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Mystery yarn tour!

I couldn't resist the Spotlight end of year sale and had a gift card burning a hole in my wallet so I went along to the last day of the sale.


And despite the fact that I have too much yarn, I tell everyone I have too much yarn, and I'm actively working to reduce the amount of yarn I have... I bought a bag of mystery yarn.


Spotlight's mill end bags are usually the left overs from European yarn mills, often dumped cheap in Australia because our peak yarn selling period starts just as Europe's yarn season is ending.


The yarn comes unlabelled with a generic bag label. Sometimes you can recognise the yarn and grab a bargain. (I once bought enough Phildar Phil Soft+ to knit two jumpers and a shawl for $10). There's a seven thousand strong group on Facebook just on buying and swapping Spotlight mill end bags.


So what yarn did I come home with? This stuff.






It's dense and shiny, like cotton. I think it will go great with a warp I have ready to put on my loom to make some placemats. Given the solid feel of the yarn, the sheen and the cool touch I'm guessing that it's mercerised cotton with the lighter red ply being a synthetic yarn.


Time to see if I'm right! There's two ways to detective out a yarn's material, the burn test and the bleach test.


The burn test is pretty simple. Set the yarn (well, a bit of it) on fire (safely). How quickly it ignites, how it burns, what it smells like and what the residue looks like can all give you clues as to the fibre's content. Megan Nielson has a fantastic table at the bottom of her post on burn testing fabrics that summarises all these clues. Her post is about identifying fabric but the same info can be used for yarns.


So this yarn: ignites quickly and burns really well. It smelt kinda candle like, so I'm guessing cellulose fibre. Wool smells strongly of burning hair and most synthetics smell really acrid. The yarn also curled quite a bit while burning.


It left behind a black residue, which was brittle and easy to crush, kinda like a beetle.

So this pretty firmly puts the yarn in the cellulose fibre group.


But which one? That's where the bleach test comes in. Bleach will, well, bleach, cotton and linen fibres but will leave most extruded cellulose yarns (rayon, viscose, tencel, etc) untouched.


So I dropped a strand of the yarn in some household beach and...



Oh. The thinner, light red strand in the yarn lost its colour. It didn't bubble, so it's not an animal fibre, but the fact that the majority of the yarn seems unaffected by bleach means it's not cotton.


Okay, so:


I need more data! Back to the burn test, this time separating out the cotton ply from the other plies. And now, without the 'wick' of the cotton yarn keeping the fire going, the yarn burnt slower and it was more obvious to see the black beads of a melting synthetic yarn. It still didn't smell horrible though. So I think this is polyester.



So it's a 3 ply yarn by construction (2 plies polyester, 1 ply cotton). I measured it at 19 wraps per inch (WPI) so it's about a laceweight yarn. Alright, let's run the details through the database! The Ravelry yarn database, that is.



Oh, that Madame Tricote yarn looks promising, but there weren't a lot of photos on Ravelry. Time for some googling.


There it is! Madame Tricote Timya in colourway 5908. 50% cotton, 50% polyester! It's even in 100g balls, same as the balls in my mill end bag. Recommended needles 3mm, hook 1.5-2mm (laceweight yarn!). Made in Türkiye (European!)




I think the difference in colour is due to lighting and the intricacies of photographing very shiny yarn. But you can see the yarn structure is very similar, although mine looks a bit more tightly spun. Maybe that's why it's a mill end?


Yarn mystery solved! I'm looking forward to weaving with this yarn soon.


Final note: If you're interested in also setting yarn on fire and bleaching things please do so in a way that is safe for you, everyone around you and the environment.


One t-shirt was harmed in the making of this blog post.

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