I am not a knitter but I’ve had a couple of projects using different sorts of yarn. My experience is very limited and quite sporadic, which is probably why I’ve made inappropriate choices and had more failures than successes.
Exhibit A: some undyed, greyish linen yarn with a utilitarian, minimalist feeling. I’m a sucker for linen and bought this without a purpose in mind. I had a medieval clothing project and, thinking the yarn looked handspun, decided to separate the plies and use it as sewing thread.
The lesson: Don’t. Having never handspun thread, my idea of the appearance of handspun thread was not helpful, in the same way that some costume designer’s idea of the look of medieval clothing is not necessarily useful for building actual medieval clothing. The resulting thread was nowhere near strong enough and I had to restitch everything (I chose to use cotton quilting thread the second time around).
Exhibit B: some nicely coordinating sport-weight, 1-ply wool. I had tried my hand at tablet-weaving on a short length of crochet cotton, which worked well and inspired me to make another piece. I wanted a long woollen belt, which would be more appropriate for medieval Europe than cotton. I worked out a pattern, cut the yarn into 4m lengths, threaded it all up, and began to try to weave, at which point it fought back vigorously. (Actually, it probably started fighting back at the threading stage or earlier.) I left it for years, because what can you do with a pile of cut yarn? I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting it, and I wasn’t going to throw it out because waste like that drives me nuts. So it sat in the basement, quietly mocking me.
The lessons: The texture of the wool is grabby, so it didn’t want to do anything but tangle. If one strand can tangle by itself by simply being dropped on the floor, imagine what mischief 100 or so strands can do. This suggests some kind of a “one-strand tangle test” before blithely cutting yarn for the entire project.
The wool is single ply, which I suspect makes it want to ply with (i.e. twist around) its neighbours. The different colours are all the same brand and type, but the off-white seemed to have a little more stretch than the other colours, which made it impossible to keep even tension.
The colours, although beautiful, are warm rather than cool and so they don’t even really suit me.
The other day, some of the folks from dance got together to discuss tassel belts and make some tassels. Aha! Tassels would be a good way to use pre-cut (i.e. otherwise useless) yarn, and if I don’t want to use what I make, someone else may be able to put the tassels to good use. I’ve finally disassemblemd the failed weaving project, which turns a UFO into materials, and that pleases me. It happens that I have another skein of the same yarn in a colour (mulberry) that works with a current project. My aversion to waste sometimes gets in the way of necessary experimentation, but I can use the pre-cut yarn to work out the kinks (so to speak) and still feel like I’m ahead of the game.
Exhibit C: black tapestry wool. I was looking for some yarn to repair a thin spot on the elbow of a black sweater, so I went to the yarn shop and asked for advice. I wanted cotton because the sweater is cotton-like (secondhand, no label), but the cotton yarn available was rather thin. The clerk suggested wool because it was a better weight. My careful stitching on the elbow has become a felt patch. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not what I was going for!
The lesson: even a little bit of wool needs to be laundered in a wool-appropriate manner. Better yet, use the same fibre to patch – which is what I intended to do in the first place. In other words, trust my instincts.