Felicia's Notebook, Make & Hue, Make & Hue // issue 002 // Texture

Materials Matter

You may know that while I love the soft, soothing and meditative nature of knitting, part of me is obsessed with the idea of learning to knit faster, more efficiently, and more productively. And that’s simply because stitch by stitch, inch by inch, knitting any project can be an intense undertaking, regardless of experience or skill. Knitting takes significant dedication of time and energy, poured into an object that represents love, care, and attention. You might spend a hundred hours with yarn flowing through your fingers before you get to the finish line. How devastating would it be if that yarn felted in your hands before you even cast off? How unpleasant would it be, if your fingers were raw from knitting a harsh or coarse wool yarn.

Early on in my spinning days, I ordered a few batts of hand-carded wool spinning fibre from a supplier online. They were pretty in the photograph. Fluffy and pink with streaks of light and a touch of sparkle. But when I received the wool, it felt sticky and gummy. The wool stuck to itself and wouldn’t draft smoothly. Neps and tiny clumps of wool appeared in the yarn as I spun. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Time, money, effort, and enthusiasm was lost because of poor materials. I could have been turned off spinning entirely in that one moment.

This early experience formed one of my fundamental, motivating beliefs at SweetGeorgia — that materials matter.

What we choose to make with our hands, how it feels in our hands, how it behaves, and how it persists… these things matter to the joy of our creative lives. It is so essential to me that the time we spend making be time that is joyful, relaxing, and peaceful. Peace comes from your materials feeling comforting to the touch, but peace also comes from knowing that your materials will last and be resilient through the making process.

 

On softness.

Undyed Superwash Soft

Undyed Superwash Soft

For many knitters, strolling through a yarn shop and choosing yarns is about touch and feel. Pick up a skein of yarn and squish it in your fingers, maybe even touching it to your face to see how it feels against the skin. It’s largely about softness.

The challenge there is that “soft” yarns are generally spun from fine, delicate fibres that are relatively short-stapled (short fibre length). Think merino wools, cashmere, yak, bison, or qiviut. A yarn spun from short fibres has more of those fibre ends sticking out, giving more opportunities for fuzzing up and pilling when compared to yarn spun from longer wools and fibres (like mohair, Bluefaced Leicester, or Wensleydale). Stronger wools like Wensleydale or Romney have longer and thicker diameter fibres which can withstand more abrasion and wear-and-tear, but they don’t have the level of softness that you would want close to your skin.

A wool like Bluefaced Leicester is popular because it is the softest of the long wools and offers a happy medium.

As yarn purveyors, we work to find the balance between exquisitely soft, luxurious fibres and spinning methods to produce longevity and resilience in a yarn. So, we actively focus on choosing yarns that are constructed with multiple plies. We have yarns that are spun with 2, 3, 4, 6, and even 12 plies in order to preserve the softness of the fibres but also add strength and durability to the yarn structure.

 

On variety.

Endless variety of spinning techniques and yarn textures.

Endless variety of spinning techniques and yarn textures.

In the past decade of making yarns, we’ve felt strong pressure to come up with and launch new yarn lines every year, if not more than once a year. There is an excitement around what’s new and what’s fresh out of the pot. There are at least a few yarn companies in the industry that offer thirty, forty, or more different kinds of yarn!

But in the past couple of years, I’ve decided to also focus on streamlining our collection of yarn bases to the ones that we trust in terms of quality and durability. We cover all the bases from fine lace weight to squishy bulky weight and have a solid line-up of Worsted, DK, Sport, and Fingering weights of merino. We believe in these bases and believe they are flexible enough and accessible enough for all our project ideas.

 

On sourcing.

As I write this, I’m 30,000 feet above the snow-covered prairies on my way to Germany for the yarn trade show, H+H Cologne. For three years now, SweetGeorgia has been attending this show to meet our international customers and yarn shops and share what we’ve been dyeing and designing here in Canada. But in addition to sharing our hand-dyed yarns, my goal in coming to Germany is to also meet and source yarn suppliers from where we get our undyed yarns. The world of wool, yarn spinning, fabric, and textiles is international and I am excited to share a glimpse of the depth and breadth of this textile community and industry.

Our collection of yarns do come from specialist spinning mills from all over the world. From delicate, fine lace yarns from Japan to mohair specialty yarns from South Africa to cashmere-blend yarns from Italy, it is a blessing to be able to bring these yarns together at our studio for you. Each of these mills works hard to consider and incorporate animal-friendly practices in their workflows. I truly want to work with other businesses who are the best at what they do so that we can do our best with what we do.

Casting on for a new project and running those first few inches of yarn through your fingers… it’s a magical moment that can spark a love affair. The finer details of the materials that we choose can make the difference between a beautiful, dreamy experience and one that’s not. That’s all we’re trying to do here… just trying to bring the magic dust to your knitting moments in hopes that you will enjoy that precious time.

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