Saturday, December 4, 2010

Size matters...

If you've done any custom processing of your own fleeces and sold them to others you surely have experienced having to create your own yarn labels.  But what do you put on the label?  Are there any laws that require certain information being stated?  What size yarn do I have?  This is a problem that has really been a struggle for us as a mill.  Processing fiber for producers to sell to consumers who have two different concerns (DENSITY vs. DIAMETER) has proved to be a tricky and feisty little issue.

The Craft Yarn Council site states that it is "the yarn industry's one stop resource".  And while it is a deep well of information all very useful and well organized, it doesn't deal with the tension of density vs. diameter.  They do however offer several things you'll find very useful.  They have a place where you can download symbols to put on your own yarn labels.  They also have a page that helps determine what name it should be called and the recommend hook or needle sizes for working on a project.  The have concluded and I would agree that we want to create "consumer-friendly products" and for the consumers to be able to "select the right materials for a project and complete it successfully".  To that end the CYC has set up this series of guidelines and symbols.

But what this site doesn't help you determine is what size of yarn you actually have.  What most mills will do is spin your fiber into a certain number of yards per pound.  Spinning yarn to a certain thickness is problematic for several reasons.  First, it's under tension and there's no easy way to know how much it will "bloom" when that tension is released in the fulling process.  Two, yarns with little crimp will require sometimes twice as much roving to create the same thickness of yarn desired.  Third, the producer wants to know that they are going to get a consistent number of sellable units based on the incoming weight that they deliver to the mill.  And finally, using the yards per pound measurement is just easier for the miller to do and it keeps them accountable to producer.  However, all that being said, one man's sport weight isn't another man's sport weight - BUT WHY!?

Well in short the answer is that every fleece is different... and if the fleece is different you can bet that the yarn is going to be different. 

But you know me, I don't typically give short answers (c:

So what do you do when your sport weight looks like a bulky but it's really still 1200 yards per pound?  or your sport weight looks like a fingering but it's still 1200 yards per pound?  The problem is that the market (your customer) isn't really concerned about yards per pound as much as they are concerned about how it's going to knit/crochet, what size needle they should use, how many stitches they will get over a certain number of inches... that kind of stuff.  And so we're caught in the middle of this tension of the producer whose concerned about the density and the consumer whose concerned about the diameter.

That's why the "Wraps Per Inch" measurement was created... but that's for another post!

Happy Holidays!