Where to begin? So this year much of my homework is working with man made fibers. It doesn’t get more man made than nylon. Nylon was introduced to the United States as nylon stockings in 1940 and was developed in 1939 by the Du Pont company.
Nylon has many characteristics. It is very strong and does not deteriorate with age. I am guessing this also means it won’t break down in a land fill. It is very elastic and will return to shape after stretching. This is a great property for knitwear. It can wrinkle easily but will return to it’s original shape which helps keeping carpets to look new. It can be used in products for both summer and winter wear depending on how it is used and woven. It drapes really well. It washes easily and does not shrink and it holds it’s shape when wet. It will melt if heated to high and it is not very absorbent.
I won’t say I have never worked with it before, because I have knit with acrylic yarns over the years. While I am a lover of natural fibers, I also do believe there is a place for synthetic fibers in this world. One of my favorite scarves I spun and knit is a blend of superwash wool, bamboo and nylon. It’s a pretty great and easy care blend.
There are several different types of nylon available to the hand spinner to be used in blending or for solo knitting. The one that most people have probably run across in the spinning world is Icicle fiber or “firestar” I have also seen it called “angelica”. It is not used alone. It is always blended in small amounts with another fiber, usually wool. People refer to it as “sparkle” or “bling”. It does add a bit of flash but it is very coarse. A small amount of it goes a LONG way. It has a staple similar to a long wool.
The next fiber is blending nylon which has a staple of between 1.5 inches and 2 inches. It has a little faux crimp and it’s name says it all. It’s for blending. It is considered to be fine to medium fine.
The last type of nylon is faux cashmere. Its staple is around 1 inch and the fiber is considered to be fine. It is bright white and amazingly soft. I chose the faux cashmere to be the nylon I used in my exercises.
The first one was to spin a 10 yard sample from 100% nylon. Thinking in my mind that faux cashmere would behave like cashmere and has a short staple I decided to try “English Long Draw” to spin it. Can I just tell you. WOW. It was amazing. I think because of it’s elasticity, It spun out so very beautifully. When I washed and hung it dry it only got better. It is squishy and fluffy and I can not believe how much I really, really LOVE it. Really! I think if I knit a lace scarf out of it people would be insane for it and then be really upset to find out it was nylon.
Next I needed to blend 50% nylon with 50% wool. I had some nice Polworth top in my stash and so I decided to see what a blend of the two would be like. First I checked my staple length to see if I needed to cut the fibers to get them to be alike. They were almost the same length so I left both as they were and blended them on my hand cards to make some sliver and then I spun them short forward draw. The resulting yarn had about half the TPI as the 100% nylon yarn. It has a nice drape, but not as much of the bounce and softness as the first yarn. The swatch knit up quite a bit larger as well although they both have the same WPI. I feel the 50/50 blend has a bit more drape. The question is if that is due to the lower twist or the actual yarn. Based on the properties of both yarns. This yarn should have a nice drape, good elasticity, and good durability. Wool will add warmth to it, where as the nylon should allow for an easier washability. The wool fibers will still have a tendency to felt, but at 50% nylon, I would have to experiment to see how easily that might happen.
The final yarn was 20% nylon and 80% wool. Again I used the faux cashmere and the Polworth top. I again blended on my handcards into carded sliver which I then spun short forward draw. The resulting yarn has a definite “wool” feel to it. By feel I would not be able to tell that there is nylon in the yarn. This yarn has a lower WPI at 16 but a TPI at 7 which is almost the same as the 100% nylon yarn. It has a similar bounce as the 100% yarn as well. I am thinking this is a TPI issue, not a blend issue. But that is another post entirely. It did knit up with a gauge more similair to the 50/50 blend than the 100% yarn. This yarn should have more of the properties of wool; warmth, elasticity, and moisture wicking. However, it will loose it’s flame retarding properties I would think. As nylon is prone to melting when heated. The nylon should also add a bit more elasticity to the final yarn as well as some drape.