Saturday, November 3, 2012

Part Four: Project 8 - Stage 1

Project Eight focusses on yarn.
As I will be creating textile structures for this project, I will need to understand the use and qualities of the raw material - fibre and yarn, and also how they will interact in the textile making process.

Raw materials affect the performance, the function, the aesthetic appearance and the cost of making a piece.
Textiles can be needed to drape, fold, wrap, stretch, cover or hang - the success of the project will be down to the maker's knowledge of the construction and fibre content of the raw materials used.

This project starts with making a yarn collection and analysing yarn qualities.
It then moves on to experimenting with invented structures using various yarn-like materials.

Stage 1
Collecting Yarn and Exploring its Qualities
I have a small collection of yarn, some of it was given, some of it was bought, some came from charity shops and some came from far away places which are inhabited by strange animals - and brought back by good friends.
This small collection is currently housed in five large boxes and a very large bag.
Hopefully the next two projects will reduce the quantity of yarn I have.

I was inspired to see the work of Freddie Robins (link to website here) at "Smile" an exhibition at the Ruthin Craft Centre, in relation to the issue of a 'stash of yarn'.
These are her "Comfort Creatures" - link. She says:
"My 'Comfort Creatures' are an embodiment of the emotional attachment that I have to wool. I love wool. Through adulthood I have amassed a large amount of odd balls and balls of wool. I have bought wool all over the world from Bangladesh to Berlin, South Africa to Shetland. These odd balls are no use to me. I can't, and don't want to, make anything from them, but I am compelled to buy them.
My 'Creature Comforts' are a personification of this useless wool, an attempt to turn my feelings towards an undervalued, everyday material into tangible objects that it is socially acceptable to love. In this particular series of 'Comfort Sheep' I have turned the ball of wool into a caricature of the sheep breed that the wool originally came from."
My mum always knitted and she always used pure wool, at a time when pure wool was a rare commodity - acrylic yarns having taken over in the 1970's with its cheaper prices, bright colours and easy wash labels.
She taught me to knit when I was a child - but it was a long time before I could knit with confidence, to knit without shouting, "I think I've dropped a stitch...."

These days pure wool is still a treat, and there are a wide range of fibres available in the 'natural yarn' ranges.
Although this can be an expensive option, the feel of the yarn, the look of the finished piece, the warmth from the fibre when it is worn, makes it a sensible choice.
This would be the best option if you were making a garment that you wanted to wear for a long time - it would keep you warm, look good and wear well.

There will always be a place for synthetic yarns, the cost per ball will always make them a popular choice.
The ranges of yarns available in synthetic fibres is amazing: you can have synthetic mixed with natural fibre - this would give you the look of a more expensive yarn; you can buy 'fancy' synthetic yarns, examples in the photo's that follow, these will give you the look of a luxury fabric such as fur; you can buy synthetic yarns in any colour - my first knit a few years ago was a Dr Who scarf - a few pounds to purchase all the yarn and it was a fabulous gift.... would it have been any more special in pure wool, probably not.

Along with the regular yarn and fibre choices that I have available, I hope to add some other 'yarns' such as: plastic bags, wires, grasses, leather, strips of fabric, papers.
These speciality yarns will be added as I gather them for the forthcoming stages of this project.

The yarn collection:
Image 1: 
The 3 balls of yarn on the left are Kidsilk Haze - this is a blend of 70% Super Kid Mohair and 30% Silk - it is a beautiful yarn, fine, soft, has a slight sheen to it.

The 3 balls of wool in the middle were bought many years ago to make a pom-pom scarf for a friend there is a mix of cashmere, alpaca and merino wool in these 'left-over' yarns.

The large ball of grey/brown yarn is made from a merino wool/possum mix.
The ball in the photo below was bought at the Knitting and Stitch show a few years ago - I made  a baby's cardigan from it - this is the left-over yarn.
L-R: Kidsilk Haze; Alpaca/Cashmere/Merino; Possum
Mohair comes from the angora goat - before we moved overseas we actually kept 3 angora goats, I learned to shear them, trim their hooves and evict them from the house when they escaped from the garden. You can see a beautiful picture of angora goats here.
You can read about the day we got the goats on my husband's blog "Travels with my Rodent" here.

Mohair is a wonderful fibre - it is durable and resilient, it has a high lustre and sheen, it dyes well. It has great insulating properties making it warm in the winter, but it remains cool in the summer due to its moisture wicking qualities.
It is naturally elastic, flame resistant, crease resistant, it does not felt.
The fibre gets thicker as the animal grows older, the kids (young goats) produce fine hair which is used for clothing, the hair from the older goats, being thicker, is used for carpets and fabrics for outerwear.

