A Knitter’s Paradise: The World of Art Yarns

A note from Kathleen: I love art yarns, in fact I have a few skeins in my stash that I pulled to the top a few weeks ago because I had a hankering for some funky knitted scarves. Imagine my surprise when I saw a wonderful article by Amy Palmer in the latest issue of Knitscene, all about art yarns. The article showcases several art yarns and talks about the yarn artists. It's fascinating to read about how these yarns are created—I spent a couple of hours on Etsy looking at art yarns after I read the article!

Knitscene is such a great resource for interesting bits of yarn lore, just like this article about art yarns. These yarns are so inspiring to me, I thought you might enjoy reading a bit of Amy's article to get some inspiration yourself. So here you go!

A Different Spin: Art Yarns

Koi Pond art yarn     
Koi Pond by Geraldine Santos of Dreamfiber

Art yarn is a unique category of fun, funky, and occasionally crazy, handspun. To a spinner, these yarns allow for limitless creativity and self-expression. Take a hank of fiber; prepare it in your preferred manner; go wild. Add fabric scraps, beads, hardware, random dangling bits-anything goes when you're spinning art yarn.

Creating usable art is the goal for these spinners. Yes, you're supposed to knit with it! Simple stitches, such as stockinette or garter, work best to show off the yarn.

Some spinners use additional unprocessed fibers to create their yarn. Geraldine Santos's (her Etsy shop is Dreamfiber) yarn Koi Pond. It hints at Japanese garden ponds, filled with colorful koi fish and shimmering light. The koi are large bits of unspun fiber, needlefelted to resemble fish and spun onto background fibers of blues, greens, and gold. Bits of ribbon, lace, and novelty yarns add finishing details to the little fish. The final yarn is a thick-and-thin bulky weight.

Esther Rogers (JazzTurtle on Etsy) has an art yarn called Ice Queen, which is spun from wool and silk, with an extra special element of a dangling snowflake running throughout, which is suspended from thread-it's free to flitter about like real snow.

Traditional spinning provides a blank canvas on which art yarn spinners can express themselves. With endless possibilities for materials, art yarn is only limited by the spinner's imagination!

What do I do with art yarn?

Phiaro knitted scarf     
Amy's Phiaro Scarf

Sure, art yarns look so pretty in the skein, but what do they look like when they're actually knitted? And is there a difference in the way a knitter has to manipulate the yarn when using art yarn?

As Geraldine Santos of Dreamfiber told me when I asked her, "A simple stitch creates an outstanding creation with art yarn! It does all the work for you." I don't know about you, but I'm a fan of things that do my work for me.

So I grabbed a random skein of art yarn I had lying in my stash (this was gifted to me by a friend, and she told me it came from While Tangerine Dreams on Etsy) and one of my favorite Knitscene patterns—Katie Himmelberg's Phiaro Scarf from our Knitscene Winter 2007/Spring 2008 issue—and set to work.

I wasn't sure how much yardage I had, and the yarn was much thicker than the DK weight used in the original, so I cast on about 130 stitches onto size 13 needles and then worked the pattern as instructed. I only knit for about 5", rather than the 20" the pattern calls for.

I made sure to pull the little flowers through the stitches, which wasn't always the easiest. I probably didn't have to do that, since this is a scarf and the flowers likely would have shown on either side of the work, but I was a little fixated on that for some reason.

Other than that, knitting this scarf was incredibly quick and easy. I worked on it over the holiday break, while my family and I were watching movies, and I spent about four hours knitting in total.

I'm really happy to have a new knitted scarf that was finished in a jiff! It's really warm and squishy, perfect for the random winter days we're having here in Colorado.

Have you knit with art yarn before? Share your stories in the comments below, as well as any tips you have, and look for my article in the Winter 2010/Spring 2011 Knitscene, available now!

Happy knitting!

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