Identifying Mystery Yarns
How to tell what that yarn is - mostly
Mystery yarns! Sometimes they are stash yarns that lost their labels years ago, sometimes they are garage sale or thrift store bargains, sometimes gifts from a friend whose grandma left them a lifetime of supplies... But without that label, how do you know what the yarn is made of, how much yardage there is, if it's washable, what size it is? Time to play Yarn Detective!
First, let's figure out what the fiber content is. There are three main classes of fibers - plant/cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, most rayon), animal/protein fibers (wool, alpaca, mohair, silk), and man-made/usually petroleum) fibers (acrylic, nylon, polyester). It may be impossible to figure out exactly what fiber it is, but we can for sure figure out the fiber class, and if it's a blend.
The quickest and easiest test is the Burn Test!
1. Gather materials: You'll need a tea light and a fire-proof plate or bowl large enough to hold it (or you can use matches or a lighter, but the tea light is safer and more stable, since it leaves both hands free to handle the yarn). You'll also want some tweezers - the longer the better.
2. Prepare the test: Light the candle, then cut off a few inches of yarn and hold it with the tweezers.
3. Burn, Baby, Burn: Attempt to light the yarn on fire. The difficulty of getting it to burn does teach us something, so take note of how easily it lights. Burn it for a few seconds then gently blow it out - we want to look at the ashes, so don't blow hard enough to blow them away.
4. Observe: Note how quickly it lights and burns, what it smells like when burning, color of the flame, how easily it extinguishes, and the color and texture of the ash.
5. Results: If your sample lights and burns up quickly, blows out easily, smells like burning paper, and leaves a soft grey or white ash, it's a plant fiber. If it shrinks away from the flame (curling like that time you burned your bangs in scouts) and is hard to light, extinguishes itself when removed from the flame, smells like burning hair, and leaves a hard crumbly black ash, it's an animal fiber. If it shrinks away at first (but like it's melting, not like hair), but then lights and burns well (maybe even continuing to glow after blowing it out), smells like burnt plastic or oil, and leaves a hard shiny bead instead of actual ash, it's petroleum fiber. If it acts or smells like two (or all three) categories, it may be a blend. You can learn more with the next test.
The Bleach and Acetone Tests can also tell you which category of fiber you have, and it is better at figuring out blends.
The Acetone Test is super quick and easy and only tests for one fiber type: Acetate. Put a bit of 100% acetone nail polish remover in a small glass container or in the lid of its bottle and dip the yarn in for a few seconds. Acetate fiber will dissolve almost instantly in acetone.
The Bleach Test can tell you a lot!
1. Materials: a mason jar or other chlorine-safe container WITH A LID, chlorine bleach, a 4-6 inch snippet of yarn, chopsticks or popsicle sticks
2. Process: Put a couple of tablespoons of chlorine bleach in the bottom of your jar, drop the yarn in, and use chopsticks or popsicle sticks to push it down into the chemical, then close the lid tightly. Check every 12 hours.
3. Observe: Wool and animal fibers will often fizz up a little, and will dissolve within a day. Silk might take longer, but will dissolve. Cotton and plant fibers won't dissolve, but will lose all their color. Synthetics may not change at all.
4. Blends: If your yarn dissolves or bleaches out partway, but some of it remains or retains color, then your yarn is a blend! The part that dissolved is protein, the part that bleached is cellulose, the unchanged part is acrylic or polyester.
Next week, we'll talk about how to tell what size your mystery yarn is.
Have a burning good time!
-Caryn & the Yarnivore crew
Featured Yarn & Pattern
We love a good ombré, hombre! What's an ombré? It's a pattern that slowly changes from one color to another, often in the same color, but lighter-to-darker shades. Berroco's Isola is a very good ombré! This cotton/linen/rayon DK yarn feels great in the heat, has beautiful colors, and is machine washable!
Isola will make gorgeous light-weight tops, shawls, baby blankets, and more. Coral (shown at right) by Amy Christoffers is a simple open-front cardi knit in two colors of Isola to create a 2-stripe fade. It's $8 in-store, on Ravelry, or on the Berroco website.
Hours this week
In-store and online private lessons are available! Please call 210-979-8255 to schedule a lesson! Wendy, Dawn, Moses, and Nancy are all available to help you with your projects! Private Lessons can be scheduled outside of regular hours at the discretion of the teacher.
The Tip Jar
Summer is pretty much here, regardless of what the calendar says. We're already feeling the heat. So what fiber should you use for those summer garments? Cotton? Not so fast! In tests to see what fiber was most comfortable to wear in hot temperatures, the winner was - wool. Yup, wool. But even more important than the fiber content was the weight! For summer garments, the most comfortable yarns to use are thin, lightweight yarns. We suggest leaving the worsted and bulky yarns for cold weather!
All regular classes are currently on hold until we can safely seat up to 6 students in the classroom. We'll let y'all know when we can offer them again. Until then, we're offering most of our class material in private lessons.
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