Silk Blend- It Is My Weak Spot

I have to admit I have a weak spot for silk. This weak spot could have grown as a child, with the thought that silk was an ultimate luxury, something to glamorous and out of reach. Regardless, it still has a special place for me.

Manos del Uruguay has a nice yarn, Silk Blend, that the name alone attracts my attention. It is a single ply yarn that is made up of 70% merino extra fine and 30% silk. So merino extra fine, is essentially wool from the sheep breed Merino, and the extra fine notation indicated that the micron count is very high (micron count is the measurement of the diameter of individual fiber, the higher the number the smaller the micron count, the soft the fiber). This yarn does live up to the label, it is soft, a real joy to use.

Silk Blend www.lindadeancrochet.com

Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend yarn

The silk offers strength and a subtle sheen to the yarn. Silk is one of the strongest fibers available and like wool it holds warmth. Silk shares a lustrous quality that adds a warm radiance in the overall appearance, while using its strength to add integrity to this single ply. Even with the fibers being warm this yarn seems very breathable and I would be happy to work a light weight sweater in it.

The single ply of this yarn does give me a bit of a pause. Even though it has great stitch definition, really allowing the stitches to shine, it has a bit of a halo. It does not readily pill, but I think that after continuous use, or multiple times being ripped back, that it may become a bit unruly and not nearly as fun to use. So keep the project simple, and one that you feel comfortable with the stitches, and you will only notice the fine qualities of this yarn.

Each hank is 1.75oz/50grams, with a substantial 150yrd/135meters, easily making a beanie or fingerless mitts. I would feel comfortable with a few hanks to make up a nice scarf or wrap.

Subtle Twist- Sets Lotus Apart

There are always subtleties that create a difference in yarn. One is something that is mostly taken for granted, the direction of the ply. This might seem like a moot point for a topic to discuss, as most all yarn is spun in a similar fashion, the individual strands are spun in a counter-clockwise direction, then plied together in a clockwise direction (this opposite direction of spinning creates the tension that makes a yarn stable). However, just because almost every yarn is spun in this manner does it make a difference if you spin in it reverse?

Essentially all yarn is spun in this method, sometimes referred to as “S” twist, I am not sure if there is any real particular reason for this except that it has been done that way. There are a couple of yarns available that are spun opposite of the “S twist”, meaning that the beginning strands are spun clockwise and then plied together counter clockwise, this is known as “Z” twist. Yarns spun this way will indicate this on their labels, as it is a subtlety that differentiates it from others.

Lotus from Designing Vashti www.lindadeancrochet.com

Lotus from Designing Vashti

So why consider a “Z twist”, there are those that find it reduces yarn splitting  for right handed crocheters, as the traditional method of crocheting the yarn overs can either add or subtract the twist in a yarn. As traditional yarn is spun with a clockwise finish, and right handed crochet yarn overs in a counterclockwise direction, twist can be taken out of a yarn causing it to split. So with “Z twist” being the opposite the right handed crocheter will add twist to the yarn.

Honestly, I have not noticed too much difference in my work between the twist directions, with the exception of yarns that are loosely plied together and thus unply, or split quite easily. However I do notice a bit of a visual difference in the way my stitches look, it is subtle, and if I wasn’t really paying attention I may not completely understand why it looks different. This difference is because of the lines that I see in the yarn due to the ply. The “Z twist” lines are in the opposite direction.

Now that I have told you more then you hoped to know about the direction of twist within yarn, there is a yarn that I find I quite enjoy that is a “Z twist”. Lotus by Designing Vashti is a 52% cotton, 48% rayon, fine weight yarn that is perfect for summer. I find that I create garments, wraps, shawls, and even hand backs out of this yarn. It has a nice drape, and I love the slight shimmer that the rayon gives it. For me it is this rayon that really allows me to see the “Z twist”. I have used this yarn several times and have found that it really “blooms” after being washing, meaning that it fluffs up and fills in the space between stitches.

The combination of cotton and rayon make it perfect for warm weather, that is probably I always tend to pick it up in Spring as I am getting ready for the warm weather of summer.

