can you indulge me a bit today? I’m going to go on and on about yarn in this post and may not even get to a point. at least you’ll have pretty pictures to look at. with that warning….

lately I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about woolen spun yarns and some leans to the negative. it seems that as soon as one person deems something “rustic” (more on that later) then people immediately think it is scratchy and not for them. this is so sad to me since to me woolen spun yarns are what I think of when I think of wool. the slick worsted spun yarns have their place, but do you really want every single project you knit or crochet to be exactly the same?

plucky elsa bt

“woolen spun” doesn’t mean one thing, there are variations within the process. all three skeins above are woolen spun, but they couldn’t  look and feel more different. some of it has to do with the differences in fibers, but it also has to do with the decisions each brand and mill made along the way. in the most basic sense, when spinning woolen the individual fibers vary in length and directions. they overlap each other at varying angles which creates air spaces between the fibers.  in worsted spinning,  the fibers are roughly the same length and run parallel to each other which leaves little space between the fibers. one of the best articles I’ve read on woolen vs worsted spinning is this interview with Sue Blacker.

matching up stash yarns for the masgot shawl pattern inspired me to make a woolen only project. I came across my elsawool cormo that happened to be right next to one of my skeins of plucky oxford. the two looked so good together to me that I immediately had to find a third yarn to knit with them. I had other colors of oxford, but I wanted this shawl to be a mix of fibers.

I originally ordered the elsawool to swatch for the stasis pullover. I fell in love with the feel and color so much that I kept swatching even though I knew I wasn’t getting anything close to gauge. you know that’s a good yarn! out of the three yarns I’m using, I think this is the softest and loftiest in the hank. it also has a bounce that I love. I dare you to walk past this yarn and not squish it. I can’t wait to see how the 2 plies bloom after washing. the color is the new dark grey (70% dark fleeces) cormo that Elsa recently introduced and it leans just a little brown in certain lights. I love the flecks of white throughout and I know I will eventually knit up a sweater in it, just need to decide on a pattern and order up more yarn.

the plucky oxford is tighter (it is a 3 ply) and has a dry feel in the hank. this isn’t what people are expecting when they hear it is a merino cashmere blend. but I don’t think that’s just because of the spinning. I think most cashmeres are overprocessed to give people that buttery feel they are looking for. I like yarns that are a little “drier” in the hank, but then soften up with washing and wearing. laines du nord royal cashmere comes to mind, and from using both oxford and scholar before, I know this yarn behaves this way. my cowl and shawl knit up in oxford are both extremely light and warm. the yarn bloomed beautifully.  notice no where did I say it was scratchy. it creates a wooly fabric I just love. my oshima sweater in scholar is one of my favorite knits ever. I adore this yarn.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what yarn to use for my cc. I was tempted to order some new yarn, something I’ve never used before, but I wanted to be able to see the colors next to the other two skeins before purchasing. I’m able to go over to loop and look at all brooklyn tweed colors, so loft won out. loft and I have a strained relationship, I want to love it but something always stops me. this time the yarn was broken in the hank and it broke in two more places while winding. at least I know it spit splices well. loft is a 2-ply targhee-columbia. those plies are so softly spun together that I almost couldn’t count them and it seems to create and thick and thin texture (at least in this hank). the felted feel of this yarn (notice how it is stuck together in the photo above) drives my hands nuts. it isn’t scratchy, but it takes my hands a while to get used to it and to stop sweating (am I the only one that gets this reaction from loft or shelter?). the colors (sap) and little flecks and the lightness of the skein though! sigh.

as I was taking pictures, loft kept playing tricks on me. it looks so out of focus compared to plucky and elsawool. it even looks thicker than the other two. the three yarns are the same, but so so differnet. I’m interested in seeing how it behaves with the other yarns and how the short row wedges found in the masgot pattern will come out between the sturdier fabric surrounding it.

and just to compare yarns another way:

elsawool fingering weight cormo: 450yds/113g (my skein weighs 120g) – $21 plus shipping

the plucky knitter oxford: 430yds/115g (my skein weighs 110g)- $32 plus shipping

brooklyn tweed loft: 275yds/50g (my skein weighs 46g)- $14.50

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  • Cara April 17, 2015 at 7:02 am

    You are killing this knit blog thing lady! Love it!! I am guilty of never branching out. But I should. I really really should. Thank you for this post!

