Thursday, January 1, 2009

All About Yarn

Rita of Downtown Yarns

I had such a great time today. I went downtown (Manhattan) to a small neighborhood yarn shop called Downtown Yarns. I hung out with Rita, the owner, for one hour and "asked a hole in her stomach" (that's a German saying...). She was very patient with me. I told her that I am about to start writing a blog about knitting stores in New York. I am going to review the stores in detail, with information about the owners and their staff. Rita was most obliging and, it turns out, she is an identical twin, like me :-). I wrote a lot of stuff down and took a bunch of pictures. Then I went home to take care of my kids (Andor, 2 and Anna, 4). When I looked over my notes in the evening, it occurred to me that I should probably write a little bit about the products the stores carry before I review the stores. That's why I will begin this blog with descriptions of different types of yarn, of spinning, and of different yarn companies that I love. Before you start hitting the road for yarns, it's really good to know what to look for. I will explain what it is like to knit with each yarn, and how best to take care of it. This month I will also interview Meera Kothari, an avid knitter and spinner, who is the owner of the shop Knit Knack in Maplewood, NJ. We will talk about yarn, spinning, and her favorite yarn companies...

So here goes:

There are lots of different natural yarns. They come from all kinds of places. Some are made from plants, some out of protein, and some from animals. The most widely known plant yarn is:


Cotton is a purely plant-based yarn (some cotton yarns have soybean protein fiber or ramie added). It is a very smooth yarn, ideal for baby and children’s clothing because of its durability. Cotton comes in a number of varieties. The cheapest cotton is “potholder yarn,” a smooth, evenly-twisted cotton that is great for—you guessed it—potholders, but can be used for sweaters and shirts as well. More elaborate kinds of cotton are BouclĂ©, CablĂ©, unevenly spun cotton, and mercerized cotton. Cotton can be used for any kind of sweater, for hats, for scarves, and for mittens. It can be washed often and generally retains its shape when treated right. Cotton feels good on the body. It breathes well and comes in various levels of thickness, although perhaps not as many as wool. Cotton is great for socks, although it might not keep your feet as warm as wool in the cold winter months. Since cotton is a plant-based yarn, there is a difference between organic and non-organic cotton. Organic cotton is raised with an awareness of the impact heavy pesticides and fertilizers have on the environment. Most often organic cotton is also “fair trade,” which means they pay the cotton workers decent wages. Of course, with all yarns there are chemical dyeing and plant-based dyeing processes. “Organic cotton” does not mean that the yarn is pure and free of chemicals; chemicals might have been added during the dyeing process. Cotton is a great yarn for beginning knitters.

For some really beautiful cotton yarn, check out
Araucania Yarns.

They have a nice blend of colors and produce very good quality yarns. You can contact them to find out where and how they sell. Or just visit your local yarn shop and ask to see some natural cotton. :-)

That's enough for one day, more tomorrow... Thanks for stopping by!


jcnStudios said...

What great information! I knit but really don't know a whole lot about the different types of yarns.

Blue & White Wear said...

Great info! Makes me want to learn to knit!

Stacey said...

Wow, that is a lot of great info! I love friendly people in yarn shops. :)