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.

Crocheting the Mark

The other day I was going through an old box and I stumbled across some “early to me” crochet. I recall, about the time I was learning to crochet at age 10, at school I received a crocheted bookmark. My teacher had a friend who crocheted and she had created a bookmark with a “curly q”. My teacher gave them as prizes to students that had met her reading goal, I cannot recall exactly what the goal was but I remember the prize.

Curly Q bookmark in use

I remember being in awe of how it was made. Being a new crocheter I had no idea how the twists were created. I used that bookmark for years, and several years later, after becoming more proficient in crochet, figuring out how it was made. I have since recreated this bookmark for teachers of my children. They have used them in much the same way as my teacher years ago, meeting a goal and getting a reward.

I am sharing this stitch pattern for this bookmark in the hopes that you might make a few and share them with teachers or your local library, helping sharing the gift of reading. I know that many think that all books are going digital, but there is something about holding a book and moving your bookmark through the pages that has a gratification that can’t be completely explained.

More of the Curly Q bookmark in use

This is a really loose pattern, I don’t know if I should even all it a pattern, I am basically sharing how I create mine, and none of the stitch counts are really important. The gauge does not matter, it doesn’t matter what yarn or hook your use. To begin you chain anywhere between 6 and 8, slip stitching to the first chain to create a ring. I then chain 1 and place about 12 single crochets in the ring, slip stitch to the beginning single crochet. Now create a chain of about 18” to 24”, then double crochet in the 4th chain from the hook, add 2 more double crochets to the same stitch as the last, work 3 double crochets in each of the next several chains, working until you feel the “curl” you are making is long enough. Finish off, and weave in all ends.

That is all there is to it. The chain section lays in between the pages while the “curly q” can slip through the ring to secure around the book binding. This is a simple scrap project, and one I find fun and fast.

A Different Sheep- Blue Faced- and the Yarn

It is becoming a bit more common to find the breed of the sheep listed as the fiber content of yarns, but without some knowledge of the breed it can make it difficult to assess what to expect from the yarn, it can actually make it difficult to assess the yarn itself, as often you may not even realize that it is a wool breed.

Blue Faced Luster or Bluefaced Leicester is an English Sheep breed, and the Leicester (sometimes seen as Luster, especially in the American market) is actually a reference to a geographic location of this long fleece breed. The staple, the actual individual “hair” of the fleece, is long; anywhere from 5-18” (13-46cm), so this means that the yarn can hold together even with less “twist” then some other wool. Essentially what this means is that because the fiber is longer it does not need to be twisted as often to catch hold of other fibers, as a result they may not hold as much air being less warm as some shorter stapled fibers…but not by much as the fiber also has a fine crimp.

Bluefaced Leicester yarn www.lindadeancrochet.com

West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester Aran Prints yarn. (color pheasant)

Wool fibers can retain heat due to air pockets. Like insulation the more “pockets” that can trap air the more it can trap heat. So when a staple is twisted with other staples the spaces between cause pockets of air. The crimp of a fiber, is how much “wave” it has. It is a zig zag effect, and the more crimp the more the fiber can create air pockets and retain heat.

The staple also has a fine micron count, this results in a soft yarn. The micron count in the diameter of an individual strand of fiber. The easiest way to think of a comparison in micron count is to think of the hair of a small child and a grown adult. The child’s hair is noticeably softer then the adults, this is because its micron count is smaller, it is thinner, then the adult.

So with Bluefaced Leicester having all these qualities you can expect that the yarn will have a softness and billowiness to it, as I discovered in West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester Aran Prints. This yarn is true to the nature of the breed. It has a soft yet durable ply that results in a well-defined yarn that gives good stitch definition. This particular yarn has a very versatile quality and can easily create an accessory such as a scarf or hat, item for home décor or a light sweater. I think that this can easily be a go to wool yarn, which fits the build for many projects.

There is some subtle qualities of various wools, and the subtle differences in this one is not something that you will regret.