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YarnSub News: February 2015

This month's article is about viscose yarns (also known as rayon). Viscose is made from cellulose that comes from a range of plants like bamboo, banana and sugar cane. The question is does the source plant affect the finished product?

As usual, last month's new and discontinued yarns are given at the end of the mail - it's a bumper month with the release of many of the Spring 2015 yarns.

Are all viscose yarns the same?

Viscose yarns are produced by chemically extracting cellulose from plant matter, extruding and then spinning the resultant fibers.

Claims are sometimes made for viscose yarns based on the particular plant source. But my university training in plant biology tells me that cellulose is a chemical - a chain of glucose molecules - which always has the same chemical composition no matter which plant it's extracted from. The number of glucose molecules in the chain can vary, but in the viscose manufacturing process the chain length is carefully controlled. So can there be any difference between a yarn made from sugarcane and one made from bamboo?

America's Federal Trade Commission don't seem to think so. Back in 2009, the FTC demanded that manufacturers describe their bamboo-sourced fabrics as "rayon made from bamboo" and not "bamboo".

They also banned manufacturers from claiming that the natural antimicrobial properties of bamboo would be present in the rayon fabric, stating that "dissolving the plant source in harsh chemicals eliminates any such natural properties of the bamboo plant."

Interestingly, a study showed that bamboo viscose did have an antimicrobial effect compared to cotton. But so did the non-bamboo viscose that was tested! The researchers suggest this may be due to residual chemicals left on the spun fibers, rather than any antimicrobial properties associated with the bamboo plant that it came from.

Viscose swatches

I did some (unscientific!) experiments with Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK (80% bamboo and 20% wool) - the purple swatch on the left in the picture - and Araucania's Ruca Multy (100% sugar cane).

Both swatches met my expectations of a viscose yarn:

  • High luster
  • Very little elasticity
  • Excellent drape
  • Soft
  • Weaker when wet - I could break a strand of yarn by hand when wet, but not when dry. I couldn't break the knitted fabric even when wet though
  • Very little pilling

The wool in the Sirdar swatch did impart a little elasticity, but in general the two yarns made very similar fabrics. The Araucania from sugar cane has more sheen than the bamboo, but here the wool content has an effect on the sheen. Some bamboo yarns are just as shiny - Farmhouse Yarns' Bonnie's Bamboo, for example.

While they might knit the same, there are environmental differences between the plant sources. Sugar cane is one of world's thirstiest crops, but it's grown anyway for the food industry and the viscose is made from what would otherwise be a waste product. There are environmental issues associated with the banana industry, but again the few banana fiber yarns that are available are made from waste product. Bamboo is an amazing plant that grows very fast (up to 3 feet/90cm a day!) without fertilizers or insecticides, and can grow on poor quality land that might not otherwise be used.

This all sounds good, but the traditional viscose process requires a significant amount of water and harmful chemicals that are sometimes released to the environment in the manufacturing process.

More ecologically-friendly processes are starting to appear. Tencel is the brand name for cellulose fibers extracted from eucalyptus plants using a newer process, the Lyocell process. The chemicals used are less harsh and are processed in an (almost) closed-loop system, meaning that the chemicals are captured and re-used. Lenzing, the company that makes Tencel, says that all its eucalyptus wood is taken from forest that is sustainably-managed. Eucalyptus also grows quickly, on marginal land, and without irrigation or pesticides.

So, to answer our original question: are all viscose yarns the same? Yes and no! There are differences in the environmental impact of growing the plants and manufacturing the viscose. There are differences in the finishing processes, affecting the level of sheen and the yarn texture. But the particular plant does not seem to make a significant difference to the knitting qualities of the yarn. So, if you see the perfect garment made from sugarcane fiber and you can only get hold of a yarn in bamboo, then you'll have no problem - go right ahead and substitute!

(List of research resources)

January's New and Discontinued Yarns

Rowan Summerlite 4-ply

Rowan Summerlite 4-ply (Image © LoveKnitting)

New

Araucania
Alumco - 50% Cotton, 50% Viscose - Aran - Plied - Multi-colored, Tonal colors

Austermann
Ajman - 100% Mercerized Cotton - Aran - Plied - Solid colors

Classic Elite Yarns
Sandpiper - 100% Cotton - Worsted - Plied - Marls
Santorini - 58% Viscose, 42% Cotton - Worsted - Tape - Multi-colored

DY Choice
La Paz - 75% Acrylic, 15% Mohair, 10% Alpaca - Aran - Plied - Self-striping marls

Ella Rae
Cozy Bamboo - 80% Bamboo, 20% Wool - DK - Plied - Solid colors
Cozy Soft Chunky - 75% Acrylic, 25% Superwash Wool - Bulky/Chunky - Plied - Solid colors, Multi-colored

Euro Baby
Babe Soft Cotton Worsted - 55% Acrylic, 45% Cotton - Worsted - Plied - Solid colors, Multi-colored
Maypole DK - 100% Polyester - DK - Plied - Self-striping

