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What Is Yarn Made Of And The Second Time Around

February 03, 2016 5 min read

Yarn, or fiber as I often hear it called now, begins with a single thread. Where once our resources were limited to textiles of cotton or wool, the options for textiles these days is infinite.  Each textile, whether organic, recycled or synthetic, has its own characteristics. Are you looking for something light and airy? Then you want a light weight cotton perhaps. Or seeking something that will keep you warm in the depths of winter? Then perhaps you want a wool. Ah, and then within in the topic of wool (or other fibers), you will need to decide on what type such as have you used yak wool from Nepal? This fella is not only beautiful, that extra layer keeps him cozy warm.

Large yak covered in tradition textiles, grazing in a desert

Why Ply?  

Another aspect of yarn is the ply but why does that matter and what is it? Ply is the number of threads melded together in a fiber. For example, if you choose a thin yarn in one ply you will have a very fine and delicate lace weight silk yarn look. If you choose that same fiber but with a 3 ply, you will indeed have three times the thickness of that original fiber.The thickness of each ply matters if you have a pattern you are following be sure to watch your ply and the density of your fiber. If you choose something that is not relative to the pattern you will need to adjust your gauge.

Fiber Options

Options are a great thing and one of my favorite part of working with fiber is the process.Some times I start with a pattern and seek out fiber that the pattern calls for.Other times I find fiber and seek out the pattern that will go with the gauge.And more often than not, I fall in love with the yarn and dream up some way to use it, modifying a pattern or throwing a few rows into a weaving project. So find joy in the process of finding the right fiber for you and I have included just three of the many examples of yarn that we have at Darn Good Yarn.

Banana Fiber

Pink skein of banana fiber yarn on a white background

Multicolored skein of banana fiber yarn on a white background

Although banana silk has exploded in popularity recently due to improvements in technology, banana fabric and banana fiber clothing are ancient textiles that have long been an important part of cultures from Okinawa to Africa. Plant fabric, including from the banana tree, has been a central element of human development and society, and remains so in this age of artificial textiles and machine-made clothing.

Today’s banana fabric most often comes from the waste byproducts of the Indian banana industry. Our banana silk yarns and banana fiber clothing are recycled, ethically produced plant fabric products from Nepal and India, handmade by entrepreneurial women’s cooperatives. These are fair trade products that are tons of fun to work with; look and feel great; are superb for the planet; and have a rocking story behind them!

Try our Banana Fiber Yarn for something that’s a little out of the ordinary! Made from the sustainable fibers that are scraped from the bark of a banana tree and handspun by women’s co-ops in India, our vibrant Banana Fiber Yarn is a great choice for anything from weaving a rug to knitting a hat! And don’t be scared by the word “fiber,” because there is nothing scratchy about this yarn at all. After harvesting the fibers from the trunk of the banana tree, they are put through a softening process that makes the fiber very similar to silk. Then when it’s spun, it is as soft as silk - soft and strong, full of texture, color, and bio-degradable so it’s completely vegan and eco-friendly!

Cotton Yarn


Let's consider a more common fiber, cotton. This link about how cotton is made gives a brief explanation on how cotton is grown, processed and eventually made into usable textiles. I am fascinated to learn cotton was used in textiles in Mexico as long ago as 5,000 BC...amazing! Cotton comes from plants and looks absolutely soft and luxurious. While the US has had a tainted history with cotton plantations, much more civilized means of picking cotton are now used. When you think about cotton influences our lives every single day!

Large field of cotton with a blue sky above

Jump in with making something with cotton. Suggestions for use might include a rug, an all-season scarf for accessorizing or a wash cloth which is a great way to practice a sampler of stitches.The best part of our cotton yarn is that it is recycled! Yes that is right, recycled!  Darn Good Yarn has a cotton t-shirt yarn that comes from factories. When t-shirts are produced in a factory, there is often a lot of great material left over.Why let fabulous, use-able material end up in a landfill when you can make it into yarn instead?! That's just what we've done with this pima cotton t-shirt material. The cotton is cut into strips, creating a chunky ribbon style yarn. It's great for baskets, too and because is cotton it is washable though you may want to pre-wash for shrinkage.  What a great idea for those vegan friends of yours!

Recycled Silk

Silk comes from silk worms and here is the process for making silk. Silk is considered to be very luxurious and is the strongest of all natural fibers. It is a natural temperature regulator and will keep cold at bay and allows heat to escape during warmer weather. Here at Darn Good Yarn we offer recycled silk sari ribbon yarn that can be used for knitting, crochet, weaving, spinning with your favorite fiber, or wrapping presents.This beautiful, up-cycled yarn is created by women in fair trade co-ops by collecting the remnants of sari silk fabric accumulated during the truing and trimming of the manufacturing process. The individual silk strips are about ¾" wide and sewn end-to-end to create this one-of-a-kind yarn! All of our yarns are hand made by women's co-ops in India and Nepal. The women who work for us are hand-selected for their skill and given a wage that helps provide for the basic needs of their family. 

Say It Again

Yarn is made in many different ways and the possibilities are truly endless. Darn Good Yarn staff is here to help you with your fiber needs so please contact us with any questions about fiber. Because so many of our fibers are recycled you benefit from the gift of renewal. Workers in Nepal and India are able to become self sufficient and the fibers are given another chance for your creative endeavors. How cool is that? Double the purpose by helping others, and using fiber that you re-purpose rather than go to the landfill. Gotta love this! Who knew that working with recycled fiber such as Tibet Jewels could be so conscientious and gorgeous? 

Multicolored skein of sari silk ribbon yarn

Explore the world of fiber.Learn a few terms such as ply, texture, and weight. Educate yourself a little about how fiber is made and what fiber characteristics are inherent of which product. But the most important thing is to dive in and really enjoy the experience of yarn, yes dive right in to the experience of fiber and savor every minute. And in experiencing the fiber fully you will learn more than any list of terms will tell you. So yeah, go for it and dive right in to for the full fiber frolic! Here is a great photo of Nicole and co-op workers and doesn't that puddle of fiber make you want to dive right in! So many reasons for taking the plunge!

Multiple women sitting around a large pile of multicolored fibers