Saturday 13 January 2024


Crimp and stretch

Last week, I finished two different yarns. The way they were spun were similar, my go-to short forward draft method. The preparation for both was equal too, prepared from raw fleece, scoured, washed, carded in the drum carder and rolled into rolags. Spun and plied into a 2-ply yarn, skeined on my thrifted Swedish skein winder (paraply haspel) into skeins 150 cm in circumference. The only difference was the sheep breed. One was Romney, with long, rather shiny fibers with a wavy kind of crimp, not very fine fibers I would say. The other was Flevolander, with shorter, also a bit shiny but less than the Romney, rather crimpy fibers. Very fine wool, lambs wool from the first shearing.

After being spun, both were washed, even in the same bath and rinse cycles and here the interesting difference happened. During drying it became clear that the length of the skeins differs hugely. They have both been lying flat when drying, next to each other. And still one skein is much shorter than the other. This difference is to be attributed to the crimp. The Flevolander has much more crimp which causes the yarn to ‘shrink’. But not really shrink as in felting, because it is still possible to stretch it to the original length of the skein.

This elasticity influences your knitting. My experience is that the project that you knit will be more elastic. That is a nice thing in hats and mittens, shawls and sweaters. Maybe not so in weaving projects for e.g. blankets or a woven shawl (especially when the warp material differs from the weft). Knitting with rigid yarns (I call my un-shrinking Romney yarn like that), as opposed to elastic yarns, can be a bit tough for the joints and muscles in your hands and arms. It gives you a final product where the individual stitches remain more visible as they do not shrink and spread themselves nicely in the open spaces. The rigid yarn has its advantages. Weaving with rigid yarns is more pleasant and the size of the final product is more predictable.

I wonder what difference it makes when crocheting. Classic borders, doilies etc. that are crocheted, were mostly made with cotton or linen, no stretch there at all. So a woollen substitute would best be an unstretchy yarn. However, a big croched shawl that is a bit stretchy seems nice. So maybe both types of yarn can be used, depending on the project being made.

Below are the two skeins, Romney to the left and Flevolander to the right.

This is what crimp does to the length of your skein, or to the elasticity in your yarn. Amazing isn't it?

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