Hello all,

I am so excited to be joining Michael in creating the Urban Yarns blog posts and most of all thrilled to be connecting with you to talk everything knitting!!

So let me introduce myself and share a little bit about how passionate I am about all aspects of fibre. I started off crafting at an early age, beads, fimo, friendly plastic and then took sewing all through high school. I had a short break at University where I studied Biology but was reconnected with my passion of textiles when I spent a year travelling SE Asia and Australia. When I returned home I enrolled in fashion design, took every textile type workshop I could find in the city, did the Textile Arts Certificate at UFV all the while falling more and more in love with fibre, yarn and….KNITTING!! I joined the Urban Yarns team and found another passion of mine-teaching and sharing the craft of knitting. My love of design, texture and creativity eventually led me to the Nihon vogue program. This is an intense 4 year Japanese fine finishing and design, knit wear program. I am currently finishing up the second year (the most detailed and time consuming year), where I have had to design and knit a puffed sleeve cardie, a dolman sweater, an aran sweater, traditional Gansey, fair isle yoke sweater and capelet (just to name a few). Needless to say it has been an intense design process and a knitting frenzy!! Here are a few pictures to show you what I mean.

Gansey Swatches
Gansey Swatches

Gansey
Gansey

Aran Sweater
Aran Sweater

Little did I know that Gansey and Aran patterns were going to be so HOT this Fall!!

That’s enough history, now lets talk knitting!


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Today we’re going to chat a bit about yarn construction, specifically the significance and meaning of different types of plied yarn.

First off, I want to put to rest a common misunderstanding: the number of plies in a particular yarn has no inherent bearing on its gauge. That is to say, you can have a single-ply laceweight yarn, a single-ply bulky yarn, a 6-ply fingering weight yarn, an unplied worsted weight yarn, etc…

The concept of plies corresponding to gauge was at one point something of an industry standard, but modern manufacturers have since moved away from this. Historically, there was a standard-ish base, unplied weight for a single strand of yarn, so that (for example) a 4-ply yarn (made from four individual strands spun together) would be roughly the same from mill to mill to mill. This can be still be seen in some manufacturers labelling yarns as 4-ply (which corresponds to fingering or sock weight) or 6-ply (comparable to sportweight), but that is about as far as it goes.

So! For modern yarns, plies are independent of gauge. This really isn’t a big deal, as pretty much every manufacturer lists the gauge straight on the yarn label.

For todays discussion I grabbed a few yarns out of stash to take a look at. We have some single-ply, 2-ply, 3-ply, 4-ply, and…. other. Yeah, some yarns are a bit more special – we’ll talk about them later.

The single-ply yarns we have here are Schoppel Wolle Zauberball (lace weight) and Noro Kureyon (worsted weight). You can see that they are both constructed of a single strand of yarn, which is composed of many individual wool fibres that run parallel to each other. Both of these yarns have a light to moderate twist and are relatively soft in the hand, but you can see that the red Kureyon is much hairier and less densely spun than the smoother, tighter Zauberball.

The two-ply yarns I chose are Harrisville Designs Highland (Aran weight), Koigu KPPPM (fingering weight), and Rowan Kidsilk Haze (fingering/laceweight). These three yarns are composed of two plies of yarn spun around and around each other. The Highland and the KPPPM are both 100% wool and have a relatively smooth surface compared to the Kidsilk Haze which is mohair and silk, and in which each ply is composed of a silk core, with the mohair spun more loosely into and around it, giving the unique “haze”. You can also see that the KPPPM has a very tight twist compared to the more relaxed Highland and Kidsilk – I’ll talk more about that later.

Next up, the three-ply yarns are a mystery acrylic yarn from deep in my stash, and Habu A-21 Silk Stainless Steel. This really shows the possible range of gauges available from the same number of plies. It’s a bit tough to see, but the Habu has two plies of silk, and one of an ultra-fine stainless steel all spun together.

Four-ply yarns! We have Cascade 220 (worsted weight) and Madelinteosh Merino DK (DK weight). These are actually quite similar, but a distinguishing factor is the tightness of the spin – you can see that the plies of the Madelinetosh spiral around each other much more tightly than the Cascade. You might also be able to tell that the Madelinetosh looks smoother – it is a superwash yarn and has been treated to smooth the surface of the individual yarn fibres to prevent felting.

Finally, we have some unique constructions. First up is a mystery novelty yarn. It seems to have five or six plies, all made of a different fibre. Next is Habu Merino 4P. The Habu is really interesting, as it is four plies of merino (and each ‘ply ‘ is actually a 2-ply strand unto itself!), which are not spun together, but are wrapped with a very fine two-ply silk thread. So this is technically a 10-strand yarn that is a light fingering weight!

There are several other unique constructions, and if there is enough interest, I might take a closer look at some of them for you!

