But, if I was given the choice to use a blend, it would probably be something like Tommy’s Preferred blend of his lambs, silk, angora and alpaca. The nicest yarns I’ve ever knit with are usually a blend of fine wool(s) and silk.  The silk both makes it nicer to knit with and it also takes dye in a rich, saturated way.  The wool provides loft and structure to the knitted fabric.

Current Knitting (with non-Favorite Fiber/Yarn!)

All that being said about my preferred fiber/yarn, I started a new project in 100% silk.

Chantal Silk by Fleece Artist

This is by far the biggest cake of yarn I’ve ever wound.  It’s Chantal Silk by Fleece Artist. I’m very glad to have the Fiber Artists Jumbo Ball Winder for this yarn.  It’s supposedly only 350 meters, but it sure seemed more than that to me.  It’s going to be an Old Shale Wrap.

Chantal Silk Old Shale Wrap 11-25-19 01

Chantal Silk Old Shale Wrap 11-25-19 02

I also finished another Double-Layer Stocking Cap in a medium gray color.

Softy Standard Cap 11-24-19 00

It also included a pom-pom, but it’s not secured onto the hat permanently yet.

Finally, I also started a new Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf in some very rich colorways of yarn!

Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf Gaudy 11-25-19 01

This is the first time I think I’ve gone overboard with colors.  It may end up being more bold than I like.  The glittery yarn may be just over the top…even for me.

Readers’ Comment’s Questions

Regarding the naming of the Men’s Knitting Retreats, Lisa G. expresses it exactly as I see it…thank you.

I think you could address the variety of fiber arts with a brief history of The Men’s Knitting Retreat—how it started, how it has grown and become a Men’s Fiber Art Enclave, embracing all fiber arts—and then list what has been taught at previous events.

You can read the full comment here.

3 comments on “Favorite Fiber/Yarn For Knitting?

  1. I agree with you that pet hair is not something I will knit with again. I will use cotton and linen only if they are blended because they have no give and are hard on my old, arthritic hands. Other than that, I guess I will use anything, though I live in Texas and so weight is more an issue for me than is fiber content. No way, with these hands, can I knit with bulky yarns, no matter that they are all the rage now!

  2. I absolutely adore Shetland, especially Shetland with a touch of angora. The resulting yarn is so much softer than any Shetland I’ve ever bought off the shelf.

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