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.

Merino & Acrylic- Deramores a Nice Choice

I was surprised at how soft and gentle I found Deramores Vintage Chunky yarn. It is quite lofty and works up very smoothly. I found it really pleasant to use, and would gladly pick it up again. It is not as springy as I would have thought by looking at it (yet there is a little),it is very stable and giving great stitch definition.

Deramores Vintage Chunky yarn. Www.lindadeancrochet.com

Deramores Vintage Chunky yarn

This yarn is half acrylic and half Merino Wool, which might explain the lack of springiness, as Merino may be known for its softness and warm, but it appears that this combination with acrylic reduces the amount of stretch that might otherwise be present. It is probably the Merino that gives this yarn its loft and airiness appearance, yet the acrylic tempers it enough that it could be worked as a home décor item, instead of the garment wear that I usually feel is better fitting for Merino.

It is a 5 ply yarn may have a slight tendency to pill after excessive wear, yet does not split when being worked. The fiber has a moderate length and this gives the yarn a slight halo, this is also caused by the ply. It allows light to be refracted offering a subtle type of sheen, that I cannot quite fond the word for.

This yarn is a medium weight and a generous 100 gram ball has 153 yards, which goes a bit further then you might first think. I would readily use it for hats and scarves, but also for pillows and afghans. As it does not have much weight for a hearty drape, I would not use if for hairpin lace, and it has a bit too much spring for broomstick lace and love knot stitches, but it will work well with most all of traditional crochet methods.

Vermont- A Nice Yarn

It seems like I am always saying that not all yarn is created equal….there is really so much that subtly goes into making yarn that it creates a large difference in how it works up in your final project. Tahki Yarns Vermont is a yarn that has some great quality that easily adds a little luxury to your project.

It is comprised of 50% Merino Wool and 50% Superfine Alpaca, since both of these fibers are have a small micron count (the diameter measurement of the individual fiber) this is a really soft yarn. The property of both of these fibers is one of working well to retain heat, so this yarn is warm. It also has a nice soft loft to it, allowing it to trap air, resulting in warmth as well. Even listed as a worsted weight, this yarn seems to be on the light side, but does work up well with 5-6mm hooks and needles.

Vermont by Tahki yarn www.lindadeancrochet.com

Tahki yarns, Vermont

This is an eight ply yarn, meaning it has eight individual strands that are spun together. This creates a nice and round yarn. That might sound odd, but when you ply strands of yarn together the actually shape is not perfectly round. Imagine twisting two ropes together, there are spaces where the ropes touch that prevent it from being a complete circle. So the higher the number of ropes the more of this gap that is filled in, making a more round yarn.

Typically the rounder a yarn the better it can highlight a stitches definition, that is true with Vermont. This yarn has a nice definition, the only distraction from the stitch itself is the marbled color of the yarn. All color options for this yarn look like natural colors, and are worked together in a manner that is reminiscent of tweed, but a bit more consistent. This makes for a very gender neutral color scheme, allowing it to be perfect for an item accepted my many.

Vermont by Tahki Yarn www.lindadeancrochet.com

Vermont by Tahki yarn

The ball size is not that generous, on 93 yrds/85m per 1.75oz/50g, so one ball could probably complete a hat, but any other project would need to have a few more. Overall though, a very nice yarn, that will create a very treasured item. Due to the size I feel that this is a yarn best suited for accessories, a nice hat, gloves (fingerless or otherwise), or maybe a scarf. I could make a nice sweater, but the yardage needed would require many balls and might be price prohibitive.

Big Squeeze by Ancient Arts- A Lofty Experience

I have played with a lot of yarn over the years, but I do not think that I have ever found a yarn that is so forgiving, or as “squishy” as Ancient Arts Big Squeeze.

This yarn is 100% Superwash Merino, as a result it will not felt or shrink but has a very soft feel. The way this yarn is spun it has a great loft to it, and this has a couple of benefits. Not only is it forgiving in the stitches, and adjusting well for uneven tension, but it also holds more air making it warmer.

