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Monday, April 28, 2008

Wear and Tear

As I was washing my winter sweaters for storage I got to thinking about how they've held up over the season. "Good idea for a blog post!" I said...

How a yarn will age over time is part of how I pick yarn for my personal projects. For me, it doesn't make sense to make socks with a single-ply yarn that I know will wear straight through in the heel, unless I'm going to be lounging in a recliner under a toasty blanket and never walking in them. So when I chose yarn for these sweaters I took a minute to think about how they might look after a season of wear.

I'm a pretty easy-going gal and so most of the time I pick what I like most in the color I like most that will fit my pattern. I LOVE Malabrigo Merino. I know it is a single-ply yarn and a very soft wool, which means it will pill. Here is a very zoomed-in view of one of the pills on my green Hourglass sweater:Pilling on a very soft fiber like this is pretty common due to what makes it soft. It has short fibers, which are very soft against the skin but the shorter fibers like to get together and work their way out of the yarn easier than longer fibers. You can prevent this with soft fibers by putting a bit more twist into it when you spin it and also by plying it. But if you're on the purchasing end (not spinning at home) the only control you really have is how tight you knit/crochet your fabric. You have the same choice as I had - take it or leave it. I took it. I LOVE it so I took it.

Now my sweater looks worn. It looked worn after the first time I wore it and I'm ok with that. Whether you're ok with that is a personal decision and I know that a lot of people might not feel the same as I do. How do you combat the pills? You can pull them off. Clara Parkes, in The Knitter's Book of Yarn, tells me that pinching them off of very soft fibers like this is just fine and easy because the fibers are so short. So that's what I do. (if you have something insanely pilly, you can use one of those shavers but test it on a hidden spot before you shave away)

***Crochet fabric behaves differently than knit fabric, so this very same yarn might wear different as a crocheted sweater***

Another issue I've found with my love is how quickly it felts. Here's a nice photo of the armpit:
A little bit of fuzzy felting. I've wound hanks that were slightly felted just from being jostled around in bag for too long. Now, the armpits of your sweater are pretty much the most agitated fibers unless you have a sweater long enough to sit on. Knowing this, I don't think any of the rest of this sweater will felt unless I throw it in a hot bath (I promise I won't). So I'm still happy with my choice.

Here's one more example for you so we can talk about a different fiber content. This is my Skully sweater knit in Lamb's Pride Bulky. I knit this sweater in the same yarn as the example in the book so I felt pretty good about it, even though some pattern books make silly yarn decisions. Lamb's pride is wool and mohair - the mohair gives it a fuzzy halo to start with. You can see in this photo, the mohair fibers are getting together for a party:In this case the long wool fibers, even though the yarn is a single-ply yarn, aren't getting together at all, the fuzzy mohair is. These little clumps can only be found in high traffic areas - i.e. the underarms:
These are even easier to pinch off than the merino pills from the malabrigo, they're just about ready to fall off on their own. This is the warmest sweater I've knit for myself so far and I wore it allllll winter.


If you're not sure about how a certain yarn will look after a little bit of wear and tear, ask whoever is working in the store (or give me an email - If they've worked with it they can tell you how things went. It's hard to get around to ALL the yarns so there are some that we might not have specifics on from personal use. If we haven't been able to work with it yet we can do 2 things -
  1. make a prediction based on what we know about the fibers/yarn and what other people have told us
  2. search the interweb & ravelry for other people who have knit with it and ask them
You can also make a swatch of the yarn and put it in your pocket for a few days... see what happens!

I've worked with a lot of yarns and there are still surprises along the way... If you can get your hands on a copy of The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes it is a wonderful resource and it has some fantastic patterns (we have it).

I hope you're all enjoying the spring so far!
Have fun with the string,

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