So you’ve identified the need for a knitted present and you’ve pinpointed the yarn. Or perhaps there has been a skein of yarn shouting to be bought in your favourite yarn shop and you have decided to take the plunge. In the back of your mind is the nagging question – how do I know if this is good quality yarn?
There is nothing to beat a good squeeze of the yarn between your hands as a first test. If it squeaks or sounds crunchy feel free to put it down and abandon it immediately. Except if you are after cheap yarn for some reason and enjoy having your hair stand on end whilst knitting from the build up of static electricity.
Breaks in the plies
Wool is spun by hand or most commonly machine. Using either method, the number of wool strands (ply) which is spun together will determine the yarn weight e.g. 8 ply is DK weight. If one of the ply is broken, the strand of yarn at that point will be weaker and thinner. A quality manufacturer of yarn would go back over the yarn at the stage where it is broken to make good. You may feel a “bump” in the yarn but not much else. A lower quality yarn manufacturer, to save time and therefore money, will either just ignore these ply breaks OR knot them. Neither solution is great as you will need to deal with the consequences by splicing the yarn together yourself.
The next thing that could go wrong is the yarn plies splitting – but not breaking. Spinning yarn is not only the verb but the adjective for the process the wool goes through to create yarn. If you carefully examine a strand of yarn, you will see that each ply is twisted around each other. Some wool is spun tightly, others less so. Inflexible materials e.g. cotton, silk, linen and the stiff end of the man-made fibres, cannot be spun tightly and may be prone to splitting when you work with it. The solution is either not to use them, use yarn made of mixed fibres e.g. cotton and polyester or cotton and merino wool or use less pointy needles/hooks when using them.
Many customers ask whether the yarn they are thinking of buying will pill. The answer is that inevitably most yarns will pill the questions is to what extent? Mohair and soft or hairy yarns will pill quickly and a lot. Wool may pill on areas of high friction e.g. pockets, under the arm. The best way to judge is to look at how tightly the wool is spun as tightly spun wool is less likely to pill.
Usually price is a good indication of the quality of the yarn you are buying. There are always exceptions of course so to some extent it is “buyer beware”! Ask for advice if you are not sure. Your yarn shop owner should be able to help, or alternatively look for reviews of the yarn on line.
Please don’t be put off trying something new. Good luck with making your choices. I’ve chosen my new yarn. What do you think?