DROPS
DROPS Loves You 5 - 100% Cotton - Aran - Plied - Solid colors

Hayfield
Baby Sparkle DK - 97% Acrylic, 3% Metallic - DK - Plied - Solid with metallic thread
Fiesta - 50% Bamboo, 50% Acrylic - DK - Plied - Solid colors

Katia
Bari - 100% Cotton - Aran - Chained - Self-striping
Big Alabama - 60% Cotton, 40% Acrylic - Bulky/Chunky - Plied - Solid colors
Blues - 60% Cotton, 40% Viscose - Heavy Worsted - Tape - Solid colors
Bulky Cotton - 62% Cotton, 38% Nylon - Bulky/Chunky - Tape - Solid colors
Cotton Vintage - 100% Cotton - Aran - Plied - Multi-colored marls
Creta - 55% Cotton, 40% Acrylic, 5% Nylon - Bulky/Chunky - Thick and Thin - Solid colors
Jedi - 100% Acrylic - Bulky/Chunky - Tape - Solid colors
Lido - 62% Cotton, 38% Polyester - Aran - Tape - Tonal colors
Raphia - 100% Viscose - Bulky/Chunky - Raphia - Multi-colored
Salsa - 40% Cotton, 35% Nylon, 25% Acrylic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Ribbon - Multi-colored
Silk Cotton - 50% Cotton, 50% Silk - DK - Chained - Solid colors

Knitting Fever
KFI Luxury Collection Silk Sport - 100% Mulberry Silk - Sportweight - Plied - Tonal colors

Lana Grossa
365 Cashmere - 80% Cotton, 12% Cashmere, 8% Nylon - DK - Chained - Solid colors
365 Cotone - 88% Cotton, 12% Nylon - DK - Chained - Solid colors
365 Seta - 75% Cotton, 18% Silk, 7% Nylon - Aran - Chained - Solid colors
California - 80% Cotton, 20% Silk - Aran - Tape - Solid colors
Fresco / Pinto / Neon Mixed - 80% Superwash Wool, 20% Nylon - Fingering/4-ply - Plied - Self-striping
Lido - 75% Cotton, 15% Nylon, 10% Polyester - Heavy Worsted - Tape - Solid colors with metallic
Opera - 65% Cotton, 25% Nylon, 5% Viscose, 5% Synthetic - Aran - Sequinned - Solid colors
Roma - 100% Cotton - Aran - Tape - Tonal colors
Trecolori - 100% Cotton - Aran - Chained - Self-striping
Wakame - 75% Organic Cotton, 25% Sea Cell - DK - Plied - Solid colors

*Lang Yarns
Super Soxx Cashmere -
65% Superwash Wool, 25% Nylon, 10% Cashmere - Fingering/4-ply - Plied - Multi-colored*

Loops and Threads
Woolike Chunky - 85% Acrylic, 15% Nylon - Bulky/Chunky - Plied - Solid colors

Lornas Laces
Cloudgate - 90% Merino Superwash Wool, 10% Nylon - Bulky/Chunky - Plied - Solid colors, Semi-solid, Multi-colored, Self-striping

Mondial
Pronto Max - 100% Acrylic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Plied - Solid colors, Marls, Multi-colored

Noro
Silk Garden Sock Solo - 40% Wool, 25% Silk, 25% Nylon, 10% Mohair - DK - Single ply - Tonal colors

Phildar
Phil Opéra - 100% Cotton - Sportweight - Single wrapped with fine thread - Tonal colors
Phil Pépite - 50% Acrylic, 50% Cotton - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Tape - Solid colors with metallic
Phil XL - 97% Wool, 3% Elastic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Plied - Solid colors

Red Heart
Boutique Infinity - 69% Acrylic, 11% Wool, 10% Polyester, 6% Nylon, 4% Metallic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Fuzzy - Self-striping (gradient change)
Boutique Twilight - 61% Acrylic, 25% Nylon, 9% Polyester, 5% Metallic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Chained - Multi-colored

Rowan
Cotton Lustre - 10% Linen, 55% Cotton, 35% Nylon - Aran - Tape - Solid colors
Summerlite 4-ply - 100% Cotton - Fingering/4-ply - Plied - Solid colors
Tetra Cotton - 100% Cotton - DK - Chained - Multi-color

Schachenmayr Original
Journey - 44% Cotton, 36% Acrylic, 20% Nylon - Aran - Tape - Heathers
Letizia - 70% Cotton, 13% Viscose, 17% Nylon - Worsted - Chained - Self-striping
Merino Extrafine Cotton 120 - 50% Cotton, 50% Merino Superwash Wool - DK - Plied - Solid colors

Schoeller und Stahl
Estra - 34% Cotton, 34% Acrylic, 22% Viscose, 10% Linen - Worsted - Plied - Marled
Sammie - 100% Cotton - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Tape

Sirdar
Beachcomber - 100% Cotton - DK - Thick and Thin - Multi-colored
Cotton Rich Aran - 60% Cotton, 40% Acrylic - Aran - Plied - Solid colors

Stylecraft
Malabar - 78% Cotton, 22% Silk - Aran - 2 plies - Solid colors

Sublime Yarns
Cotton Silk DK - 75% Cotton, 25% Silk - DK - 2 plies - Solid colors

