“I would like to knit ‘x’ project. Which yarn do you suggest? It needs to be warm/cool/slinky/light/drapey/
I get this question once in a while, and I find I’ve learned a ton about matching yarn to projects well, mostly by how they turn out, be it awesome or not so awesome. Over time, I’m learning to be a yarn matchmaker, or Yenta if you will. Here I will share some of what I’ve learned so far.
Plant yarns are not the same as wool.
Sounds simple enough. But seriously, it does take a while for it to sink in. If you want your project to be exactly the same as a wool project, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead of focusing on the qualities of wool and trying to replicate it in a plant fibre, take advantage of the qualities of the fibre you’re planning on using.
Many people dis linen or hemp because its hard when its in yarn-from, yet forget how for hundreds of years, heirloom linens have had connotations like luxuriousness and softness. The trick? Wash your skein(s) a few times, and thwack it, as in whip it around, beat it, or whack it against something for a bit, by the time you’re done, it will have softened up considerably. Want a sleeveless tank that drapes luxuriously and makes you look like a eco-warrior goddess and lasts forever? Use linen or hemp.
Not all cotton is created equal. For example, super deluxe Organic Pima vs dishcloth cotton. If you have the chance, touch and feel the cotton, and get to know it a bit before you choose a project for it. Some cotton is light as a feather and is perfect for garments and light, warm shawls or garments like Blue Sky Cotton, and our very own Deneb Laceweight. Other cottons are denser, and therefore heavier, so unless you want your sweater around your knees it might be a good idea to choose your gauge accordingly. I made a tunic out of cotton handspun and it holds its shape beautifully because I spun it loose, light, and lofty.
Bamboo, Soysilk, Ingeo
Gloss, weight, drape. These fibres have it all. Just make sure you’re prepared for mega drape, and not so much stretch. These are good for making anything luxe and feminine.
Blends are great for mittens, socks, hats, and anything else that needs to keep its shape, especially if there’s a bit of elastic in the mix.
Use Ravelry pattern searches to your advantage
When you’re searching for your next project, click on the plant fibres you’ll be using, and any others that behave similarly. Then you can see projects that are designed with that kind of yarn in mind, or you can see what someone’s linen version of a traditional wool sweater looks like knitted up and decide if that’s the look you’re after.
Play with gauge
You may find that a lighter weight yarn with a larger needle works great to lighten up a pattern, or the opposite, using a slightly heavier weight yarn than called for, and using smaller needles gets the kind of drape or feel you’re looking for. Its good to experiment, consider it an essential part of the creative process. It gets you closer to what you really want as well.