Q for You: What’s your go-to yarn?

Q for You: What's your go-to yarn?

When I was in design school, the professor who had the most influence over my taste in typography* used to say you really only need about 5 fonts. (And this was before the digital explosion of font libraries.) In his Swiss-trained mind, if you had two good sans serif families (those being the Helveticas and the Futuras), and one to two classic serif faces, you might ocassionally find use for one or two more style- or era-specific fonts based on circumstance. But mostly you should be able to do what you need to do with the basics, relying on creative design skills and not flashy typefaces to make you stand out. Of course, he was known to shift even on his own dogma. I recall one phase, for example, where he was all about Gill Sans. Anyway, I think of this often in regard to yarn, as I’m a knitter who tends to use the same tried-and-true yarns over and over again. And sometimes I find myself idly trying to figure out what would the Helvetica vs the Times Roman of the yarn world. The decorative fonts are easier to find yarn equivalents for, but I won’t go there!

This is on my mind again as I wrap up an O-Wool Balance sweater (my sixth, I think?) and contemplate two more in the coming months, starting with the sketch above left that I considered for Summer of Basics last year and am longing for again, along with my marlisle proposal. Balance would seem to be my favorite sweater yarn, judging simply by how often I’ve used it, and that makes sense: It’s my preferred gauge, slightly heathered, earth-friendly, a pragmatic blend of cotton and wool, and helpfully machine washable (but not superwash). It’s a very sensible, versatile yarn. If Balance then is my Helvetica, I guess Shelter and Arranmore are my Times Roman and Garamond, being more traditional tweeds, also relied on regularly and repeatedly, and lending themselves to a wide variety of applications. That rotating “fifth” slot for me tends to go to small-batch farm yarns or other special things (like my Clever Camel cardigan), and I have the notion that I’m more likely to use new and different yarns for accessories while sticking more to reliable old friends for garments, but I’d have to do a study to be sure! I clearly do audition new yarns each year, and when I find one I like to knit and to wear, I’m highly likely to repeat it. But within all of that, I always come back to Balance.

So that’s my Q for You: What is your go-to yarn or yarns? Do you stick to a few favorites, or is every cast-on a new yarn adventure?

*Which is not all that evident from the design of Fringe!

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

76 thoughts on “Q for You: What’s your go-to yarn?

  1. Not sure I would call it my “go to,” but Shelter is the yarn against which I compare all other yarns in terms of price point, color options, and social consciousness.

    As soon as the weather starts to warm up, though, my fingers yearn for the feel of Kestrel on my needles–and I yearn to wear my growing collection of durable, delightful Kestrel garments knit in summers past.

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    • I’ve knitted three Kestrel sweaters and have given them all to my sister. (1 was meant for her and the other two were just better for her than me.) I really hope I knit myself the right sweater out of it someday!

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    • Quince lark & owl for sure. I’m on my third owl sweater. I just love the rustic look of it. And everything I knit with lark I love. It just has such great bounce & stitch definition. AND, it’s so affordable! I used to pinch pennies and buy 3 skeins at a time until I had enough to make a sweater. I’m forever grateful to Quince for making such great yarn at that pricepoint. I feel strangely loyal to them for that reason!

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  2. My go-to yarn is probably Cestari. Especially the Traditional Worsted, even though there aren’t a lot of colors. I love the feel, and my LYS carries it. My second-in-demand yarn is Harrisville, since I consider them to be my adopted LYS (even though I live in CT, I visit them every summer). I never like any summer yarns! I just keep cranking out the heavy wool all summer long…

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  3. My go to yarn co. seems to be Quince: Lark, Osprey and Chickadee…and Elsawool Cormo, my favorite! I agree that Balance is a good one, too. I love the heathered colors and often use this yarn for baby items.

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    • Quince is another workhorse — it might be my Futura, to belabor the metaphor. I have knitted several things with Lark; my cable teaching pattern is Osprey; and there’s a giant cowl I knitted several years ago in Puffin. I’m really eager to knit with Owl, but there’s that whole too many wool sweaters (not enough non-wool) conundrum …

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      • I adore quince and have knit with almost everyone of their yarns, but I’ve found that the linen yarns and Owl are the only ones that wear well and don’t pill. Puffin and Osprey pill so bad I can’t use them for sweaters, only accessories.

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  4. For worsted, which seems to be my most common weight these days, De Rerum Natura’s Gilliatt is my standard. It’s small-batch and thoughtfully produced, it’s a joy to knit with, stitches (esp cables) look amazing, it’s both soft and not over-processed, and it wears incredibly well. My default pullover is all-over cabled and it barely pills, even with near-daily wear.

