UTO : Cashmere Library : Facts about Cashmere and Knit
What Is Yarn?
Yarn is a “continuous strand of twisted threads of fibers.”
What is the difference between yarn, thread, string, cord, and rope? A professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology said that there are no clear definitions for those terms.
Knitwear usually uses only yarn, sometimes string. In the 90s there was a fashion trend with “tape yarn.”
The natural and raw material of yarn itself is relatively short. Raw cashmere hair ranges from 10mm to 43mm in length. Highest-grade cashmere averages about 40mm. Wool is more diverse, from 25mm to 150mm; cotton is considered very long when it’s 30 to 40mm.
The diameter of cashmere is about 14 microns (1/1000 mm). High-grade wool is 17.5 to 25 microns, alpaca is 24 to 31.5 microns, and mohair is 34.5 to 40 microns. You can see by comparison how thin and fine cashmere is.
Fleece is a flock of fiber. When fibers are put together and twisted, they become strong and hard to pull. Spinning is to draw out and twist fibers into yarn. UTO uses yarn made of 100% cashmere (of course!), two-ply #26. The number indicates how fine the yarn is, and #26 means 1 gram of thread was twisted and spun to 26 meters.
Drawing just one gram of fleece into 26 meters is a bit hard to imagine. Watching a skilled worker actually do it is a magical thing.
Spun yarn is wound onto a cylindrical cop. It is possible to use this #26 yarn to knit a sweater, but it will go through yet another process: plying. Plying is simply twisting two single threads together, in the opposite direction from which they were spun. Two strands of #26 yarn make thickness #13. If different colors of yarn are plied, a nuanced yarn color such as heather can be presented. Three-ply is also possible.
The lower the yarn number, the bulkier the weight. Also, a wool sweater’s gauge should be the same as the yarn number.
Yarn for Knitting and Weaving
When we talk with people from fiber companies, we often mention turning inferior quality cashmere into woven fabric. To everyone’s surprise, knitting uses the best yarn. Why does knitting yarn have to be the highest quality? It is because of the looseness of the twist. To make strong yarn, the thread has to be long and twisted appropriately. But twisting too much makes the yarn too hard. Knitting yarn needs to be soft, so the better quality cashmere is used.
Twisting thread hard can make fine and strong yarn, but it becomes tight. Knitting yarn has to be soft and airy. Knitting yarn is twisted about 240 times per meter; for weaving yarn, it’s about 400 to 440 times. Knitting yarn needs longer down to be strong enough with far fewer twists. Long down is more expensive than shorter down.
Woolen yarns such as cashmere, angora, mohair, camel, and alpaca have different characteristics. Short cashmere hairs fall out easily; if twisted too hard, they will lose texture. Alpaca hair falls off the easiest and tends to leave fibers on other clothing. Angora also falls off easily and can even be blown off in the wind. Mohair is smooth and is hard to knit, etc.
On the other hand, threads for weaving are twisted rather extensively as they withstand tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads. Cashmere woven fabric is brushed on the surface to make it fluffy; how well it fluffs determines the value of the fabric. Dried thistle heads are used as a brush, so the textile factories in Europe raised their own thistle. There are metal brushes, but natural thistles are better. Some cashmere makers use thistles as part of the company icon, such as Loro Piana or Cariaggi.
Woven and knit fabrics require yarn with different characteristics; hence, different materials are chosen.