Choosing the yarns for little cotton rabbit patterns (part 1)
This week I'm putting the finishing touches to updated patterns for the girl and boy bunnies but one of the things that has been problematic is that some of the yarns I've used in the patterns have since been discontinued. Originally I thought that I'd re-knit everything with new yarns and re-photograph the patterns but as yarn manufacturers are constantly changing their collections by developing new yarns, discontinuing others and creating new colourways in existing yarns, it is impossible to keep up within the confines of a written pattern, and so those changes would become out of date quickly too. Instead I've decided to write up some posts here on the blog with tips on choosing potential yarns for my little cotton rabbits patterns. The beauty of these notes being in a blog post here is that I can keep it updated as time goes on, so that if you check back in the future this post will reflect more accurately what yarns are available at that time.
For this post I'm going to focus on the yarns for the animals themselves rather than their outfits (a second post about the 4ply/fingering weight yarns that I use for the clothes will follow later).
Below I've compiled a list of my current favourite yarns for knitting the animals in, along with descriptions of what in particular I like or dislike about them. For the most part I recommend worsted weight woollen blend yarns for the animals, although for the pig and the elephant I prefer smooth cotton DK yarns which give a more skin-like appearance (see below).
So, why Worsted weight?
Worsted weight (also known as 10ply) is midway between DK and Aran weight. Technically speaking it is designated as 'medium 4' by the yarn standards from the Craft yarn council with 9 wraps per inch (meaning that if you wound it around say the handle of a wooden spoon so that there were no gaps between the strands there would be 9 wraps of yarn in an inch). In practice there is a great deal of variance between different yarns marketed as worsted weight and even different worsted weight yarns from the same manufacturer vary surprisingly in thickness and knitted tension, let alone those between different manufacturers. FYI Ravelry has a really useful table with yarn weight comparisons. I do find however that overall yarns that are designated as worsted weight are the best to knit my animal patterns in (DK usually being too thin and Aran weight often too thick), worsted weight is usually just right - it's my 'Goldilocks' yarn weight :)
Important note on gauge and ball band information:
It is important to note that the information you'll read about recommended needle size and gauge on the ball band of any yarn is written with knitted garments in mind. When knitting garments you want to create a fairly loose knitted fabric that has a nice quality of drape. But when you are knitting toys or other objects that are three-dimensional and are going to be stuffed, knitting at a gauge suitable for clothing would be much too loose and mean that the stuffing showed through the gaps between stitches. This is the reason that I knit the toys with worsted weight yarn on 3mm (US 2.5) needles to give a gauge of 6 stitches and 9 rows per square inch (which is much tighter than recommended on worsted yarn ball bands) as then the resulting knitted fabric is nice and dense and doesn't stretch enough to let the stuffing show between stitches.
Favourite Worsted weight yarns for Little Cotton rabbit animal patterns:
Note, I've linked to the Ravelry pages for each of these yarns, as that way you'll be able to see projects made from the yarns, what others think of the yarns and also links to local stockists. At the bottom of each yarn I've also linked to the manufacturers own website.
A good strong pure wool yarn which comes in a huge range of dependable range of colours (by that I mean that in my experience the colours only vary a little between dye lots). It's hard wearing so doesn't pill easily or shed much fibre and knits up very well. The price is reasonable for the quantity. Put simply, it's a perfect all-rounder yarn and great for knitting my animals.
Particular favourite shades are 2440 Vinci (a warm brown used for the bears and parts of the boy bunny above), 9600 Antique heather (used in the sheep and the boy bunny above), 8011 Aspen heather a lovely light grey good for bunnies or elephants, 9491 Greystone heather - a dark grey.
This is a single ply worsted yarn which is beautifully soft and comes in lovely tonal colours. In my experience there can be a large degree of variance between dye lots so sometimes the skein I receive is not the exact colour I'd expected from looking at the computer image. That's because it is kettle dyed in small batches but this also makes for such beautiful colours many of which have variation in tones throughout the skein which looks great on the knitted animals. Being a single ply yarn this is not a strong yarn so isn't great for seaming with. Either use a different yarn to sew up the seams with or give the strand you sew up with a lot of extra twist in order to strengthen it (see the post here about seaming).
Particular favourite shades are Pearl and Polar morn (pale rabbity greys); SFO Sky and Comfy Junkie which have a lot of variance and make for extra interest; Rhodesian and glazed carrot are good for the fox; Roanoke, Dark Earth and Applewood are great for the bears.
This is a lovely soft and strong marled yarn which gives extra interest to the knitted fabric. It's comes in lots of greys, browns and natural shades that are perfect for knitting bunnies and bears in.
Quince and Co Lark is a lovely pure American wool yarn. It comes in a great range of colours, is really nice to knit with and has great stitch definition.
This is a lovely lofty rustic yarn which is soft and bouncy and has subtle variation of tone and texture throughout the strand. It's composed of 50% American wool and 50% New Zealand alpaca. It's a 2ply construction and is not particularly strong so may need extra twisting when seaming or sewing the seams with a stronger yarn. Because it's lofty the animals may come out a tiny bit larger than those knitted in some of the other suggested yarns. There's a great range of greys, browns and neutral colours perfect for knitting bears and bunnies in.
Other noteworthy yarns...
Drops Nepal, incredibly good value wool and alpaca mix yarn with a good colour range, a little on the thick side so watch your gauge
Uncommon Thread Lush Worsted, beautifully hand-dyed luxury with a touch of cashmere
Madeline Tosh Vintage, beautiful tonal hand-dyed yarn
Lettlopi, rustic and interestingly textured Icelandic wool in a great range of natural colours
Adriafil Lana Naturale Inca, great natural colours with tweed effects, alpaca wool blend yarn
I've always enjoyed knitting with 2 different strands of yarn held together. This can give an interesting texture and you can create your own bespoke finish. Most often I enjoy marrying one thin strand of mohair with a DK weight tweedy yarn. Here are some suggestions
Other very thin mohair mix yarns I've used (to be held double with another DK yarn):
Favourite DK cotton blend yarns for the animals:
As mentioned above I prefer to knit the elephants and pigs in smooth cotton yarns that look a bit more like skin than fuzzy fur. With cotton yarns you'll need a DK not a worsted weight. This is because cotton yarns are much bulkier and rigid and so a worsted weight cotton yarn would be too thick to achieve the gauge needed for the animals at the recommended needle size.
Stylecraft Classique Cotton DK, a good range of colours and a nice soft strong cotton
King Cole Cottonsoft DK, very soft cotton but still strong, nice colour range
Katia Cotton 100%, a DK cotton with a wide colour range
Patons 100% Cotton DK, mercerised cotton so has a sheen, strong, slightly thin but a great colour range
This is not an exhaustive list and I'll be adding to this in future, so when I come across new yarns that I start using I'll update this post.
Another great source of yarn inspiration is the Ravelry group. You can look at the yarns that others are using and sometimes people also write up notes on what they thought of the yarn. You can see the yarn by looking up each individual project, for instance girl bunny.
Hope this helps, if you've found any yarns that you'd like to recommend please tell us all about them in the comments below.
(last updated on February 5th 2018)
Note: This is an un-sponsored post, I only mention yarns that I've bought with my own money and use in my own work.