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    • Yes, see my reply above re Quince. And I took a pro tips class from Josh Bennett when I was first knitting in which he showed a Felted Tweed sweater that had been finished off in the dryer, and I’ve never forgotten that. Have used that trick many times but have yet to knit with that yarn.

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  5. I have a couple of go to yarns: Miss Babs Yowza (huge skeins, superwash, awesome colors and it holds up beautifully), Neighborhood Fiber Co Studio worsted (pairs well with Yowza and has great colors), The Periwinkle Sheep Intent yarn is a favorite for an aran/bulky weight and I’ve found that for summer knits I love any of Berroco’s cotton yarns. I do love madelinetosh for color but she’s not always in my budget.

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      • Yes, Karida is lovely! They’re actually kind of local to me in Baltimore (about a 45 minute drive) and I’ve taken yarn dyeing classes at their studio. I looooove their studio worsted, it’s like a heavy dk weight/light worsted and that yarn is a workhorse in my closet. You should definitely give her yarn a try!

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  6. Definitely, my go-to yarn is Galway Highland Heathers worsted. It comes in heavenly colours, is soft but still woolly (unlike Quince’s more smooth-spun wools), has more twist than Shelter (a plus for durability, especially for elbows), can be knitted a two different gauges, and has a reasonable price. The bad news is that it has become very, very difficult to find here in Canada with the recent changes at Diamond yarns, its distributor. I found some in a gorgeous light heathered purple last Friday while up in Ottawa and instantly bought a sweater’s worth. It’s always perfect!

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  7. North Light Fibers. They’re a relatively new mill, located on Block Island. Beautiful feel and colors. Boutique quality. Love it and cannot get enough!

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  8. I’m such a gadfly—I have no loyalty! There are so many fiber combinations to try in the world. Having said that, I have made two sweaters out of Cestari’s traditional wool (I love it, so sheepy and soft) and their cotton-wool blend. I’m also a repeat customer of Quince’s Sparrow and Willet (hate working with Sparrow, love the result; Willet is pleasure all the way down), and have SQs of their other blends waiting in the wings, including the single-breed lines from cousin Stone Wool. Then there’s Shibui’s luxurious range, which I’ve sampled several times (though they are spendy) … and Lopi … and the Fibre Co … and I love the silks from this German indie dyer, DyeForYarn, with wild names like “Spilled Raspberry Smoothie” and “St. Patrick’s Parade Gone Awry” … In the end I suppose I am more of a brand loyalist than a particular yarn loyalist.

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  9. Living in France, my basic yarn is from De Rerum Natura. Ulysse, Gilliatt and Cyrano are perfect substitutes (in gauge and texture) for BT yarns, and Albertine and Pénélope are lovely yarns for baby knitting.
    I know Aimée gave you some Gilliatt when you came to Paris a year ago and I hope you will enjoy working with it !

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  10. I’m a real fan of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter and Loft. I like the reliability of how it knits up, and the colors are terrific. But my all-time favorite is Isager Tvinni (fingering double strand) and Spinni (singles). Again, beautiful colors and I have never had an Isager sweater pill!

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  11. For accessories I prefer Madeline Tosh merino Light. You can’t beat the color range. I also like berrocco’s ultra alpaca- the fine gauge works perfectly with the MadTosh light.

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  12. I love reading about all of these favorite Yarns and the accompanying descriptions and details. Makes me want to splurge and branch out from what I’ve been knitting. I love Rowan pure Life Undyed chunky and now it’s discontinued.

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  13. So my partner and I have this psychology profile breakdown – either you’re the type of person to go to a restaurant and order the thing you know and love or you’re the type to go, knowing you love a particular dish, but wanting to see if there’s something you love more. I am that second person; my partner is the first.

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    • lol I am a combo – I go thinking I will definitely try something different, but then my favorite just looks so good, I order it. :-)

      And with yarn COLORS, I do the same thing. I go to look at yarn for a sweater and make a list of the colors my wardrobe could benefit from, and then am lured by the lovely blues and teals and so I have SEVERAL bluey-green sweaters. And not a gray one in the bunch. :-)

      I do tend to stick with Lamb’s Pride when it comes to yarn, also love Briggs and Little Heritage.

      So I guess I am like your partner in the end. :-)

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  14. A number of years ago I knitted several sweaters with O Wool Balance and loved it. Thought it had gone off the market and was overjoyed to see you knitting with it. Still my favorite – perfect for items to be worn in the South, and so easy to care for – but Miss Babs yarns are quickly becoming my second-favorites.

