Big Stitch Yarn—the Myths, the Realities, and Realistic Expectations
Will it hold up?
Will it pill excessively and fall apart?
How do I care for my finished item?
These are only a few of the questions we answer almost daily here at Mama Knows Luxury. Empowering our clients to make informed decisions by dispelling myths and creating awareness is something we are passionately committed to!
We have spent the past year working to answer all of the questions, create options for all clients and provide quality video tutorials to help you along the way.
One of our completed Big Stitch Blankets, at THE MAKERS KEEP in Edmonton, AB, Canada
WHAT IS BIG STITCH YARN?
Mama Knows Luxury Big Stitch Yarn is Unspun Merino Top, which has been commercially combed into thick strands and commercially dyed. Within our industry this type of yarn is often referred to as Roving Yarn. While wool tops are in fact not the same as roving, the name roving yarn has become the industry standard.
There are some in the industry who claim that wool tops should not be used as knitting yarn, and some knitters frown upon those of us who choose to knit with it. They go on to claim that it will shed, pill excessively (even with gentle use), break easily, tear and pull with use, change in its structure and aesthetic once washed (even with dry cleaning), and not last over the long term.
On many occasions I have been asked what my responses to these claims are. In most cases the simple answer is that they are absolutely right!
Of course, the hard stance on wool top not being a knitting yarn is one I respectfully disagree with. The truth is we can knit with nearly any flexible material in the world if we set the right expectations for how we will use the final product. While I believe that some of the concerns around working with wool tops are exaggerated, the reality is that these claims are based in truth. However, a truth out of context that lacks all the available information can sometimes transform into misleading statements. Let's address all the facts so you can decide what’s right for you.
Professionalism, respect, and collaboration in the marketplace are ideas that I am strictly committed to. I choose not to directly address specific claims made by manufacturers of competing yarn lines who have set out to lead the public to believe that extreme roving yarn is unsuitable for use. However, I will make this bold statement: If one were to claim that big stitch yarn is unsuitable for use due to pilling, shedding, and fragility, they should promote the same sentiment for ALL roving yarns!
To see our video on how these properties present in all roving yarns—big and small--click here.
Let’s start by talking about luxury textiles: silk, angora, fur, high-end wool, etc.
First and foremost I think we can all agree that items made with these materials are not for everyone. Some will choose not to purchase them due to personal beliefs, others will steer clear because of the cost, and still others will choose not to own these items because the care requirements are more complicated than they want to manage. All of these reasons to steer clear of any particular product are personal and do not directly reflect on the product itself.
Picture that stunning, expensive item made from exotic materials that you either own or drool over. How do you care for it? More importantly, what are your expectations for it? I think it’s safe to assume that you wouldn’t just toss it on while gardening, you wouldn’t expect to throw it in the wash, and you fully understand that it is delicate and requires care and gentle handling. The very fact that these textiles are so fragile is what makes them such a luxury! Does this make them sub par? Unsuitable for use? Of course not! What's right for one person may not be right for another. Having realistic expectations is the key to owning a product and loving it throughout its lifespan.
Here’s an excerpt from our care instructions sheet, provided with all orders:
“Think of an item made with unspun merino wool roving the same way as you would your fave cashmere sweater or a high-end designer suit. Special care is required, but never fear—it’s not very hard at all! For smaller throw-size blankets, you can use your washing machine. Use gentle detergent, wash alone in cold water on a gentle cycle, and hang to dry. Heat is not your friend when it comes to any natural fiber. For larger blankets that are too heavy for your washer, you will need to find a dry cleaner experienced in cleaning without extreme heat; if they clean high-end suits and wool sweaters often, they will likely know what to do. Pilling and felting over time is a natural occurrence—part of the aging process and definitely not a defect. Enjoy the beauty of your blanket as it morphs over time into a cherished and loved fixture in your home!”
You can see our videos on washing your finished item here:
Before washing and how-to: Click Here
After washing and dry-clean alternative options: Click Here
Before (left) and after (right) washing
The reality is that purchasing any luxury item is about having realistic expectations. If you plan to use your blanket as a pet bed or drag it on camping trips with you, it’s absolutely going to have a short lifespan; our items are generally not designed for that type of use. Blankets that are cherished, loved, and passed around by families—especially those with children—will absolutely pill and felt faster than one that is used strictly as a decor piece. If you purchased a blanket made from wool top and were led to believe your item would stay in its pristine condition forever, I am sorry that you were not given better information from the shop you purchased from. My goal is to educate those who want to go on an extreme yarn journey and to provide them with all the knowledge they need to make an informed decision.
To see our video discussion on pilling, shedding, and the natural aging process, click here.
Examples of Pilling/Shedding
We suggest that our clients who would like a more durable piece consider felting their yarn, before or after working with it. Checkout this video by Anja from Peony and Thyme, it's hilarious and very very helpful!!
I hope you have found this helpful. I am always happy to answer any and all questions—never hesitate to reach out! Now you have all the info you need to make an informed decision. Ready to get started? Click here to answer the second question we get asked all the time: What materials do I need?
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