Which yarn should I use?

knitting and crochet yarns
© F H Powell 2017

When it comes to miniature knitting and crochet, it is very important to use the right type of yarn to suit your project. There is a vast selection of yarns available, but these will all fall into two categories – natural and synthetic.

Although the type of yarn you use generally comes from a preference to a particular yarn type or availability of your preferred yarn, some yarns will work better for certain types of knitting or crochet. The yarns you use and prefer may even change as you become more experienced.

The size of needles or hook you choose can also have an effect on the finished item, but this will be covered at a later date.

Synthetic or natural?

In Aran or Fair Isle knitting the choice of synthetic or natural yarn can make a vast difference to your finished project. Although the stitch definition may show up better when you use an acrylic yarn, the actual finished item may work out larger than if the item were made from wool. Wool has a natural springiness, which pulls the stitches together and will make a tighter finished item. Acrylic yarn behaves differently from pure wool when knitted and unlike cotton and wool cannot be shrunk into shape by washing.

The problems of a larger finished item when working with acrylic yarn can often be solved by using a smaller needle/hook size to make the work tighter. So if your work is coming up larger than the measurements given on the pattern try a smaller needle.

Some people prefer cotton as they dislike the hairiness of wool and acrylic. Acrylic yarn is more forgiving for a beginner and is often cheaper, allowing for yarn to be discarded if mistakes are made.

Silk and polyester yarns may be slippery for a beginner to work with.

How do you wish the finished item to appear?

Does the yarn need to drape (curtains, bedspread, evening/ wedding gown, stockings)? If so acrylic or cotton may be better than wool. Some yarns may make clothing very stiff and items of clothing may look OK on a doll, but would look strange if displayed on a bed as they would appear stiff and board like. 1-ply yarn has a huge range in thickness from ultra fine (cobweb/ Shetland lace) to nearly 2-ply. Some thicker 1-ply yarns can make the fabric very dense, even if the measurements you achieve match those on the pattern.

Does the pattern call for the item to keep its shape? Cotton may be washed and pulled/pinned into shape, it will keep this shape until the item is washed again. Acrylic and wool do not do this. If acrylic yarn is washed in hot water it will relax and ‘grow’, wool may shrink.

Where do you intend to display the finished item?

The choice of yarn could also be influenced by where you intend to display the finished item.

Strong sunlight can harm natural yarns, especially silk and cotton, which will perish over time. Dyes in the yarn may also fade if exposed to strong sunlight, whilst white items could yellow over time.

Insects and moths are also attracted to natural yarns, especially wool and silk. If you are unable to find mothproofed yarns (often sold for Crewel work and tapestry), you may be able to buy natural yarns dyed with woad. A cheap and effective method of deterring moths in the dolls house is to use lavender: simply fill a cushion/mattress or place lavender heads in a vase and place it as close as possible to your knitted/crocheted item.