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  15. I really love Brooklyn Tweed and Swans Island Natural Colors and All American. Those brands are my go to. I’ve been wanting to try Arranmore and O Wool.

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  16. I love Lett Lopi. It is one of my favorites and wears well. I also like Shetland yarns (spun out of shetland wool) –something tweedy that lasts a long time. Since I am a spinner, the yarn name label doesn’t worry me too much. :) I think a lot of this depends on climate–I live in a very cold place (-40 in winter) so hairy woolen spun yarns end up being very useful here. I’m also fond of Canadian-spun yarns like Briggs & Little, Custom Woolen Mills and MacAuslands.

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  17. I tend to stick with cotton and cotton blends, unless I am making something that a client specifically requests. My problem is that I am allergic to both wool AND acrylic!! But I also enjoy working with alternative materials, like plarn or t-shirt yarn.

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  18. When I lived in Denmark it was Isager: Tvinni and Spinni and Design DK Duo Silke/Merino. I have almost used all my stash of these lovely yarns, so they won’t be my go to’s anymore. Other favs are Loft and Shelter and Jamison and Smith jumper weight for color work.

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  19. I have used Blue Fibers Woolstok for 3 sweaters now and love the fact the color is not just solid. $$ is a factor so the more expensive ones like Fibre Co. Tundra or Canopy are usually for a hat.

    Anyone have a wool yarn that really does not pill much???

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  20. Although I live in Southern California, I am devoted to Shelter & Loft. I can always depend how my sweaters will block & how they will hold up to many wearings.

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  21. In general I really only knit three types of garments: heavier color-work sweaters, vanilla fingering weight cardigans, and socks. I always find myself using lettlopi for colorwork because its cheap, practically bulletproof, and comes in a million colors. Holst garn supersoft is also a workhouse for me because it is pleasant to knit (it also works really well doubled and tripled) and ditto on cheap and colorful. I appreciate that lopi and holst garn are so much nicer that their price might indicate. Sweaters I v’e knit in both yarns have survived years of nearly everyday wear. For socks, I like Regia, they produce the most durable sock yarn I know of.

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  22. Wonderful writing, Karen. And it is because of you that I just ordered ( and received) the Balance color swatches. So many choices, but they do need a good denimy blue. That said, I can’t wait to try this yarn, thanks for the recommendation. One of the best whites I’ve seen.

    My other go-to yarns are Loft and Shelter, Habu Tsumugi and it’s twin, Ito, both of which I usually strand with something else. And though they are expensive, it is hard to go wrong with the Shibui yarns. The plethora of combinations they suggest, always make gorgeous fabrics.

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  23. Love, love this post as fonts and yarn are among my long term addictions! And I also recall when there were only 5 font families (the equivalent of Red Heart and the other yarns I started with). I’ll join the chorus in favor of Quince. Great price point and not super-washed, and now my local LYS carries it, so even better. Brooklyn Tweed is wonderful. Madeline Tosh used to be a favorite-oh, those colorways-but I abandoned b/c of the superwash issue (too much growth even after achieving gauge). I’m going to give O-Wool Balance a try, b/c everyone needs a new default from time to time.

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  24. I usually reach for Cascade 220, superwash if it is for someone I think might not remember to hand wash a gift. In the future, I hope to make more use of my own handspun, though, at least as far as wool goes. I’d like to make more lightweight fabrics, like linen, as I am beginning to find wool too warm for my own garments.

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    • This is almost my exact answer! Madelintosh for fingering, sport, and DK. For worsted, Malabrigo Rios. (I understand the arguments against superwash, but have to confess that I really like superwash – I have very prickle-unhappy skin and superwash is less irritating, and I like the drapeyness it often imparts. Some yarns take that too far, and feel almost like cotton, especially when wet, and that I don’t like, but I am not generally a rustic/sturdy yarn person.)

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  25. I moved to New Hampshire to be close to Harrisville Designs……love their yarns, both Highland and Shetland style, and have enjoyed many wonderful knitting and weaving classes there. I buy yarn wherever I travel, but Harrisville has my heart.

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  26. I am a huge fan of Rowan Felted Tweed. The first tweed pullover I ever knitted out of Felted Tweed was wearable for over twenty years, until the moths finally got to it. I have felted that sweater in the washing machine to tighten up the fabric and am going to sew myself a leather-handled bag out of it. My Rowan Kidsilk haze garments are also durable. I have lace pullovers I’ve made out of that yarn that I’m still wearing 16 years later. And they are very easy to clean, no re-blocking of the lace required. Nowadays I’m investigating locally produced, eco-friendly yarns but they don’t have much of a track record in my closet yet.

