As some of you might already know I hope to open an Etsy yarn shop one day, and have been slowly trying to find my favourite yarn bases. The process is a slow one, as I want to put each base through the paces of not only dyeing but wear – as this is such a huge factor to me in how I purchase and covet yarn!
I am trying a new company this week, which is exciting. I decided to be serious about my sampling this time and instead of buying project sized quantities of yarn (yay!) forced myself to get only one skein of those I found interesting (boo) so that I could swatch up a larger range and get things moving.
The packaged arrived while I was at work yesterday so I got up early this morning to run to the post office and pick up my packet of joy.
I ordered my first superwash yarns for testing this time. I had been avoiding them as I have a head/heart dilemma with them.
Head: I have read that many of the yarns get shipped to China for the chemical process that makes them superwash, so on top of the enviromental impact they have in the processing of the yarns to strip the scales that cause felting, they can rack up a somewhat larger carbon footprint than less processed yarns.
I also find that some superwash yarns have a kind of lifelessness about them that can feel a little synthetic and cause things to stretch in a bad way after washing.
Heart: One of my favourite yarns is the hugely popular Madelinetosh yarns which are all (I think) superwash. I love their crunchiness, the way the colour takes and the shine. And of course I SUPER LOVE the way they wear. I have done 2 projects in Madelintosh Tosh DK over a year ago that have seen heavy use and are both immaculate – no pilling, fuzzing, stretching out of shape – as good as the day I finished the project. If I could afford it and, more importantly, if the colours I wanted were available in the UK, would be working with the yarn much much more.
Of course the whole purpose of superwash yarns is that they are machine wash and dry-able. This has never been much of a plus with me as I handwash all my woolens, regardless, and we don’t have a dryer. However, I discovered today that this trait becomes a massive plus when dyeing yarn – no worries about felting in the hot water so you can stir, squeeze and prod to your heart’s delight! Good times. ;-)So which superwash yarns did I get? I started with the workhorse as my ‘baseline’ – 100% Merino. That is it below at the top of the photo:
Underneath it is 100% Bluefaced Leicester – both are 4ply.I was nerdily thrilled to be able to compare these side by side. As you can see below, they are very nearly identical. The merino is slightly whiter whilst the BFL is ever so slightly shinier.
BFL on left – Merino right
The thing that surprised me was that the BFL felt slightly…softer?! I hadn’t expected that, as I have used untreated BFL in the past and knew it could be quite spikey. I couldn’t put my finger on it as ‘softer’ wasn’t quite the right description, so got my partner to hold both skeins and see what differences he felt and, bless him, he hit it on the head. He said it felt slightly ‘sleeker’.
Maybe that was it? It would make sense as the BFL is a long hair and would therefore be longer strands with less ends poking out than the merino when plied up…? But I am just guessing. All I know is that it feels lovely and I can’t wait to see the difference between the two when swatched, blocked and roughed up.
Then… 2 more superwash – these ones are the luxury blends – a gorgeously luminous Merino/Silk DK at top and a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon 4 ply at bottom.
Again, really interesting to hold and compare these undyed examples side by side. The Merino/Cash/Ny is the same ply as the top two with the same Merino, but the addition of the Cashmere pluffs it up so it doesn’t even look or feel like superwash yarn. No crunch to this at all, just plump softness.
Merino/Silk left – M/C/N right
Oddly the same holds for the Merino/Silk – it doesn’t feel like superwash and is soft and fluffy, even though I would have expected the density of the silk to compress the fibres into something more compact.
This one is going to be amazing to dye. I can’t wait to see how the colours shimmer off this base! Yum.
There are quite a few more yarns, but this is turning into a monster post, so I will leave it here for now! So much to do!