Ever wondered how a knitting shop selects its knitting yarns? Or how an independent label selects yarns directly from the mill? Keep reading because I’m going to share my guiding principles when selecting new knitting yarns for you, here at Gorgeous Yarns.
What are my guiding principles when selecting new knitting yarns?
Each yarn has to meet at least one of these to get to the next stage…..
If possible I choose organic knitting yarns which have been produced with the best welfare standards for the animals and are mulesing free. This means the animals are fed an organic diet and raised under organic standards. They should also be allowed to graze and roam, and for sheep, the majority of their diet must come from grazing. This means the pasture they graze must be organic and not treated with any pesticides or herbicides.
Why does this matter? Its obviously better for the animals to live and graze naturally on organic pasture and feed. Its hard to say if this affects the quality of the fleece/fibre the animal produces, and the knitting yarn made from it. If its better for the sheep then surely its better for us from an ethical point of view. The search for organic knitting yarn also applies to fibres like cotton and bamboo too. These must be produced without pesticides or herbicides, and ideally with sustainable irrigation and a “closed loop” production system. (See my blog on Sustainable Knitting Yarns for more detailed information.)
There are wonderful native breeds of sheep that give lustrous fleece for knitting yarns, as well as alpacas and angora goats in the UK. For example, Corriedale, Blue Faced Leicester and Bowmont, all British sheep breeds with fleeces that are used for yarns commercially. (Almost all Merino comes from South America, Australia and New Zealand, and as far as I have been able to find out, British Merino is not commercially available as there is only one Merino flock in the UK.) Frangipani Guernsey 5ply is probably the only 100% British 5ply yarn available; from fleece, to fibre to dyer and spinner, it is all done in the UK. Its a premium product and we are very proud stockists.
Natural and Sustainable.
When choosing knitting yarns, I want to offer you an all natural product; one that doesn’t have nylon or synthetic fibres added, and ideally isn’t superwash coated. This means that the yarn is natural and beautiful, and you can be sure of what you are putting next to your skin. Wool is the ultimate sustainable fibre which is why it forms the majority of yarns we stock. However, the cotton knitting yarns are organic and produced with sustainable farming practices and sourced carefully.
How does it feel?
The feel of a yarn is so important! If it feels itchy or scratchy in any way, it doesn’t get selected! Simple!
Texture and use of the yarn.
I consider what the yarn will be suitable for and what its texture is. A firm yarn like Frangipani Guernsey 5ply is really only suitable for outer garments like Guernsey jumpers, whereas a Merino and Silk 4ply will be perfect for a soft shawl to drape around your bare shoulders in the summer. Each fibre has different properties and qualities and the product descriptions will tell you about this. Merino is soft and luxurious; silk adds sheen; cotton is breathable and non-allergenic, Corriedale holds stitch definition well; alpaca adds drape to a garment….
Would I use it?
I have been knitting for over 40 years (!) and I’m super fussy about what knitting yarn I use! I have used all sorts of yarns, and tested plenty for Gorgeous Yarns and only those that I would personally be happy to use make it to our collection.
How I test a new knitting yarn….
The first thing I do is to knit several swatches. This tells me whether the yarn knits to average tension, and whether is will work for most knitting projects. It also tells me how the yarn “performs”, i.e. does it feel nice to knit with, does it tend to split when used, does it have knots and snags, does it have an even thickness or is it a bit thin in places?
These swatches are then washed, a lot! I wash by hand, in the washing machine on a wool wash and lastly on an eco wash to see what each does. Does the knitted swatch shrink, pull out of shape, stretch, felt, rub, bobble etc. If it does, then its less likely that this yarn will suitable for all projects and I will advice you of this.
I often then test dye the remaining part of the skein to see how well the yarn will take natural dye colours. I only dye onto yarns that are stocked undyed. That way I can be sure that any hand dyed yarns are of a high enough quality for you.
What can you expect when you buy Gorgeous Yarns?
You can be sure you will be buying a quality knitting yarn that will work well with your project and give you years of pleasure as you wear or use the finished item. Our yarns are luxurious and carefully selected for you to make the most of your creative time. We have a no quibble returns policy on unused skeins and I am very happy to offer advice so you can make the right selection for your project. Ultimately, I want you to be really delighted with your knitting yarns and so that you can see why we are called Gorgeous Yarns!