Book review: The Knitter's Book of Yarn

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Knitters Book of YarnThe Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes is for all enthusiastic 'yarnies' (yarn aficionados) and anybody else who would like to know more about the material they are working with when you knit, crochet, weave and spin.

It is a very informative book that gives the reader a much better understanding of the many different types of material that can be spun into yarn, from protein fibres such as wool, mohair, cashmere, alpaca and angora to cellulose fibres (cotton, linen, hemp), cellulosic fibres (rayon, bamboo, corn) and finally to synthetic fibres (nylon, acrylics).

The book discusses production and manufacturing of yarns and the benefits and drawbacks of each type of fibre and how they can be used individually or as a blend to create the amazing variety of yarns available to knitters today.

One particular area of confusion for many knitters is the Australian usage of the word 'ply', which in Australia is often used to indicate the weight of a yarn. For example, '4ply' is used to describe a yarn with a gauge of approximately 28 stitches over 10cm when worked on 2.5-3mm needles. However, the use of 'ply' for yarn weight is by no means common in other countries, and it can be quite misleading. Ply actually describes the number of threads that are paired up and spun together into a yarn. As a result, you could have a 2ply yarn made from very thick threads that could be thicker than a 6ply yarn made from very fine threads. 

As an aside, at I Wool Knit, we try to accommodate our Australian readers by adding an approximate 'ply' in the description of each yarn even where the yarn manufacturer did not provide this information. However, you will find that many Scandinavian yarns (including our Marks & Katten Eco BabyUll and EcoUll yarns) are actually single ply yarns, even though they have a yarn weight that is equivalent to 6ply and 10ply yarns in Australia. Most continental European yarn makers use gauge (tension) and needle size as an indicator for yarn weight. The UK and the US use yet again other descriptions. As a rough rule, Australian 4ply requires approximately 2.5-3mm needles and 8 ply requires 4mm needles. (For more detailed information, have a look at the blog entry on yarn weight on our website. 

The middle part of the book contains 40 patterns with ideas for each different type of yarn and how to use them to maximum effect, ranging from shawls, mittens, hats and socks to cardigans and jumpers. The instructions are well written, very readable and accompanied by beautiful colour photos. 

The last section of the book is almost more important than the rest: How do you care for your hand-knitted items depending on which fibres you used to create them? How do you hand-wash your beautiful jumper without risking to ruining it in the process? How do you make sure Mohair stays fluffy and avoid cotton jumpers stretching? 

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