Changing a “Go-To” for a New Addition- Lion Brand Baby Soft

I haven’t had reason to use any baby yarns in a while, but we are expecting a new addition in our extended family and I was inspired to create a baby blanket as a gift. I have made numerous baby blankets over the years, to many really to count. I usually have one “go-to” pattern that I use, when I think about the first time I worked the pattern, I realize that baby should be well over 20 years old now.

When I work this pattern I usually have a “go-to” baby yarn that I always use, Bernat Baby Coordinates, this isn’t so much because I love this one over all others, as much as some others have left me wanting. I always look for a yarn that is low maintenance for the parent, so that usually means a good acrylic. I like something soft, and not to thin or fine. I don’t like to feeling like I am working with a thread. I also want a yarn that is smooth in texture and doesn’t pill.

Baby Soft by Lion Brand

For this latest blanket I decided to try something other than my “go-to” and I found that Lion Brand Baby Soft was an excellent choice. It is actually only 60% acrylic with 40% nylon, the nylon giving it extra strength, so it is still a low maintenance yarn that the parents can easily throw in the washing machine and not worry about how it is going to come out. There was a nice selection of colors (I used Circus Print), as I get tired of the same simple pastels. It is a light weight yarn, but does not feel to “thin”, it has a bit of loft to it. The yardage is fairly generous at 367yd/335m for a 4oz skein. I found that I could make a decent size blanket with just 3 skeins, but decided to make a larger option with 4.

Baby Soft was pleasant to work with, and even when I had to rip back mistakes it flowed easily, and did not pill or snag with other fibers. I might have to add this yarn to a new “go-to” listing.

Crisp Has a Bit of Spring

It is always amazing how a different yarn can greatly affect the outcome of a project. I find that this weekly exploration into the qualities of different fibers and yarn has really helped me to understand what can work with various ideas.

Looking for a springy yarn, I find that Crisp by Sugarbush is a fine example. This yarn is made up of 100% extra fine superwash merino. Essentially it is a very fine wool, meaning it is a thin diameter fiber of a wool that is already known to be thin. This “thinness” makes it soft. Then superwash means that the wool has been treated so that it does not felt. Making this s yarn that is of a nice quality and yet has a practical application.

Crisp by Sugarbush Yarns

When playing with the yarn I found that it was quite springy, or having a lot of bounce back. This is great for items that need some stretch, like a hat or gloves, but I don’t think I would enjoy it as much as in things that I want a bit of drape in such as a shawl.

This yarn is four ply, which seems to be worked with a bit of extra twist. This extra twist places the plies close together allowing for its spring back quality but also giving the yarn a nice tubular feel as well. This round nature allows for the parts of any particular stitch to be readily visible, thus giving definition. This yarn will really help any pattern with texture to shine, so pull out the cables, the popcorns the bobbles and such, but consider leaving the lace and open stitch work patterns aside. The spring of the yarn will not allow these open stitches to open as great as they should, making your lace work seem less defined.

The ball is only 1.75 oz/95 yrd (50g/87m) so it does not take you far, one ball may complete a hat, but I would pick up a second ball just to be safe. I think you will be pleased with this yarn, it does not tend to split when being worked and glides through the hand. It does create a soft fabric that is pleasant to the touch.

Love Me Some Cashmere- A Luxury Yarn

Cashmere has been a term that signifies luxury for a long time. I remember watching some 1980’s movies where the character wearing the fuzzy cashmere sweater was the rich either miss understood teen or self-centered antagonist. I always see it in my mind with the big hair of the decade, and thus have felt that it was a wealthy fiber well out of my realm.

Learning more about yarn and fibers I have found cashmere a bit of a misnomer, it is a fiber from the underbelly of a goat. What makes cashmere, well cashmere, is the micron count of the fiber has to be 19 or finer, with less than 3 percent by weight of fibers exceeding 30 microns. Basically it is very thin in diameter. The length of the fiber also must be at least 1.25 inches (3 centimeters) and meet a specific crimp structure (have a certain wavy pattern).

Lisa Souza Dyeworks Cashmere Sport

Some of qualities of this fiber are readily seen in Lisa Souza’s Cashmere Sport yarn. Cashmere holds its shape well yet is springy. It is very light weight, with a lovely drape, and is incredibly warm. One of the most noticeable feature is that light does not reflect from this yarn, it appears more like a velvet and absorbs the light. This may be one of the factors that gives it a luxury quality.