So, what does all this mean, other than numbers are kind of meaningless? Well, as a general rule, the greater the number of plies, the more durable the yarn. This means plied yarns will pill less than unplied yarns, and generally wear better. So socks or other high-wear items are best worked in a plied yarn. Similarly, the tighter the twist in a yarn, the more durable the fabric will be. The flipside is that a looser plied (or unplied) yarn fabric is often a bit softer in feel (and in wear). Now, I haven’t tested this, but it also stands to reason that a loosely, or unplied yarn will felt easier than a tight, high-ply yarn.

A more tightly plied yarn will also produce a fabric with different drape and gauge than an unplied yarn, and a really tightly plied yarn might start to twist and loop back on itself while you work with it. Also, smooth plied yarns tend to have better stitch definitely than unplied hairy yarns – so choose wisely when working something with a lot of detail…

These are all simply factors to consider. There is no perfect yarn, only yarns that are more or less suitable to a specific project. This information is best absorbed through experimentation, so it’s great if you can learn to identify different types of yarn construction, and play with using them in different ways in your work.

Now, I know this is a lot of information to take in, which is why we would love to help you pick out the best yarn for your next project!


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Sometime this past Fall, we brought in a few yarn lines from Juniper Moon. One of these lines is their 100%, worsted weight baby alpaca, Herriot. Herriot comes in a range of natural, neutral colours and is just divinely buttery to the touch (and I don’t even like working with alpaca, as you may know.

Well, Juniper Moon also offers patterns along with their yarns and we got Jan’s Mom to work up a sample of Ida Mae, an indulgently large, ombre wrap. And it turned out FANTASTIC. I don’t wanna ruin all her lovely handiwork by talking on and on, but this pattern is just stunning. It *is* heavy, which makes for a perfect winter wrap/blanket, and would look awesome with a belt. For now, take a looksie at the photos, and come on down to check out the yarn. Yarn and pattern are both available in-store and online. And if you ask really nice, I think the sample is still hidden away in the back room at Point Grey…


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Shawls, wraps, wrap-front sweaters, big cowls, scarves… the list of knitwear that can be improved (or that necessitates) by a shawl pin or some other form of closure goes on and on! Here’s a quick overview of a couple of my favourite designs that we have in stock right now.

Talking Pins
Made by local artist Nancy Walker, these unique pins are crafted out of clay and will bring just a little bit of delight to your day. Pins are available in store.

Jul Designs
Working in a mix of wood, silver, bronze, precious stones and other materials, Jul offers a wide range of styles of shawl pins. I think my favourites here are the twig and Inca designs. Jul pins are available in store.


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If you follow us on Facebook, you may have noticed that we just got in a new product that we are beyond ecstatic about: Harrisville Designs brand new WATERshed. WATERshed is a 100% wool, worsted weight yarn that comes in 16 of the most incredible heathered colours you can imagine. Yardage is 110 yards/50 grams.

Above, left to right: Penstock, Stonewall, Granite, Birchbark

From their website: “The inspiration for this yarn came from canoeing through the watershed in Harrisville, New Hampshire. The water bubbles up from natural springs, flowing from the top at Spoonwood Pond down to the bottom at Lake Skatutakee. The names for each color were derived from various things I observed along the rivers, lakes, and stream as I paddled along. The color blends were designed to replicate the essence of the objects for which they are named. Water is the reason our village was established here. Every day the river brings more water, power, and life through our mill. Our watershed is an endless source of life and natural beauty. I hope you enjoy the yarn as much as we enjoyed spinning it.”

Above, left to right: Gatehouse, Elm, Barn Door, Monarch, Eastview

This yarn has an incredible degree of loft and the colours are beautiful and warm (and, as I love to see in a well-designed collection, all of the colours look great together. Seriously, it’s impossible to put together a single bad combination).
Most excitingly, we are currently the only yarn store in Canada that is carrying WATERshed, as this is a limited-scale production.

Above, left to right: Nelson, Cheshire, Bancroft, Silver Lake

Above, left to right: Canal, Mallard, Spoonwood

Most of us at the store are already swatching. I’ve chosen Cheshire (911) and Eastview (931) to play around with some new colourwork ideas, and it is a dream to work with.

We also have the full collection of WATERshed designs from Harrisville: Ambit, Antrim, Brando, Henniker, Hillsboro, Stoddard, and Surry. Patterns are available in store, and the yarn is available instore and online.


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If you live somewhere where winter is still going on, raise your hand.

Ok, ok, and now if you feel like you’re getting sick and tired of cold, grey weather, keep those hands up.

Great, then I have got something to share with you!

5-colourstripedmittens

Super duper colourful, cheery, mix ‘n’ match, made to order mittens design by our very own Donna!

5-colourstripedmittens4

Seriously, I don’t think there is a soul on wintry earth who wouldn’t be cheered up looking down and seeing these on.

5-colourstripedmittens2

The pattern calls for DK weight yarn, and is perfect for using up all those leftovers you have kicking around (or you know, buy a couple balls of… Debbie Bliss Rialto DK or Berroco Vintage DK). The pattern is available free in store with purchase for the time being.

