Day 1: A Tale of Two Yarns -- 2kcbwday1

Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.  










For me the tale of two yarns is in fact the tale of one pair of mittens.  Like many out there I am an avid Knitty reader and when the Winter 2011 edition came out with the Shelburne Mittens in it, I knew I had to make a pair. Due to living in Northern Ontario, and mitten weather lasting from October to April, I have a bit of a mitten obsession. I want to have a pair for just about every day of the winter (and for every possible weather condition).

So when I found this pattern I was well into my yarn diet and went diving into my stash (which you will see on Day 3) to find something that would work. I came out with this fantastic Dream in Color Groovy yarn I had ordered to make Bella's Mittens.

After swatching and finding that I had to use a needle about 3 sizes larger than recommended (for a yarn that was seemingly the same weight, and had the same ypp), I should have been reconsidering the yarn substitution but I blazed onward.  After a day of knitting I had this ...

Needless to say, something was terribly wrong.

After doing some research and a trip to my local LYS (which is 130km away) I found the yarn called for in the pattern, Rowan Felted Tweed Bulky and the difference between the yarns explained everything.

The DIC yarn was everything that the Rowan was not.  The DIC was a worsted spun superwash merino while the Rowan was a woolen spun merino/alpaca.  Now when I say worsted, I don't mean the weight of the wool, but rather how it was spun.  If you aren't familiar with the characteristics of sheep breeds and how yarns are spun I would suggest checking out Clara Parkes "The Knitters Book of Wool".  The book, which includes some beautiful patterns by amazing designers, includes a large section on the characteristics of different types of fibers and how preperation changes how the yarns feel and knit up.

The short form is that worsted spun doesn't allow twist in the pre-drafted fibers and is harder, firmer and not as warm (because there is less air trapped between the fibers), while woolen spun allows twist into the source fiber and it is fluffier, ligher and much warmer.  However, woolen fibers are much less abrasion resistant, think about a Malabrigo (woolen spun) sweater versus Wool of the Andes (worsted spun) sweater, which one is soft as all get out but gets holes and pills sooner (hint: Malabrigo) and which one is a bit picky and hard but wears like iron and after years of hard work it hardly shows any wear (hint: Wool of the Andes).

So to add to the issues of woolen vs. worsted spun I was having with my mittens, the amount of twist in the yarn was totally different. The DIC was plyed tightly, giving it an almost spring-like appearance. The Rowan by contrast was much more loosely plyed.  (If you read The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin, you will see this is in contrast to how most yarns are plyed).  This made the DIC more like a piece of spaghetti (perfectly round) while the Rowan is a bit more like linguine (with a bit more spread in the middle).

So for me the moral of this story is, there is more too choosing the right yarn than having a similar YPP and getting gauge, and that sometimes frogging and reknitting is the right thing.

For the Dream in Color Groovy I found the perfect pattern, the Fried Chicken Mittens.

This pattern was quite the adventure for me, and you can read more about these mitts here. I haven't started the Shelburne Mittens yet, the snow has been melting and my thoughts are on spring shawls and felted bags, but I know that the Rowan will look great and that the DIC found itself an amazing pattern.

P.S. It's not to late to participate in Knit and Crochet Blog Week, check out Eskmimimiknits for more info.