Discontinued

Austermann
Whisper - 55% Wool, 45% Cotton - Aran - Plied - Solid colors

Berroco
Lago - 81% Rayon, 19% Linen - Worsted - Chained

Classic Elite Yarns
Majestic Tweed - 40% Wool, 20% Angora, 20% Silk, 20% Nylon - Heavy Worsted - Tweedy - Tweeds

Filatura di Crosa
Baby Kid Extra - 80% Mohair, 20% Nylon - Laceweight - Brushed Bouclé

Katia
Big Cotton - 63% Cotton, 37% Nylon - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Chained
Iris - 52% Linen, 43% Polyester, 4% Metallic, 1% Nylon - DK - Plied
New Orleans - 50% Acrylic, 50% Cotton - DK - Plied - Solid colors
Revive 50 - 50% Cotton, 50% Polyester - DK - Plied - Solid colors

Lana Grossa
Argentina - 75% Cotton, 20% Viscose, 5% Lurex - Heavy Worsted - Wrapped fiber - Semi-solid colors
Cashcot - 85% Cotton, 15% Cashmere - Worsted - Tape - Solid colors
Felice - 50% Cotton, 50% Acrylic - Worsted - Plied - Marls
Inside - 100% Cotton - Worsted - Chained - Multi-colored
Oro - 50% Cotton, 50% Wool - DK - Plied - Solid colors
Superlana - 100% Merino Superwash Wool - DK - Plied
Together - 46% Cotton, 46% Acrylic, 8% Nylon - DK - Chained - Solid colors

Lang Yarns
Greina - 40% Acrylic, 30% Merino Superwash Wool, 18% Rayon, 12% Linen - Worsted - Plied - Solid colors

Lion Brand
Martha Stewart Crafts Lofty Wool Blend - 75% Wool, 25% Acrylic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Single wrapped with fine thread
Martha Stewart Crafts Merino - 100% Merino Wool - Aran - Plied
Vanna's Colors - 100% Acrylic - Bulky/Chunky - Plied

Louisa Harding
Orielle - 97% Baby Alpaca, 3% Metallic - DK - 2 plies - Solid colors

Mirasol Yarn
Llama Una - 100% Llama - DK - Plied - Solid colors, Heathers
Miski - 100% Llama - Aran - Plied - Solid colors

Mondial
Neve - 55% Merino Superwash Wool, 45% Acrylic - Bulky/Chunky - Single wrapped with fine thread - Multi-colored

Novita
Huopanen - 100% Wool - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Single ply

Phildar
Glossy Phil - 77% Acrylic, 23% Nylon - Bulky/Chunky - Plied - Solid colors

Plymouth Yarn
Baby Alpaca Aire - 100% Alpaca - Aran - Chained - Solid colors, Heathers
DeAire Glow - 97% Merino Wool, 3% Metallic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Chained
Dreambaby Shine - 45% Microfiber, 45% Nylon, 10% Rayon - DK - Single wrapped with fine thread
Juli - 63% Alpaca, 32% Nylon, 5% Metallic - Bulky/Chunky - Chained
Pasea - 50% Alpaca, 50% Wool - Aran - Single ply - Self-striping
Wilde - 49% Acrylic, 25% Alpaca, 25% Wool, 1% Nylon - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Chained

Rowan
All Seasons Chunky - 60% Cotton, 40% Acrylic - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Plied
Summer Tweed - 70% Silk, 30% Cotton - Aran - Tweedy - Tweeds

Schoeller und Stahl
Bamboolino - 100% Bamboo - Heavy Worsted - Plied - Solid colors

Schulana
Seda-Mar - 88% Silk, 12% Nylon - DK - Chained - Solid colors

Stylecraft
Luxury Wool Rich DK - 51% Superwash Wool, 49% Acrylic - DK - Plied - Solid colors
Tibet Super Chunky - 72% Wool, 20% Acrylic , 8% Nylon - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Tweedy
Vision DK - 80% Acrylic , 20% Superwash Wool - DK - Plied

Swans Island
EcoWash Aran - 100% Merino Superwash Wool - Heavy Worsted - Plied - Solid colors
Natural Colors Merino Bulky - 100% Wool - Bulky/Chunky - Plied - Solid colors

Tahki Yarns
Pixie - 42% Cotton, 38% Acrylic, 20% Nylon - Bulky/Chunky - Chained - Multi-colored

Universal Yarn
Cirrus Cotton - 82% Cotton, 18% Nylon - Super Bulky/Super Chunky - Fuzzy - Solid colors, Multi-colored

Wendy
Happy - 75% Bamboo, 25% Nylon - Fingering/4-ply - Plied - Multicolored

Zitron
Nobel Art - 100% Merino Superwash Wool - Aran - Single wrapped with fine thread - Multi-colored
Polo - 60% Cotton, 40% Acrylic - Worsted - Plied - Solid colors, Semi-solid colors, Multi-colored


Disclaimer: YarnSub provides information for guidance only and doesn't guarantee its accuracy. We try hard to get it right though; please let us know if you see any issues. (hello@yarnsub.com)

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