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  27. I have probably knit with Cascade’s 220 the most- that and Ultra Alpaca- I adore BT’s Loft but I can’t always justify the price. I will say that I agree with Vanessa, above: I love Quince so much as a company (and have knit with almost all of their yarns) and while their core wool line is so lovely and comes in such incredible colors, it does not hold up well for me. I have the worst pulling and bagging problems with it. I wish it was more durable, it would definitely be my go-to!

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  28. Hands down, without a doubt my go-to is Brooklyn Tweed, usually Shelter, almost always in Hayloft. Love this question and reading peoples’ responses!!

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  29. Terrific q and I cannot wait to read the other comments. According to my Ravelry stats, my go-tos seem to be Quince and Co Finch, Shibui Staccato, Cascade Heritage (for socks) and Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock (for socks and other things). I also really love Woolfolk Sno. I’ve only used it once but I stocked up and, as often as it seems not-too-extravagant, I imagine I”ll restock it. But I’m also quite experimental with diff yarns. I’ve tried many – and many of those I wouldn’t choose to use again, even if I like the finished object. For example, I used to use a lot of super wash yarn, now I’m not in favour of it for a number of reasons. Anything splitty or unpredictable when wet-blocking won’t get a lot of repeat action. I used to love Koigu KPM but every other ball came with something totally irritating – yarn bleed, felting, weakness, excessive shrinking. I regret that yarn is so unknowable because the good batches are really good.

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  30. Karabella’s Aurora 6 and Aurora 8 are my go-to yarns when I can find them. They’re such gorgeous yarns, and I don’t know why more shops don’t stock them. I’m a big fan of Expression Fiber Arts’ Resilient Sock and Dream In Color’s Jilly; they’re my go-to’s for fingering weight yarns.

    Purl Soho’s Understory has become a go-to. I think I’ve knit something in each of the colors, and I’ve got a LOT of hanks stockpiled for future projects.

    Still on the hunt for a cotton yarn that doesn’t drive me up the wall.

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  31. In my ideations of yarn-love, BT Shelter and Retrosaria Beiroa have no equal, but in reality I’m just now planning for a second and third garment knit with Quince and Co. Sparrow and I have either squirreled away in my stash or knitted whole garments out of at least four different kinds of Purl Soho yarn (in terms of yardage and $ spent, though, Linen Quill is the hands down winner). I also love Moeke’s Elena and I love Plotulopi. A good portion of my stash is made up of either Jamieson’s Spindrift or Jamiesons and Smith’s Jumper Weight. And then I’m a sucker for small and interesting. As I type this, I’m too hot in a mock turtleneck jumper I knit with Shutters and Spindles’ bulky camel yarn, and I am finishing up a Bellows Cardigan knit with one strand of Shelter and one strand of various worsted weight A Verb for Keeping Warm yarns that I have accumulated over the past three years.

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  32. Reading this post and everyone’s replies has made me realize that I don’t have a go to yarn and I want one.

    I do like to try different yarns and I think different projects definitely call for different yarns, but I would also like to have a go-to.

    I’m still experimenting, I guess, but that gets a bit expensive and I get tired of only having small quantities to work with. I have probably used Shelter the most but I don’t actually like it that much, it’s just a known entity and easy to buy (and I guess I am swayed by the hype) but I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t love it.

    I’ve recently ordered some Buachaille from Kate Davies, I hear it’s very nice. I also really like Lyonesse and Tamar, both from Blacker Yarns, and have heard very good things about their Samite yarn.

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  33. O-Wool, for sure. My current fave is o-wash worsted for the incredible softness and stitch definition. And also because Jocelyn is one of the sweetest people ever, and because I know the yarn is gentle for animals and the environment.

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  34. Mine is definitely O’Wool balance! And for all your same reasons, plus it’s affordability! The garments and accessories I’ve made from it are my go-to, hard-wearing pieces that I never tire of. Balance 4eva!

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  35. I live in a state of extreme SABLE, and being of a mature age, my go to yarn is what is already in stash. The variety is immense, and 90% of the time, there is something in there that meets my needs. But for that 10% of the time when I need to buy yarn: because I am often knitting for grandchildren, I need something that can be washed successfully by a busy parent with no wool washing skills. The yarn of choice for that is Berrocco Vintage which washes well, even when thrown into the machine with jeans by a hapless but helpful son in law, and comes in a wide variety of pink and purple because that’s what four year girl will choose. (I hate pink, but there it is). Beyond that, I have purchased quite a lot of Ultra Alpaca in all its weights. It’s seriously warm, has worn well with minimal pulling and has a nice palette of the dark and murky colors I prefer.

