Today I spent supervising two four-year-olds (my daughter and her friend) and one two-year old (my son) for four hours. Its so cold outside that we can't leave the house. This time of year always makes me think that we are insane to live in New York with kids. They simply don't get to go outside for four months of the year. When they come home from "school" it's already dark out. This is why Santa Claus brought us a trampoline this year (a small round one), so everyone in our household can burn some much needed energy (and steam) and we don't *&@#$ each other...
But back to yarns :-).
Linen (flax plant):
Linen is a yarn harvested from flax fibers. It is highly absorbent and a good conductor of heat. Linen is a perfect yarn for summer months. It is durable, easy to knit, and breathes well. However, it is not the softest yarn on the body. Therefore, cotton is more popular and more widely available. I usually prefer cotton myself.
There is also Hemp, which I have seen once as a yarn, it's made out of cannabis (yummy :-), just kidding--I am a responsible parent! ;-) ).
They make so many things out of Hemp now: paper, biodegradable plastic, food, and cosmetics (according to Wikipedia). In China it is even mixed into cement... As a yarn I thought it was rather scratchy, so I haven't used it. Things might have changed by now, though, so if you find it, feel free to give it a try.
is relatively new to the market. If you manage to get a really good quality, it can feel and knit kind of like silk, except it is much much cheaper. Bamboo also has the benefit of being a fully renewable resource. It is the environmentally safest thing out there. If you can buy bamboo anything for your household (chairs, placemats, furniture... I highly recommend it).
Silk (caterpillars, mulberry silkworm):
It looks gross, I know...
Silk is a very interesting fabric. It is retrieved from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm, so unlike all the other animal-harvested yarns, it is not harvested from hair or fur but is actually produced by the insect. It is literally a year-round yarn: it breathes in the summer and insulates in the winter. One problem with silk is that it is entirely un-elastic; it has the tendency to stay in whatever shape it was stretched to. Elbows and knees can be a problem as the yarn just keeps getting stretched and does not return to its original shape. Washing it is a problem, too, because wet silk responds to a mere touch but does not retract when it dries. You might knit a short and wide sweater, but find that it is long and narrow after you wash it in the sink. I always dry clean silk for that reason. It is a wonderful yarn that is very shiny and very smooth on the skin. It looks great in lace patterns and maintains its shape better when used in that way. Another trick to keep silk in shape is to knit along a very thin strand of wool or cotton in the same color (like sock yarn) to strengthen the silk. Silk is great for short summer dresses and tank tops, but it is also great for winter mittens, undershirts, and scarves. It is not cheap, however, so even undershirts should serve some kind of decorative purpose (perhaps peak out from underneath something else). Silk is extremely durable. It can hurt your fingers if you knit too tightly because it is so strong. It is nearly impossible to rip, and it is definitely a good beginner’s yarn (although it is not cheap).
A really nice yarn company for silk is Schulana. It's a Swiss company, but I bought their yarn in a yarnshop in New York. I got a wonderful natural cotton/silk blend (tey also make really nice cotton). There website is: http://www.schulana.ch/. Obviously, for most people the German will be hard to read. In the US, the company is distributed by http://www.skacelknitting.com/, the same people who make those incredibly fast round knitting needles...
For Bamboo, try Sarah's Yarns
Thanks for visiting!