5-colourstripedmittens3


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I think it’s safe to assume that a good number of you have attended or at least heard about the fantastic annual Knit City events put on by the incredible Amanda and Fiona over at KnitSocial.

Cascadia

Well, we’ve got some great news! Amanda and Fiona are releasing their very first book, Cascadia, and we get to host a leg of their travelling trunk show! The book looks just gorgeous (you can see all the patterns over on Ravelry), and I think that Amanda and Fiona have done a brilliant job in sourcing patterns from some of the best local designers. There are designs from our once-own Alexa and Emily of Tin Can Knits (and Alexa contributed her photographic eye to shoot the book, and Amanda, as well as a grab-bag of other great minds.

ludeman-seawall-001_copy_medium2

Now, we’re letting you know good an early so you can mark the date on your calendars. We’ll be hosting the trunk show on Saturday, February 8th from 11-2. There will be copies of the books for sale, samples of the patterns in the book to admire and try on, and we’ll also get some of the designers out for a meet-and-greet (and maybe even a book signing if you ask them nicely).

richmond-beaconhill-007_copy_medium2

Hopefully we’ll see you all there! (and don’t worry, we’ll be sure to send out plenty of reminders closer to the date) In the meantime, what’s your favourite design in the book? I’m quite partial to Judy Marples’ Raven’s Nest Shawl, myself.

marples-ravensnest-001-682x1024


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If you are like me you often start your new year off with a bang. You are ready to start new projects, learn new skills, and maybe you are determined to knit up some stash yarn. Well it’s the 12th, I’ve already fizzled a bit on my resolutions. But there’s still a lot of year left so let’s talk new projects!

Grincheux

Is this the year you learn socks? If it is, I’ve got a yarn for you! Biscotte and Cie is a Canadian company and they make amazing self striping yarn. Even the simplest socks look amazing in the yarn, and the best part? You don’t have to do any of the color changes or weave in any ends, just whip up your first pair of socks. If socks feel daunting we have Q n A classes, Sock Bootcamps, or private lessons, all the support you need to finish up your first pair.

melon d'eau epice


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Tis the season for knitting! It’s December 8th, and that means only 17 days of knitting ’til Christmas. Time to think thick and quick! Urban Yarns has a GREAT selection of bulky yarns and patterns to match that you can knit up in an evening or 2.

Malabrigo Rasta has to be my very favorite bulky yarn. I have used it to make a few False Creek Cowls this year and there is always the lovely Marian Cowl. Marian has been a huge hit around the shop for a few years now, never going out of style and always flying off the needles.

Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky is another great thick and quick yarn. It’s a super soft combination of alpaca and merino, perfect for a hat or scarf, anything next to the skin. The Trellis Scarf is a glamorous long scarf with a trendy fringed edge, while the Frosty Cowl (which takes just 2 hanks!) is a closer fitting cowl.

Frosty Cowl

Enjoy some bulky knits!


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So it’s getting a bit chilly and frosty here in Vancouver, and I am finding myself unusually cold for the season. I mean, it’s pretty embarrassing to be a knitter with chattering teeth who cannot for the life of him find a single pair of mittens anywhere in the apartment!

On that note, I’d like to share a selection of some of my favourite warmers!

Mittens (because gloves, while nice, are fiddly, and I need to knit these fast, before I freeze)

ThrummedMittens
Thrummed Mittens
These are the ultimate in warmth and coziness. I’d love to see some done in the wonderfully coloured roving from Great Adirondack Yarn Co.

GloamingMittens
Gloaming Mittens
Lovely little bit of colourwork from Brooklyn Tweed – try them in the Harrisville Designs New England Shetland.

PearlChainMittens
Pearl Chain Mittens
Oh I just love the cheery brightness of these – maybe in Madelinetosh Sport?

Hats (while it’s not true that you lose most of your body heat through your head, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep it warm!)

RikkeHat
Rikke Hat
Simple and slouchy! And gosh… any DK weight yarn.

LittleScallopsHat
Little Scallops Hat
Just enough to cover your ears, and add a pop of colour – would be great in Lorna’s Laces Sportmate.

CocoonHat
Cocoon Hat
This bulky hat will up quickly in Rowan Cocoon for immediate satisfaction.

Scarves/Cowls (while I love the Honey Cowl, let’s take a look at some other options)

HerringboneCowl
Big Herringbone Cowl
Need an excuse to use Blue Sky Alapacas Worsted Hand Dyes? Look no further! mmm, royal alpaca…

JeweledCowl
Jeweled Cowl
Maybe a little bit light for Northern climes, but if you live somewhere where the mercury doesn’t drop so much, this cowl lets you carry some lacy frosty glitter with you.

LinenStitchScarf
Linen Stitch Scarf
And finally, a great unisex scarf! Linen stitch really works brilliantly at blending disparate colours to create a unified pattern! Especially fun with Koigu.


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