    But all and all, I try not to buy, and when I do, it’s rarely the same thing twice. The rest of my life is too short not to try as many new things as I can!

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  36. As an Aussie a great go to yarn is Cleckheaton Superfine Merino. It is super soft and has great stitch definition. Another one I’ve found myself going back to is Filatura Di Crosa. A favourite is a beautifully soft, local alpaca blend by Blackwattle yarns. But I’ll try any yarn once! And I would love to try Quince, Brooklyn Tweed and Shibui.

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  37. My go to yarns are definately Isager yarns, especially Tvinni and Spinni. They are natural and rustic (but not scratchy!) and very versatile. You can knit the as a single strand and get a very delicate result or hold them double or with a strand of their lace weight alpaca, cotton or silk mohair. The colours are beautiful and natural.
    They hold up so well, I have a 10 year old sweater knit out of Tvinni, and it still looks good without pills.
    I live in Denmark and Isager is easily available. It’s the yarn ‘I grew up with’, my mother has always used their yarns exclusively. After having tried out a lot of other yarns, I’ve come back to Isager:-)

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  38. When I grew up every mum knitted and used the brand the LYS had in, and it’s was all about hand skills and necessity, no-one stashed because you bought the ‘wool’ for the project and it was difficult to get excited about acrylic fibres in sludgy or garish colours.
    Fast forward a couple of decades and we’ve become all about the yarn and stashing is almost more popular than knitting the stuff itself! But hardly anyone knits now, and the yarn is becoming prohibitively expensive for most folks in any case: a sweater that costs around a hundred pounds to make will eat up a household budget that’s been squeezed by rent, heating and food costs rising and rising. I know I’m being a party pooper, but I think people should be encouraged to buy the best yarn that’s also affordable and enjoy the real kick this comes from making something for yourself (or someone you love) – so my go-to knitting wool? The one that’s available, halfway decent and allows me to keep on knitting.

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  39. My main criteria is fingering weight. I work with others too, but DK or heavier is too hard on my hands (my knitting is a bit on the tighter side) and lace weight robs me of my sanity because I like knitting larger projects. Fingering weight offers that perfect blend of drape and detail. My go to yarns: BT Loft (texture & feel) MadTosh Light (softness & color) The Fibre Co Arranmore Light (texture & color) Anzula Squishy (softness and sheen).

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  40. I n have two. For worsted, I’ve been using Briggs and Little Regal (heavy DK) and Heritage (aran) for decades. They’ve been in continuous production, since the mid 1980’s, having been rebuilt following a few fires. Wooly wool that wears like iron. Wears for decades without pills. For fingering, either Jamieson or Jamieson & Smith Shetland fingering. It also wears like iron, and feels almost silky. I have sweaters out of both of these yarns that are from the mid 1980”s and still in continual rotation.

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  41. Well, I’m definitely bookmarking this thread for yarn ideas. I currently have a Briggs & Little Heritage sweater on the needles. I’m making it for my son and using it because it is well known for its durability but I cannot say I’m enjoying this project. It’s pretty hard on my hands.

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  42. I have been using a lot of Quince and Co Lark, I think it is very versatile and the color options are so wide that I always find what I am looking for. Otherwise, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, it is just my all time favourite, it’s light, soft, intense or balanced in color, there is nothing like it!

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  43. Since my favorite knitting is socks (so easy to go anywhere) the one yarn I go to is “Socks That Rock” by Blue Moon Fiber Arts. I have socks from 10 years that still wear strong. Otherwise, Wollmeise and any of the Quince&Co yarns are superb for quality and lasting the years of wear and tear.

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  44. I tend to choose different yarns for different projects, but have returned several times to Lettlopi for heavier sweaters and to Holst Garn supersoft for fingering weight.

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  45. Mine is Quince Chickadee, but I’m now going to have to try O-Wool Balance for the next Weasley sweater I knit (I have four kids, and the husband, and nieces and nephews…there are always more Weasley sweaters). We live in SoCal, and it sounds ideal. I’m currently using O-Wool Legacy DK for my husband’s Weasley sweater (yep, he too is a Potterhead.) :)

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  46. Pingback: Q for You: Can we talk about moths? | Fringe Association

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