Back to School – Fibres


Top 3 Favourite Yarn Books

1. No Sheep for You
2. Knitter’s Book of Wool, The
3. Knitter’s Book of Yarn, The

As you might have gathered, I am a bit of a knitting geek. After a whole decade dedicated to this stuff, my teacher-like instincts have driven me to look at ‘the how’ as well as ‘the why’ different factors can make our humble knit and purl stitches so different.

Many of you might now be heading for the exit (or hoping against hope that there won’t be an end of term test on this), but it is fascinating to know about the physical structures of different fibres and how it affects the end-product’s properties.

What started this interest was an article in a magazine about the weirder fibres (and I’m not just talking about the people who spin hamster fur into yarn, yes, there is a webgroup for everyone). It blew my mind to realise that you can make fibre out of milk (yep, that stuff from a cow), seaweed, trees (although to be fair cellulose fibres have been around for a while) and any fur-bearing animal.

Each type of fibre has different properties and there seems to be more made each year.

No Sheep for You

No Sheep for you by Amy R Singer

Whether you are allergic to wool, born in a tropical part of the world or just curious, this is a chatty journey about knitting without sheep wool. It contains a good mix of natural and man-made fibres and goes through each key fibre and tells you about how it is made. It highlights key properties and additional considerations (such as the best way to block). This is a useful resource which, as someone who once spectacularly tangled 1000 meters of silk on a ball winder, provides helpful tips.

I also like the pages that talk about how to go about fibre identification (especially useful for any sale bin specials that don’t have a ball band) and the key tests you can run. The book also includes 20 projects linked to the different fibres, a good range of mainly clothes that all take advantage of the key properties of the materials.

Favourite Pattern
I like “Tuscany” which is a silk shawl that uses a nice leaf style repeat and “River rock scarf”, which is also a silk scarf but with a nice bead motif.

Knitter’s Book of Wool, The

The knitters book of wool by Clara Parkes

There are over 200 different breeds of sheep in the world today and each breed has wool with slightly different properties. As this book goes onto explain, lumping all sheep’s wool into one category is like only thinking in terms of “house red” for all wines. This is not a book for the faint hearted (as it does go into a lot of detail) but I found it fascinating.

It explains how each key breed produces different fibre types (think of the difference between fine flyaway hair and corkscrew curly hair) and how these effect the touch and look of the knitted item. It also explains how yarn is processed “from pasture to pullover” and how these different processing methods and fibre blends can also effect the outcome of the yarn. The book also includes 19 patterns and key information on the washing and caring of finished items.

Favourite Pattern
I like the “comfy cardigan” for its interesting construction (the top is knitted 90 degrees to the bottom) and the “leafy glen shell” top that uses a nice peek-a-boo lace feature.

Knitter’s Book of Yarn, The

The knitters book of yarn by Clara Parkes

Like her book on wool, this book goes in-depth on how different fibres are categorised, constructed and produced. As before, this is a fascinating and detailed look at our key materials which really gives you an understanding of what is going on your ball bands. This book contains 40 patterns which, unusually, are divided up by fibre weight (2 ply to textured yarn). This is very useful for stash busting.

Favourite Pattern
I like the felted “calla lily bag” and the 2ply “raspberry rhapsody scarf” as they both use simply but visually effective construction methods.



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