As the fibers are so fine it is extremely soft. This is definitely a yarn that I want to snuggle with. The Sport weight skein provided from Lisa Souza Dyeworks is available in a 2oz/200yrd put up, just enough for a set of fingerless mitts, a hat, or a scarf. (I have a free pattern featuring this yarn in a Tam here). This yarn has a soft stitch definition and thus any really heavily textured stitches might have a soft edge then you may be have with. It can easily support a lace design, and does not demand too much attention to itself, allowing your handwork to shine.

I still consider this fiber a bit of a luxury, even if you can find some wools with a finer quality fiber, and thus being softer then cashmere, cashmere has a certain halo about it that when added to the light absorption, just has a look and feel of something that is unlike anything else.

A Bit of Tencel to Join Merino

I am sometimes surprised at the “ingredients” I find making up my yarn. When I began crocheting I treated all yarn as if they were all the same, then as I began to get a bit more serious about working in crochet for a living I found that I needed a better understanding of my material in order to make my designs a bit more practical, and understand how my materials could affect the outcome.

Over the last several years I have taken in vast amount of study and research in yarn and the fibers that create them, yet there are still times that I pick up a skein admire its feel, admire its texture and then look at the label and I am a bit taken aback as to its contents.

Valley Yarns Coltrain www.lindadeancrochet.com

Valley Yarns Coltrain

One such yarn is Valley Yarns Colrain. It is a simple soft yarn that has a slight sheen, which lead me to think that the label would look much like most yarns on the market a wool mixed possibly mixed with an acrylic, so I was a little taken aback when it stated “50% Merino/50% Tencel™”.  The Merino did not surprise me, it is a well-known wool that is known for its softness and warmth. As a drawback it is also known for its great tendency to felt (that is shrink), but it is readily found in the markets and a fiber that most esteem to be like.

It was the Tencel™ that caused me to give a bit of a pause. It is a synthetic material that is created from wood pulp, as is rayon. Tencel™, as you may have noticed is a trademarked name, this is because the process which creates this material is trademarked, so all I really know about how it is created is that the base is wood pulp that uses a dry jet-wet spinning method to create this filament.

The properties of Tencel™ are vast.  It is recognized as being soft, as well as strong (even strong when wet). It is often cool to the touch and feels silky, while being able to wick moisture from the body. Like most synthetic materials it can also be created to imitate many other textiles and textures, in this case suede, leather or silk.

The combination of these 2 materials creates a pretty stable yarn. The Tencel™ creates the smooth feel while the Merino causes for the warmth. Each4 ply  ball is 50 grams and 109 yards, so one skein may create a hat or something small, so consider picking up a few extra balls for almost any project.

Exotic Fibers, Yak by Bijou Basin Ranch….A Fine Yarn

It is amazing how many different fibers can create yarn. When I decided to start writing about features and effects of various yarns, I don’t think I was fully aware how great the diversity was. One of these unique fibers is yak.

Bijou Basin Ranch, Bijou Spun Himalayan Trail yarn has one of the highest quality of yak down that I have found in a yarn. It is comprised of 75% Yak Down, and 25% Superfine Merino, and I can testify that it feels like luxury. The skein is 2oz in weight with 200 yards of yarn, making it a fine weight yarn (also recognized as a #2 weight).

Himalayan Trail yarn www.lindadeancrochet.com

Bijou Basin Ranch Himalayan Trail yarn….created with Yak Down

Yak is probably not a fiber that most crocheters have had the pleasure to work with, one of these reasons is that it is not readily available everywhere, and the other is it usually falls into a price point that discourages some. Yak is a very soft fiber, it has a fine micron count, meaning that the individual fibers are very thin. The finer the micron count the softer the fiber. This fiber is not only soft, it is warm. If there is any doubt to its warmth, this fiber is the undercoat of a large mammal that lives in the high country of the Himalayan Mountains, where weather is cold and draining. This is the fiber that keeps these animals warm.

Collection of Yak fibers is typically labor intensive, as it is usually collected after it is shed from the animal, these animals are not sheared, but in some cases maybe combed to collect the shed fibers. This is one of the primary reasons for the cost factor of the yarn, the supply of yak is not easy to obtain and thus not overly plentiful.

This fiber is then paired with just a bit of superfine Merino, another fiber of fine micron count, this helps to add a bit more stability to the overall yarn while still keeping with the very soft and almost pillowy feel of the yarn. The four plies of this yarn are smooth and consistent resulting in a yarn with very little halo, and a much defined smooth tubular yarn that enables great stitch definition.

I think this yummy yarn would look excellent in some cables, or texture stitches, as well as great with defined open work. One skein can easily create a hat or scarf, possibly even a short pair of fingerless gloves. If you have the opportunity to treat yourself a bit, do not hesitate to try Himalayan Trail, you will be glad you did.