Sunday, June 12, 2016

Top Tips for Selecting the Perfect Yarn

A baby cardigan in Silver Lining Merino - Bell Bush

I find that the compulsion to start an new project comes from one of three reasons: an occasion, a stunning pattern or luscious yarn.  New babies are the best reason to get the needles working away and is still the number reason someone will get started again after a break from the needles or hooks.  Also knit design has come ahead in leaps and bound in recent years, with patterns vastly more accessible and fashionable and that goes without saying all those beautiful yarns which you can get in every glorious colour, texture and thickness.

Silver Lining is incredibly soft and perfect for projects next to the skin.

So how do you select the right yarn for the job?

Tip One - Swap 'Like for Like'.
Look at the yarns suggested in the pattern.  If you choose, or are unable, to use the yarn suggested then look for a yarn that is similar.  Compare the fibre content, texture, construction and length to find a good alternative.  So if your pattern calls for a smooth DK wool yarn, look for other smooth DK wool yarns. 

Tip Two - Natures Best.
If you are knitting a garment for a baby  - natural fibres are always the best option, wool is perfect for babies.  Lighter weights are great for knitted layers, like singlets, and cardigans, whilst medium weights, like DK are great for jackets, longies blankets and sleeping bags.  Softer yarns are best for infant skins, so Merino, Polwarth or superwash are great.

Tip Three - Wear without Tears.
One of the most common questions we get asked is: Will this yarn pill?
All yarns will pill if enough friction and movement is applied, so if you are knitting a garment that is going to see a lot of wear and rugged treatment select a yarn with higher twist, stronger fibres and knit to a firm tension.  Examples being Skeinz Vintage and Southlander, these are my favourite all purpose wearing yarns.  If you are knitting a shawl or cowl, something that won't experience too fraught or friction, then a yarn soft to wear against the skin is perfect.  Burlesque or Terabyte are just perfect for these sorts of projects, super, super soft and won't experience too much wear and tear.

This fine twist on twist Merino give excellent definition, softness and wear.

Tip Four - Find your Flock
Natural fibres all have various qualities and some of these reflect in how they act when they are stitched into a final project.  If you are looking to knit a pattern with textured stitches, Aran cables or bobbles you need a yarn that will hold these stitches so they 'pop'.  Traditionally these patterns were made with strong wools, which were 'lively' and held their structure when knitted.  Wool is still the number one choice for these projects.  If you want softness, drape or a floaty fabric, great with lace stitches then fine wool or blends of wool, Alpaca, Silk, Kid Mohair or even plant fibres like cotton or bamboo come into their own.

Tip Five - It all comes out in the wash.
Super Wash versus Hand Wash - a raging debate for years to what is better.  For me - I hand wash all my yarn garments, regardless of yarn type.  I find it quicker, easier and it allows me to reblock/shape a garment more effectively.  Super wash  has the benefit of being more likely to survive a washing machine accident, it is often a smoother texture as it spun using shrink treated wool fibre and takes colour very well producing vibrant rich shades.  Hand wash yarns have a lusciousness that gets lost in the shrinking process of the fibre and a 'grip' in the yarn which makes it perfect for textured stitching, and essential for fair isle projects, especially if they are being steeked.  

The choice is yours.... but always remember the golden rule for absolute success...
Swatch, Swatch, Swatch!


  1. Thank you for your tips! This is very helpful. I find I have a hard time picking out yarn to go with the right pattern.

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