Yarn Choices: Which Yarn for Which Project?
In my blog post, Demystifying Mystery Yarn, I mentioned that I would be most likely to use a good quality acrylic yarn when knitting for a baby. This is because acrylic tends to be affordable and easy to wash. The last thing a new Mum wants to do is clean spit up out of a hand-wash only, cashmere baby cardigan.
Since that post, I have had several requests to write a post about yarn choices, with advice on what type of fibres suit which type of project best, so that's what I'm doing now!
Now bear in mind that this is just a loose guideline, there are definitely no hard and fast rules when it comes to yarn choices.
It's more about weighing up the attributes of the fibre and making an informed decision on what you require from it.
For example, although my yarn choice would usually use an acrylic for baby items, there are actually a great many beautiful Superwash yarns that could also be used. You need to look at the pros and cons of the yarn you are going to buy.
Which is softer, the acrylic or the wool? You don't want your cardigan to be scratchy on its sensitive baby skin, so that's something to consider.
Which is more expensive? Babies grow super fast, and if it's going to set you back quite a bit, will it be worth it if the little bundle doesn’t actually wear it for long?
Most socks are knitted from specific sock yarn. This tends to be Superwash wool, usually containing some nylon. This is because it needs to be hardwearing as you're stepping on it all the time, and it needs to keep its shape so they don't start slipping down around your ankles. Of course, they also need to be easily washable!
You don't have to use Superwash wool, however, you will need to handwash if not.
Blankets are awesome because anything goes. The softer the better, but there are definitely no rules for blankets!
Cardigans & Jumpers
This depends on the garment. Is it a winter jumper? Animal fibre is great for keeping you warm.
Is it a light Summer cardigan? Plant blends such as cotton or bamboo could be good, however, bear in mind they don't always keep their shape as well.
Is the pattern quite structured, or is it very drapey? Alpaca stretches easily and tends not to shrink back, so would be fine for something with a lot of draping but not for a jumper with a more structured shape.
Will it be next to the skin? Look for something really soft, nobody likes scratchy wool on their nipples! (Again, I'm assuming here guys… you do you!)
Dishcloths & towels
Always cotton, without a doubt. It absorbs water brilliantly in a way no other fibre does.
Wool is great for knitted hats. It's toasty warm and keeps its shape well. Again, if it will be worn against the skin make sure you go for something as soft as possible. Something like alpaca wouldn't be appropriate unless you wanted to repurpose your hat as a shopping bag once it stretched to be too big for your head!
Scarves and Shawls
Really any fibre can be used for scarves and shawls. It depends on what you're going for. A light Springtime scarf will be made of something different to a chunky Winter scarf.
Soft animal fibres are fabulous for winter shawls and scarves as they are toasty warm. A fibre like cashmere or alpaca has beautiful drape to it, is really warm, and super soft, so would be perfect. The skin on the neck is quite sensitive, so a scratchy sheep's wool may not be appropriate.
I love knitting scarves and shawls because there are so many different styles that you really can use most yarns!
There is no one perfect yarn for every type of project.
The designer will tell you what yarn they used, and you have artistic licence to either stick with that, or try something different and see what happens. The information in this post will help you make an informed decision, but it is still just a guideline.
So, you were probably hoping I was about to give you a run down list of exactly what yarn you should use for which project, weren't you? Unfortunately, it's just not that straight forward. However, the beauty of that is that you get to play with all sorts of different fibres, and by experimenting you may find that you love something that you never expected, so get playing!