Guest Post: Baa, No Wool?

Guest blogger Sayra Adams of Atomicblue Fibers shares her adventures in dyeing, spinning and knitting with non-wool fibers with us this month. Get inspired to explore the surprisingly wonderful world of non-wool fibers on today’s post. Enjoy!

 Seriously. No wool? How can you have yarn without it?! I know. You’re imagining acrylic Red Heart yarn! But what if I was to tell you that today’s manufactured fibers are so much more? Faux cashmere: so silky and luxurious. Then there’s icicle: lovely soft sparkle fibers. I can also show you a faux angora that you’d swear was the real deal! It’s very exciting stuff. The spinning fibers these days are high tech, way beyond the basic crunchy acrylics of the past.

I had spun exclusively non-wool yarn before. It was gorgeous, but lacked softness. There was no bounce, which was a big let down. My goal was to recreate the lovely look of that yarn. This time, with bounce and incredible softness. How? With fake cashmere!

Fake cashmere, it’s a wonder fiber. I am totally addicted! It’s a nylon fiber, it gives my scarves strength. It also adds shine, and luster. Some are purists, I respect that. Only natural fibers are their thing, which is totally great. This article focuses on nylon fibers, spotlighting Louet’s fake or “faux” cashmere. Here’s some secrets about faux cashmere. It soaks up dye like nobody else’s business! If you love neon, it’s your fiber. Fluorescents, they are spectacular.

On today’s post, I’ll be taking you from fiber to shawl. There’s room to play, so branch out and do your own thing! I used Jacquard Acid Dyes, but you can use any dyes you are comfortable with to achieve fun and varied results. 

Colors I used: Lilac, Hot Fuschia, Gold Ochre, Purple & Emerald.

Fibers used:  I mixed things up. Overall, I ended up with 6 oz of blended fibers with about 50% being the lovely fake cashmere.

  • Fake Cashmere
  • Icicle (like Firestar)
  • Milk Fiber
  • Starbright
  • Blending nylon
  • Fake angora
  • Angelia (applied while carding) 

Here are some tips on nylon: It’s a bit of a tough customer to wet before dyeing. Much like silk, it takes some time to soak up water. I add a drop of Dawn to break the surface tension. Give the fibers a few squishes, and you’ll be good to go. I mixed the dyes somewhat concentrated, since I wanted bright happy shades. I did simple direct dyeing, in my 22 quart stainless pot-each color took about 20 minutes to set. Refer to your chosen dye product instructions.

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It was hard waiting for my fibers to dry! I wanted to card them right away. Instead, I waited 24 hours. Wow. How gorgeous, so fun to card. I laid in the various shades to create a marled blended effect. I sandwiched colors, I laid them in a striped pattern. I also carded my batts a second time. The batts blended wonderfully. My Carder has 72 tpi, a great all around cloth. Yummy!

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 Once it was all carded up, I was set to spin. I’m not a technical spinner by any means; I spin by intuition. I knew I wanted to knit a shawl, so I broke the fibers into two bunches, weighing them into 3 oz sections. I then spun a fingering weight thick and thin. I spun somewhat fast, and let the fibers rest overnight. I then plied the lovelies together to get a great worsted weight. How gorgeous! The colors blended and turned out heathery, yet bright. I ended up with 190 yards of light worsted weight yarn.

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Surprise! This yarn was incredibly springy and a joy to knit! There’s nothing more tiring than crisp, lifeless fibers. My previous adventure had me flashing back on an acrylic baby blanket (we’ve all been there!). Not the case here, however – this yarn was sublime. Super boooounce! I was in love. I knitted a simple shawl, using Lala’s Simple Shawl from Ravelry. I knitted it on size 8 needles until (gasp!) I ran out of yarn. Luckily, I anticipated this and ran back to the studio to dye more nylons, this time in hot pink! Yowza. The shawl turned out really cute, and fun – it was a quick knit! I added the eyelets in the border of the shawl, with a few rows of garter stitch. I think they look better that way, more pronounced. The shawl is on the smaller side, which worked out great.

This was a lovely project, and I hope I have changed a few minds about nylon fibers along the way – especially fake cashmere! While nylon fibers certainly won’t keep you as warm as wool, they’re perfect for a project meant for kids because they are so hard wearing. They are great too, if you live in a tropical environment, or when you’re transitioning to Summer and don’t want to let those lovely Winter shawls go. These fibers are tailor made for vegans, or anyone who’s allergic to wool, too! 

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I gifted the shawl to my 8 year old daughter; she adores it!IMG_6639.JPG

Sources:

Paradise Fibers 1-800-320-7746

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If you don’t dye-there’s many lovely sources on Etsy.