    • bitterpurl April 17, 2015 at 8:54 am

      how about I branch out from plucky and you branch out from tosh?! lmao baby steps right?
      maybe you can go crazy with the yarn for chartreuse.

  • knottygnome April 17, 2015 at 8:17 am

    I think both types of yarn have their place, but I love spinning woolen yarns the most. I think they get a bad rep sometimes because they don’t wear as well as worsted spun yarns. but to me the extra warmth and lightness are worth it. i’ve heard bad things about Loft/Shelter (but especially loft) breaking when winding but I’ve never had that problem. it is a little on the scratchier side for me but i love knitting with it.

    • bitterpurl April 17, 2015 at 8:53 am

      I think a lot of knitters need to add variety to their stash, I know I do. I love woolen yarns though and I wish they were more available at lys’s.

      I’ve never had it happen to me before, though, like I said, the yarn was already broken in the skein. I have had Shelter break on me when finishing the Skiff hat. We’ll see how Loft behaves this time. I wouldn’t call it scratchy in my hands, just a little odd feeling since that felted feel drives my hands crazy.

      as for the wearing, I’ve heard that before but if you read the article I linked she says the opposite. my woolen sweater hasn’t pilled much.

      ps your blog must hate me because my comments never go through :O

  • grumperina April 20, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    all three look gorgeous. I hadn’t even realized that Plucky had woolen bases! Elsawool is new to me, and I wish it came in more colors.

    • bitterpurl April 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Plucky introduced Scholar (the worsted weight version) a year ago and then oxford a little while later over the summer.
      I wish Elsawool came in more colors too! I’m happy to get what I can though since it’s such a gorgeous yarn.

  • cal April 24, 2015 at 11:08 am

    i love this post. i can look at pics of yarn and hear musings about it all day. i am also moving toward more rustic and woolen yarns… yarns that seem WOOLLY. thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • bitterpurl April 27, 2015 at 11:07 am

      glad I wasn’t blathering on! 😀

      I definitely want a more varied stash and would love more woolly yarns.

  • Keren Duchan April 29, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Intriguing and fascinating!!
    My upcoming knitting project is “little wave” by Brooklyn Tweed (https://www.brooklyntweed.com/shop/little-wave/). I still don’t have any yarn for it and I was wondering whether I should get “shelter” or not. I don’t have access to most yarns available in the US, so I either buy other brands that are available locally, or take the plunge and buy online (assuming I can find a source without a huge shipping rate). It really helps reading these reviews as it makes it easier for me to “feel” the yarns even though they are far away, and know more about them. The shipping alone from BT would be $25… So you may understand why I hesitate to buy without feeling confident in my choice! 🙂

    • bitterpurl May 5, 2015 at 10:44 am

      I totally understand your hesitation! That shipping takes away from your yarn budget.
      I don’t find shelter/loft to be scratchy, but it isn’t the kind of softness we’re used to. To be honest, while knitting on my shawl, the loft sections reminded me of dryer lint. Not the harshest material, but not something I necessarily want on me. The yarn also broke multiple times while knitting (I’m loose knitter) but it easily splices. I wish there was a way for you to feel a bit of this yarn before you commit to a sweater’s worth.

      • Keren Duchan May 5, 2015 at 12:31 pm

        I read several other hesitant reviews about Shelter and really, a good yarn that people love does not get reviews like that. Maybe after the wash it’ll transform. But I decided against it.

        I’m interested in animal welfare, and although I haven’t thoroughly researched the subject, the best I’ve found so far is White Gum Wool (http://whitegumwool.com.au/) in Australia. Shipping is just 10 USD internationally. I was hesitant because the colors are completely uniform, but the yarn got excellent reviews. So I went for it, no regrets. I recommend watching the video on her site and listening to her interview on Woolful. She’s quite a remarkable lady. I heard what mulesing was and I think it’s terrible sheep are treated that way. So I am happy to support her because she takes care of her animals and gives them a good life.