An intimate knowledge of yarn

Knowing the right yarn for the project

The Yarn Review section of Spring 2012 issue of Interweave Knits takes a look at Tencel yarns.

I thought I knew yarn before I took on editing Interweave Knits. After all, I knitted! I was on a first-name basis with everyone at every yarn shop in a 50-mile radius. I owned a lot of yarn and seemed to buy more all the time. I could spin, a little. That's pretty much everything you need to be a yarn expert, right?

Was I in for a surprise. When I landed in Interweave's offices, I realized that my yarn knowledge amounted to a single splash in the deep, fast-flowing river of yarn conciousness surrounding me. All around, people were casually talking about spinning yarn for sweaters, discussing twist and ply and how they would affect the yarn and the final fabric. I learned that you can prepare a fiber in many different ways, and that they all produce different yarns that act in different ways. I met people who dyed their own, skeined their own, grew their own on the backs of pet cashmere goats.

I realized that I was a yarn lover, and that was about it.

At Interweave Knits, we tend to address commercially available yarns much more often than yarns spun at home. But living at the center of the yarniverse started to rub off on me: I began to really examine yarns, to learn about why they looked the way they did, felt the way they did, behaved the way they did. I've swatched dozens—hundreds—of yarns over the years, investigating their hows and whys, raveling an end or two to see how it's made. I talk to manufacturers, read specs, do burn tests. And I think long and hard when pairing a project up with a yarn—springy, round-cross-sectioned 5-ply Merino to make those cables pop, fuzzy woolen-spun Shetland to make that colorwork hazy-bright with blended color. My yarn education has been a lot of fun.

The Yarn Review section of Winter 2011 issue of Interweave Knits takes a look at heathered yarns.

And my enthusiasm for yarn has found its way into the pages of the magazine—in every issue, we run a Yarn Review that investigates commercially available options within a certain fiber or construction type. We've called on authors as varied as Stephenie Gaustaud, Clara Parkes, and Deborah Robson—experts in their fields, all—to share some of their knowledge with us. It's one of my favorite parts of the magazine—and probably the two pages that teach me the most in every issue. It's become one of my missions: to give knitters the tools they need to start discovering the wide world of yarns themselves.

I never think of myself as a yarn expert now, although I certainly know more about yarn than I did when I started in this job. Instead, I think of myself as a student of yarn—always ready to learn something new, always ready to add to my stash of useful information. And of course, that's not the only stash I've added to.

It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it.

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