Softness was one of the key attributes we were aiming for when developing Yarn Stories and yet it is such a difficult word to define. Does everyone know what softer than a baby’s bottom feels like; what is soft as a peach? Is softness like colour – experienced slightly differently by each and everyone of us?
The dictionary gives us two definitions that go to the heart of what we are trying to achieve:
1. Being relatively deficient in hardness.
2. Smooth and agreeable to the touch; not rough or coarse:
The basis of our yarns so far is a fine Merino. The fibre we use comes from Australia. It has a very fine crimp (which refers to the waviness of the fibre and adds to its softness). Although Merino fibre is amongst the softest of the wool fibres, not all Merino fleece is suitable for yarn and yet all Merino sheep produce Merino wool. So we ensure that we buy the finest we can. Our Spinning Guru Mick, explains what he looks for;
“When I think about a soft fibre I consider the handle, gentleness and the warmth. When we were deciding on the composition, wool was the first choice for softness and general all round fantastic performance. After looking at a number of wool types we settled on a fine Merino because of the superior qualities of the fibre.”
A fine Merino is probably the first clip from a sheep after the lambswool has been shorn, which means it is the finest fleece that the animal will produce as an adult. Standard Merino has a micron count (fibre thickness) of between 25 microns at its thickest to 20.5 microns at the finer end. Fine Merino starts at 20.5 microns, but ours is even finer than that! Mick keeps it a closely guarded secret exactly how fine the fibre is because it is rare and hard to come by. It’s part of the Yarn Stories secret recipe.
“I also look for an Australian fleece” he says. “The environment the animals live in, with the sun on their backs and very little rain, benefits the fleece and gives us a brighter fibre that takes colour much better.”
To further enhance the softness of Yarn Stories yarns we also have the fibre treated so that it is machine washable. Knitters are often not sure what this exactly means. Some think it adds a coating to the yarn making it a bit squeakier but the process we use actually means that something is taken away. A wool fibre has scales all down the shaft. If you wash untreated wool in a machine these scales lift and interlock with the next door fibre to create a tangle. This is felting and precisely what you don’t want when you have spent hours knitting something precious. The treatment we use removes many of these scales so there is less chance of felting. It also makes the yarn even softer but there is a down side. You have to have a huge amount of technical know-how to produce a great yarn from what is now a very slippery fibre. Mick and his team have more than 40 years’ experience buying fibre and our spinning team have skills that have been handed down for generations, which is why our yarn is so fantastic.
Yarn Stories produces amazingly soft yarn that will be a pleasure to work with and will carry on looking and feeling great for many years to come. That’s something we are really proud of. Thanks, Mick.