25 Jan 2021

Seeing Double: #2 – Using two ends of yarn for added warmth


Lamberhurst Scarf by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

I made a discovery a few years ago. I needed to knit a shawl for an evening event on Ellis Island, which is a small island in New York harbour. I had made an outfit in readiness but I knew the strappy top would not keep me warm in a New York winter. 

I went hunting for some suitable wool but couldn’t find anything in the weight I wanted, so I looked at thinner yarns that I could double up. I had often done this in the past. In fact when I was younger that was a frequent occurrence as my local yarn store only really carried light-weight wool yarns, mostly for socks and skimpy cardigans. 

However, as soon as I started to knit the shawl I noticed that it was gloriously warm to work. As it grew, I could feel the warmth on my lap, and when I tried it around my shoulders I felt instantly warmer. It was like magic.

Edinburgh Shawl by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

And when I thought about it, it seemed obvious: the doubling up of the yarn had added to the air being trapped within the yarn structure so that I was essentially wearing a knitted version of a duvet! The yarn itself had been spun to trap the air, but then I had added extra air pockets by working two strands together.

So in this second blogpost in my new series "Seeing Double", I would like to explore how we can use doubled-up yarns to add warmth to the finished item. If you would like to read the introductory blogpost to the series, please click here.

The Structure of Wool

The Structure of Wool, adapted from The Hierarchy of Wool

Let me back-track and talk about wool and why it is warm in the first place. Wool has a wonderful structure which gives warmth and elasticity to the fibre. Each strand has a mass of tiny, springy filaments inside and these are bundled together and enclosed within an outer layer. 

This outer layer has overlapping scales on the outside which gently hold the strands apart producing tiny cellular air pockets deep within the fibre.

Wool crimp, Photo: The Spinning Shepherd

Then on top of that, the bundles or “locks” of fibres are often wavy or crimped and this adds further warmth and insulation. Indeed the warmest wools are those which have small, highly-crimped fibres as they will trap the air to a greater degree. This effect can then be enhanced by spinning.

Woollen vs Worsted Spinning

Rolags, Alba Ranch spinning

Wool can be spun using either a “woollen” technique or in a “worsted” fashion. In woollen spinning, coils or “rolags” of loosely-carded fibres are gently elongated so that they retain a core of air within the structure. These singles are then plied together to give a warm, springy yarn. 

In worsted spinning, the fibres are combed so they are better aligned and then spun to retain this smoothness. Worsted-spun yarns tend to be a little stronger with excellent draping characteristics and lustre but are typically a little denser and cooler.

You can usually tell the difference between these two methods of spinning when you look at a ball of yarn, as woollen-spun yarns have a matte appearance and feel lightweight, cushy and warm. If you're buying on-line then the website might tell you if it has been woollen-spun, such as this yarn from Blacker Yarns in the UK or this one from Brooklyn Tweed in the USA. 

However, you can also tell by looking at the description which might include words such as "light", "airy", "warm" or "springy", or they might speak about the yarn "blooming" after washing. You can see an example of a yarn blooming when washed in my blogpost here.

Using doubled yarns for extra warmth


As a result of the above processes, you will see that a woollen-spun yarn using fine, crimpy wool will give you a warm, insulating starting material. Now if you double those yarns up so that every stitch has two separate strands being worked at the same time then that will add some extra opportunities for air to be trapped deep within the knit structure. Hence the warmth in my magic shawl!

Recently I had a couple of requests from people asking me for a winter-weight version of the Lamberhurst Scarf pattern and my mind immediately turned to a yarn I had sampled for the first time last year. This is Quince & Co “Chickadee” which is a soft, warm, squishy sportweight yarn and you can read more about this yarn in an earlier blogpost here. 

Lamberhurst Scarf by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

They also do a companion range called “Chickadee Organic Heathers” and if anything I was even more impressed with this when I ordered some a couple of months ago. The colours are gorgeous and the feel of the yarn makes it one of my current favourites to work with – and no, I don't get any commission from them! I just like the yarn. 

I selected a lovely denim blue colour called “Kyanite” and saw that the recommended gauge on the ball band was 26 sts:10cm/4 ins. This is a typical gauge for Sportweight yarns which are usually in the 24-26 sts:10cm/4 ins range.

Lamberhurst Scarf by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

I wanted to use the yarn doubled up and found that gave a very nice weight for a winter-weight scarf. The gauge was then 18sts:10cm/4 ins in the Chevron stitch pattern I used for the scarf. This is approximately the same as if I had used a Worsted Weight yarn but so, so much squishier and warmer!

I was really pleased with how this turned out and can see this scarf getting a lot of use for walks in the snow. So if you have been thinking about knitting something for the deep winter, then consider using two thinner yarns worked together to add warmth to the finished article.

Next Time . . .

I will come back to yarn weights next time and show how they can be a starting point to expanding your range of yarn options when you are thinking about your next project. 

In the meantime, if you would like to read more about the Lamberhurst Scarf pattern, then please click here. The reversible Chevron Stitch pattern was taken from our book "Reversible Knitting Stitches". You can find more information about the book and see some sample pages here.

Until next time, keep safe and smiling,

Moira




Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com


Photo credits: 
. The Structure of Wool diagram was adapted from "The Hierarchy of Wool", www.sciencedirect.com
. Photo of wool samples was taken from www.spinningshepherd.com
. Photo of rolags from www.albaranch.net

. All other photos by Moira Ravenscroft or Tim Ravenscroft 

7 Jan 2021

Seeing Double: #1 – A new blogpost series on knitting with two ends of yarn


Lamberhurst Scarf by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

I'm back after a bit of a break and ready with lots of knitting ideas for the New Year. The times are continuing with uncertainty and difficulties for so many people, but there's one thing that we can all count on: knitting helps. It really does. Knitting helps to calm the nerves, to give a focus away from the news and to relieve tension, stress and loneliness. 

Knowing that you are making something for a loved one you haven't seen for a while can make them feel closer. I know this for a fact as I have just posted off a little item for our brand-new grandson who we haven't met yet!

Anna Ravenscroft (Anna Alway) with Baby Arthur, Sweden

Many of you will know our daughter Anna as she is my co-author on our Reversible Knitting Stitches book. Her photos feature both in that book and in a number of my patterns. So I am sure you will be pleased to hear that she and her husband Andrew had a gorgeous little baby boy, Arthur, at the end of October. Hopefully we will be able to visit Sweden before too much longer so we can meet this little fellow in person.

In the meantime, I have been using the enforced extra home-time to finish a lot of the WIP (Work In Progress) items that have been languishing in baskets around my studio. It is always so satisfying to finish these items off, isn't it. I hope you have all managed to use your extra time at home to good use too.

Ocean Currents Rug by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

However, it's a New Year and time for new projects. So I thought I would write a series of blogposts about using doubled-up yarns. I love working with two ends of yarn at the same time and often get queries from people about this technique and why I love it so much. So I thought I would choose some pattern examples and describe what makes them work better with doubled yarns. 

I'll be looking at why doubled yarns are a wonderful way to bring extra warmth into a garment and will be talking a little bit about the structure of wool to help explain this further. I will also be exploring how we can use this technique for colour and design, such as in the Ocean Currents Rug shown in the photo above. Then lastly, I'll be describing some of the techniques for working with two or more ends of yarn held together.

So I'll be back next time with a look at a new winter version of the Lamberhurst Scarf shown in the lead photo at the top of this blogpost. This is worked with two ends of a sportweight yarn which has produced a wonderfully soft, warm winter scarf.

Until next time, keep safe, happy and healthy.

Moira




Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

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