Cashmere: Like mohair, comes from the goat. It has a fine texture, is strong, light and soft. It has excellent insulating properties so a garment made from this yarn will keep you very warm.
Unlike the angora goat, the cashmere goat has a 'double fleece' - the cashmere for clothing comes from the soft undercoat; the outercoat is coarse and is made up of guard hairs - these must be removed before the fine, soft yarn is produced.
An image of the beautiful Cashmere goats is here.

Alpaca: The fleece from the Alpaca is soft and luxurious, lustrous and silky, warmer than wool and not prickly. It has no lanolin, this makes it hypoallergenic.
The fibre is also naturally fire retardant and water resistant.
There are 2 types of Alpaca that produce 2 very different types of yarn: 1) Huacaya - this has a crimp, which makes it more suitable for knitting and crochet; 2) Suri - this has a longer, silkier fibre with a low crimp - this makes it ideal for woven garments.
Images of these gentle creatures are here and here.

Merino: The Merino sheep has the finest and softest wool of any sheep - there are a variety of Merino sheep, some are bred purely for meat, others for their fleece - only the ones bred for the fleece produce the fine, soft yarn which we associate with the term Merino.
The fibre from the merino is lighter than that of any other sheep - this makes it light to wear.
It can be worn by people with sensitive skin and has a silky feel.
It keeps you warm, yet remains breathable. It can absorb up to a third of its weight in water before it leaves you feeling damp.
Because it is wool - it will spring back into shape after being wet, it does not crease.
These very woolly creatures can be seen here.

Image 2:
The red possum yarn in the next photo was brought back from New Zealand by a friend, I hope to use this to make a really warm pair of gloves. 
Possum Yarn
Possum yarn: Possum fibre has been mixed with merino wool, when knitted up this yarn makes garments that are light, soft and very warm.
The possum fur is a hollow fibre, when spun with the merino wool it creates a yarn that is hard wearing with heat retaining qualities.
The yarn resists 'pilling' and does not irritate the skin, it is fluffier than angora.
A link to a picture of the possum is here, the animal is a pest in New Zealand and is currently destroying their native habitat.

Image 3:
This is 100% wool so will be durable and elastic, and this yarn is very soft and smooth.
There is a twist to the yarn - in some areas it is tightly twisted making the yarn thinner; in other areas it is hardly twisted at all, making the yarn appear thicker.
The care label states that it must be hand washed and dried carefully, no tumble drying, no dry cleaning - this will make it suitable for felting.
This yarn is very soft, squishy, cuddly.....and that's how it enticed me to bring it home...
Chunky Print: 100% pure wool

Image 4:
This is the left over yarn next to the project it was used for.
Noro Kureyon, this is a hand dyed yarn made in Japan. The colours are wonderful, the yarn doesn't feel soft, but once it has been carefully washed it seems to soften up.
It is 100% wool and will felt - if you want it to.
Noro Kureyon: Hand dyed yarn 100% wool

Image 5:
This was bought for felting with, and is the left-over yarn from a project.
I found this yarn in a charity shop, I knew it was 100% wool, and I also hoped from the texture of the yarn - very rough - that it should felt.
It did felt, I made knitted baskets which were then machine washed to complete the felting process.
The itchiest, most feltable yarn - 100% pure wool

Image 6:
Pure wool from my mum, this yarn was once a jumper.
It has been carefully unravelled, washed and rewound into balls.
Recycled yarn - from jumpers past - 100% pure wool

Image 7:
The first two skeins, on the left, are Merino/Bamboo/Nylon sock yarn.
Merino wool has been discussed earlier in this post, the addition of nylon is to add strength - it is a sock yarn and needs this synthetic fibre because of the wear and tear involved in sock use.

Bamboo: is a natural fibre, has a nice sheen and is anti-bacterial.
It is strong, flexible and is softer than silk when spun, but it can lose strength when wet.
When knitted into a fabric, bamboo is breathable, cool and it drapes well.

The next two skeins, from left, are recycled sari silk - link to a website that sells this yarn is here, this has a great close-up photo of the strands of yarn showing the jewel-like colours of the silk.

Sari Silk: This yarn is a by product of sari production. "It is the loose end of sari's collected from industrial mills in India that is hand-spun into yarn."
The hand spinning makes each hank unique, the colours are rich and the texture amazing.
Silk has excellent draping qualities and good thermal properties.
It is a good fabric to wear in both hot and cool climates and does not crease badly.
Skeins 1/2: Merino/bamboo sock. Skeins 3/4: Sari silk. Skeins 5/6/7: hand dyed wool
The last three yarns are all hand-dyed wools - the variations in colours and shades within each ball is unique. These yarns are at their best without too much decoration, patterns are lost in the colours of the yarn.

