Part I: Fiber

Have you ever fallen so deeply in love with a yarn or pattern that you had to have it RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW!! so you send me what you have and tell me what you want, and…. I dash your dreams by telling you that there’s no way this yarn and this pattern will work together? If you have, then I’m so sorry to have to be the person who ruins everything! But you know what? The ruination (new word, enjoy) would have been much more devastating if we had gone ahead and messed up your yarn with the wrong pattern, or messed up your finished item by using the wrong yarn.

What makes a yarn perfect for an item, or all wrong? There are two factors here: fiber content and yarn weight. We’ll discuss fiber today, and leave weight for a Part 2 post. For now, enjoy these gorgeous yarn pics while I babble.

There are two different kinds of fibers we will discuss here because the third type (man-made aka acrylic, polyester, nylon, etc.) are all plastics and I tend to stay far away from those if I can help it. For today, we have plant fibers and animal fibers. A few types include:

Plant:

  • cotton
  • hemp
  • bamboo
  • linen (flax)
  • jute

Animal

  • wool (all different breeds!)
  • alpaca
  • cashmere
  • angora
  • silk (it comes from worms)
  • mohair
  • yak

So how do we know what gets used where? Well, there are no hard and fast rules that apply across the board (that I’m aware of, anyway) but there are some basic ideas that can help us decide.

For example, plant fibers, like cotton and bamboo, tend to be very strong and absorbent (especially linen!) so they are great choices for kitchen textiles such as dishcloths, hand towels, and placemats. They do not, however, hold their shape very well, especially when wet, and can become heavy and stretched out. Because of this, you wouldn’t normally use cotton for a heavy sweater, or something that needs to spring back and “hug” you, like a hat, or socks.

On the other hand, animal fibers such as wool and alpaca, tend to be very warm, and very springy. They are excellent for things like sweaters and hats because they’re lighter than plant fibers and don’t usually pull out of shape. They are insulating and will help you retain body heat in the winter, but they’re also very breathable and will actually keep you from sweating. This is why cloth diapering parents LOVE woolies! They’ll absorb moisture while allowing the air to circulate and dry the skin off. No diaper rashes here!

Now don’t get me wrong, lots of items “could” be made with all different types of fibers and turn out just fine. I’ve made hats from cotton before, I just make sure to let the recipient know that it may require more frequent trips through the dryer to spring back into shape. I don’t normally make “kitchen stuff” with animal fibers, but I LOVE making coffee cozies and trivets out of wool since wool will hug my cup better AND keep things warmer, for longer.

It is my mission as a semi-professional yarny to make sure that you are aware of these things when deciding on an item you want, and while picking a yarn for it. I am always happy to make suggestions and will be sure to steer you in the right direction. I won’t let us run off the rails and make something that ends up being completely ridiculous and useless by choosing a yarn that couldn’t possibly work. Forever and always, I am committed to bringing you items that are wonderfully astounding and will be loved and cherished- and USED!- year after year after year.

Join me here again later on for more chatter on yarn in Part II: Yarn Weight. Until then, why not cruise the site and see what you can see? Every single like, comment, pin, tweet, and share, is so appreciated as it helps Rows and Roses to grow and thrive. Thank you so much for being here ♥

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