You can easily expand your store of needlepoint threads by using knitting yarns for needlepoint. If you choose carefully based on construction and thickness and, sometimes, stitch with shorter lengths, you’ll find these yarns to be great needlepoint threads.
Because the idea of using knitting yarns for needlepoint is uncommon, this article will explain how to identify knitting yarns which will work and something about the market for knitting yarns and how it differs from the needlepoint market.
Often stitchers are told never to use knitting yarns for needlepoint because they do not wear well. The rough edges of the canvas are extremely hard on thread and many knitting yarns would shred under their effect. But as the revolution in ?bers hit needlepoint, stitchers use, as a matter of course, many threads which were originally developed for knitting. Silk & Ivory is a knitting yarn, as is Overture – to name just two examples. In fact, there are plenty of threads in knitting shops which will work for needlepoint.
There are some big differences between the markets for yarn in needlework and in knitting. Most of these differences can be summed up by the fact that knitting is fashion while needlework is an heirloom. It has little to do with the work involved, but lots to do with the use of the finished item.
The market for knitting yarns tends towards fibers, yarns, and colors which work well for garments. And the manufacturers of yarns create yarns which meet these needs. For example, if metallics are “hot,” there will be lots of metallic yarns in shops. If they are not, there will only be a few, if any.
The market for needlework yarns is more stable. Stitchers look for large color families (several shades of the same color), expect colors to continue to be available permanently, and will trade relatively fewer types of thread in exchange for more colors. Because stitching a piece can take years, or there may be a need for restoration, the needlework thread market works to keep colors consistent and available.
The selection of color in knitting yarns is considerably smaller than that of needlework yarns. Do not expect to find four or five shades of the same color in knitting yarns. Do not necessarily expect to find colors which are not fashionable at the moment. Knitting yarns come in a smaller selection of colors and, while the yarn may continue to be available, the color selection might change.
The average life of a knitting yarn is only a few years. A yarn may not continue to be available after a couple of years and may not be widely available “off season.” There may be similar yarns out there, and they may be called something else and come in different colors, but keep in mind this is a market which changes more frequently.
There are probably thousands of knitting yarns out there. While it sometimes appears that a local needlework shop only sells a fraction of the needlework yarns, even the best stocked knitting shop only carries a tiny percentage of knitting yarns. Do not expect to find consistency in yarn selection from store to store.
In short, while knitting yarns are wonderful to use for needlework, there are restrictions when buying and using them.
What NOT to Look For
Needlepoint is hard on threads and any yarn which is used will need to be both sturdy and relatively even in width. The pictures at the top of the article and below show two knitting yarns. The first one is suitable for needlepoint while the second one is not – it is too uneven in width.
- Stay away from those wonderful and tempting yarns which are very bumpy – they will not go through the canvas.
- Avoid most threads which are loosely twisted, they shred easily. Some threads are an exception to this rule. Chainette threads (they look like a long line of single crochet stitches or a chain of thread loops) often work but need to be handled with care. One way to handle Chainettes is to unravel them before stitching. This makes the threads much thinner but easier to control. They may need to be doubled (or even tripled) to get a good stitching width.
Overall, there are two big drawbacks with knitting yarns. First they come in a much smaller selection of colors. Also, they come in huge quantities. Choosing them for accents or background threads is an economical choice.
Portions of this article are reprinted from Bargello Revisited by Janet M. Perry and are used with permission.