Image 8:
These are all different cotton yarns.
The pink one is a soft DK knitting cotton, this was bought to knit babies bibs with.
The yellow one is a crochet cotton picked up at Twilley's factory shop.
The blue ones are DK mercerised knitting cotton - this is smoother and shinier in finish to the other cotton yarns.
Cotton: This is a versatile fibre that is very strong when wet. It absorbs moisture and can be worn with ease in hot climates. It is also a very hard wearing fibre that can withstand repeated washing.
It can be less elastic and retain less warmth than animal-hair yarns.
Yarns made from plant fibres, such as cotton, are tolerated more easily by people suffering from allergies (dermatitis, hives etc).

Mercerised Cotton: Mercerisation is a treatment applied to cotton which strengthens it and gives it a more lustrous appearance. It also makes it accept dye more easily than unmercerised cotton.
L-R: DK Cotton, crochet cotton, 2 x mercerized cotton

Image 9:
This is a really nice 'natural' feeling yarn. It has all the qualities of silk and cotton - so can be warn easily in warmer weather.
The advertising states this yarn is great "For when you want a little more texture than cotton"
It has 25% polyamide mixed into the yarn - this is a nylon product, which will be mixed in to add strength and durability to the yarn.
Jaeger 'Trinity': Silk/cotton mix

Image 10
These 'fancy' yarns are great - there are no natural fibres, no stretch, no heat retaining qualities, but the finished product, when knitted up, is wonderful.
It knits up quickly on big needles and looks like a luxury product - such as fur - when made into hats, scarves, jackets etc, it is also relatively cheap to purchase.
The 'eyelash' and 'fur' yarns can be knitted with a mohair or other wool fibre to add warmth to a garment.
Different 'fancy' yarns

The advantage of a synthetic yarn such as polyester is: it can be resistant to creasing, it is durable and does not fade. It also resists water and wind well.
One polyester yarn that I looked up link here - Titan Polyester was recommended not only for its strength, but also because it "won't rot" - making it suitable for outdoor use.

Image 11:
These yarns are mainly polyester yarns - these yarns again offer a luxury knitted product at an affordable price.
These yarns can be knitted alongside a wool yarn to add warmth, they will add an interesting texture and a splash of colour to a plain wool yarn.

The ball of lilac yarn is mixed with cotton and feels like a soft cotton yarn.
Poly-Cotton mix: the polyester keeps the fabric crease-free, stain resistant and helps to retain the garment shape. The cotton will keep the fabric more absorbent and comfortable
More interesting textured yarns

Image 12:
Acrylic/Wool mix: These have been great 'affordable' knitting yarns - they look and feel like pure wool. The addition of wool will add wool-like characteristics to the finished product: adds warmth and elasticity to the acrylic fibre
Acrylic: Lightweight, soft and warm fibre that has a wool-like feel. Dyes and washes well. Resistant to sunlight - will not fade.
The down sides: not as warm as wool, 'pilling' is an issue, can be static, requires heat to 'block' a garment.
Acrylic/Wool mix yarns

Image 13:
The properties of the acrylic yarns are listed above.
This is a selection of plain dyed acrylic yarns - they are not as warm as wool, they do not feel as soft and squishy as wool - but they are reasonably priced, great colours and offer a good alternative for some knitting/crochet projects.

These are some of the yarns that were bought to make the Dr Who scarf - so many balls of different coloured yarns were required, it would have been a very expensive scarf and probably not as colourful, if it had been made from pure wool
100% Acrylic yarn

Image 14:
Acrylic yarns: properties listed above.
These yarns make a reasonable mohair substitute - the fluffy fibres knit up well to create a luxury looking garment.
100% Acrylic 'Mohair' Yarns

Image 15:
Ribbon yarn: 100% polyester.This is another yarn that knits up to produce an expensive looking, silky garment that drapes nicely.
Link to a scarf made using a ribbon yarn here, a pretty, colourful, glamorous looking garment.
Ribbon yarn

I have tried to include a variety of yarns for Stage 1, my yarn collection contains a selection of natural and man-made fibres.
I feel I know these yarns a little better than I did before with the research that I have done.

I have not yet included other more unusual yarns, leather, strips of fabric, wire etc - these will be added later.







Sari Silk:




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