Hand Knitting - Knitting Materials - Yarn

Yarn

Yarn for hand-knitting is usually sold as balls or skeins (hanks), although it may also be wound on spools or cones. Skeins and balls are generally sold with a yarn-band, a label that describes the yarn's weight, length, dye lot, fiber content, washing instructions, suggested needle size, likely gauge, etc. It is common practice to save the yarn band for future reference, especially if additional skeins must be purchased. Knitters generally ensure that the yarn for a project comes from a single dye lot. The dye lot specifies a group of skeins that were dyed together and thus have precisely the same color; skeins from different dye-lots, even if very similar in color, are usually slightly different and may produce a visible stripe when knitted into the same project. If a knitter buys insufficient yarn of a single dye lot to complete a project, additional skeins of the same dye lot can sometimes be obtained from other yarn stores or online.

The thickness of the yarn is a significant factor in determining the gauge, i.e., how many stitches and rows are required to cover a given area for a given stitch pattern. Thicker yarns generally require thicker knitting needles, whereas thinner yarns may be knit with thick or thin needles. Hence, thicker yarns generally require fewer stitches, and therefore less time, to knit up a given garment. Patterns and motifs are coarser with thicker yarns; thicker yarns produce bold visual effects, whereas thinner yarns are best for refined patterns. Yarns are grouped by thickness into six categories: superfine, fine, light, medium, bulky and superbulky; quantitatively, thickness is measured by the number of wraps per inch (WPI). The related weight per unit length is usually measured in tex or dernier.

In addition to choosing the correct thickness for the gauge, the knitter must also pick the type of yarn fiber. There are currently about fifteen types of yarn fiber, falling into two categories, natural and synthetic. Natural fibers are those that are obtained from a plant or an animal and have different attributes depending on the animal/plant they are harvested from which must be taken into account when considering the uses of a finished knitting object. Example: Wool is well suited to items which will be used to hold in heat, even when damp, such as winter hats and mittens. Linen, however, would be well suited to a light summer sweater when breath ability is a factor. Synthetic fibers are made by forcing a thick solution of polymerized chemicals through spinneret nozzles and hardening the resulting filament in a chemical bath. Natural fibers are generally softer and more comfortable whereas synthetics are durable and easier to dye. Some fibers can be harder to knit with than others for a variety of reasons. cotton, for example, doesn’t stretch as much as wool, and as such requires the knitter to work harder to maintain gauge.

Before knitting, the knitter will typically transform a hank into a ball where the yarn emerges from the center of the ball; this making the knitting easier by preventing the yarn from becoming easily tangled. This transformation may be done by hand, or with a device known as a ballwinder. When knitting, some knitters enclose their balls in jars to keep them clean and untangled with other yarns; the free yarn passes through a small hole in the jar-lid.

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