Last week we looked at some of the different fibers available to people like myself and Ash who can’t swathe ourselves in wool. This week, I’ll be looking at some of the specific non-wool yarns I’ve used in the past for various projects, and letting you know how they worked out.
Knitpicks Comfy: This is my go-to sock yarn for Ash, and I’ve made her several pairs, as well as hand warmers and hats. Do be careful when washing this yarn, as it shows wear easily, but it is very soft and available in several thicknesses, from fingering up to worsted.
Knitpicks Shine: This bamboo/rayon based yarn holds up a bit better than Comfy and has a lovely sheen to it. It’s also very soft and warm. I used it to make most of a sweater for Ash a couple of years ago (it’s the black yarn in the attached image). She wears this sweater a lot and finds it very comfortable.
Dish cotton: This thick 100% cotton yarn is available just about everywhere. Knitpicks carries a version, you can also find it at craft stores and Walmart. It’s cheap and takes dyes really well if you’re looking to dabble in dying. I tend to buy white or undyed cotton by the cone to make household items from washcloths and coasters to mop pads and loufas. I have also once made a summer sweater using what was essentially dish cotton (Bernat Handicrafter solids). I don’t really recommend it. It doesn’t hold up well for garments, but is okay for things like hats that don’t see a lot of aggressive wear or washing. You would think it would hold up better for garments since it’s intended for scrubbing pots and pans, but it sags horribly on the body and tends to fade quickly.
Crochet thread: Another 100% cotton yarn that is available most places with a craft department, crochet thread is thin (“lace weight” or thinner) but not as thin as sewing thread (please don’t try to knit with sewing thread. I’ve done it. You won’t enjoy it). Typically used for making things like lace trims, doilies, and other small items it can also be worked up into bedspreads or table cloths, among other things. Made of mercerized cotton, this thread has no give, either in terms of elasticity or squish. It’s not something you want rubbing against sensitive body parts, and in general would just make for very uncomfortable garments.
Craft store brands: This covers a wide variety of yarns. This is your Red Hearts, your Carrons, Lion Brand, Loops and Threads, etc. Made almost exclusively from synthetic fibers, these yarns are usually soft, cheap, and available everywhere from Michael’s to Target. The sheer variety of yarns in this category means you can usually find something suitable for whatever project you’re working on, from baby blankets to sweaters, though I usually don’t reccomend these yarns for socks. They usually don’t come in yarns thin enough for comfortable socks (slippers, maybe), but the lack of natural fiber content means they don’t breathe and no one likes sweaty feet. For most other things, however, they aren’t bad. I usually use this kind of yarn when I’m making something for children that will need frequent washing or someone I’ve never knit for before, just to test the waters. I’ll see how they treat that $3.99 acrylic hat before I make them a pair of socks from that $26 hand dyed skein from Etsy.
Custom yarns: This is honestly one of my favorite options. Made from several individual yarns intended for machine knitting at an industrial level, yarn companies purchase mill ends (leftovers) and blend them together into a single cone to create a unique yarn. I first saw this type of yarn in Montreal, and have since bought several cones, including the purple and green blend on the sweater pictured above (detail to the left), and two cones you’ll see next week. The best place I’ve found for this type of yarn in the US is Yarnia, a Portland based company which stocks house blends as well as allowing you to make your own custom cone using their online yarn selector.
Other yarns: If you’re looking to shop your LYS instead of a big box store, then there are a few names you can look out for. Most larger yarn brands do have non-wool options available now, and with the emphasis on the environment a lot of them are moving away from synthetics at the same time.
Berocco offers both a soft cotton and a mercerized cotton. I’ve used both at different points, and they aren’t bad. Just keep in mind the properties of each fiber when choosing your project. Weekend was great to work with.
Schoeller and Stahl also offers a soft cotton, their Cotton Mix. I found this on clearance at my LYS for a dollar per 50g ball. My main disappointment with this yarn was the yardage–it only contained 55 meters, so it took 3 and a half balls to make a hat (right). This yarn is 40% acrylic.
Other yarns I’ve worked with and would recommend: Cascade Ultra Pima, MaggiKnits Maggi’s Linen, Berocco Linsey, Deborah Norville Serenity yarns by Premier Yarns. The last two make pretty good socks, despite the face that Serenity is a synthetic yarn.
Bernat Blanket Pet is a velour yarn that I would normally avoid like the plague, but this super soft synthetic yarn doesn’t shed like similar yarns I tried when first learning to knit.
I hope you found this list useful. Is there a non-wool yarn that you like best? What’s your go-to sock yarn, if you don’t use wool?
Like what you see? Check out 10 Tips for New Knitters & Crocheters.