Ancient Arts Yarn www.lindadeancrochet.com

Ancient Arts Yarn Big Squeeze color Frolic

This bulky weight yarn comes in a skein size of 127 yards (116 meters), which is comparable to other skeins of this weight, and one skein can easily complete a scarf or hat project. With the larger yarn, it garners a need for a larger hook a J/10/6.00mm will give you a pretty dense fabric, and you may prefer working with a hook size of at least K/10 ½ /6.5mm or greater.

The smooth even ply of this yarn also gives great stitch definition so it makes your stitches the star of the show, even though it comes in over 125 brilliant colors.

I feel this yarn will work up nicely in any home décor, simple accessory, or outer wear garment project. Due to the weight and lofty, it is obviously not the choice for small delicate items (in either look or feel). I also would not necessarily recommend it for projects that have a lot of fine detail, as the large bulk and hook make the details almost disappear.

My overall impression of this yarn is that I could just wrap myself in it and it would be a pillow and a blanket, maybe an all in one cocoon, which I could happily go about my day. It is a dream to work with.

Uncovering the Wool from Over My Eyes

ScannedImageI will admit, as a long time crocheter, I used acrylic yarns almost exclusively for years. I do not say this as a negative thing, acrylic yarns have many practical purposes and companies are creating new textures of yarn with them daily, but there are other practical mediums out there that deserve attention too. However there were several reasons for my long term use of acrylic.

First, availability. In years past I could actually pick up Super Saver in the grocery store while my mom got milk and eggs. Since it was already at hand it was easier to use more regularly. However times have changed, even finding the box stores with Super Saver are getting harder to locate (or involve quite a drive to get to). However box store yarns have become more diversified and I can find fibers that would have been seen only in small local yarn stores in the past.

Secondly, I knew how to use it. A pull skein is a simple concept that involves no extra work on my part. I could pick up a skein and a hook and go right to work, with a hank I was at a loss. I did not want to look like I was confused or unskilled, so I never really picked them up. I guess I figured that if the yarn could confuse me as to how to actually start using it, things would not go well. But after meeting some local spinners and learning how yarn is created at a wheel, I learned how to handle a hank (Here is a past post that shares the explanation).

Vineyard at Dawn Shawl (back), Crochet! Magazine Spring 2013 Photo courtesy of Annie's

Vineyard at Dawn Shawl (back), Crochet! Magazine Spring 2013
Photo courtesy of Annie’s

Finally, thirdly, cost. I like to think of myself as spend conscience. I always looked at the cost per yard to find my best value (I admit I still am very aware of this even today). However, over the years I have come to realize that quality can make a really difference in my end product. Often the yarn can make or break a design. I use my Vineyard at Dawn Shawl (pattern in Spring 2013 Crochet! Magazine) as an example (created with a Blue Heron Rayon/Metallic), it has great drape, and is just striking, but if it were worked up in a chunky yarn it would have a very different effect, imagine it in soft, fuzzy mohair, which would be a different effect as well.

So, while these three obstacle where in place, I never tried luxury yarns or even wools for that matter until the last decade or so. When I first attempted wools, using my value shopping method, I found fibers that were not the most ideal. It worked up like I expected wool to, scratchy, itchy, and somewhat stiff. It played into all my negative preconceptions, but the more I learn out fiber the more I realized that not all wool is created equal.

Basically saying “wool”, is like saying bouquet, while terms like Merino, Shetland, and Romney are names of the flowers. These “flowers” have different properties that offer a different quality to the yarn. They have different degrees of softness, of loftiness, of felting ability, of amount of twist in the end yarn, and of durability. I won’t pretend to be an expert in know all the differing qualities of wool breeds, but I do know that the differences are there and can really make a difference in the end quality of my work.  

New Born LambOne of the first grading areas is the diameter of the individual fiber. The smaller the measurement in microns the finer the yarn, for example Superfine Merino might have a range of 15.6-18.5 microns, while carpet wool can have a measurement of 35-45 microns. This is before they are spun into yarns, so basically the larger the individual fiber the courser it will be. This alone can create many differing yarns out of wool, but then there are other properties such as crimp and staple length that play into a yarns texture. So you cannot take the term “wool” on face value, different wool breeds react differently (even to felting, some felt very little and others felt just by looking at a washing machine). I guess like most of us, there is more than meets the eye.