Tuesday was a big day here at GBFibreCo., we announced the big launch of 6 new yarns!
With the renaming of our BFL yarns to Bayfield (formerly Hennessy & Kilcoursie Fingering) and the introduction of our merino line, it seemed a good a time as any to go over the details of these yarns and what they are best suited for.
My mantra is that there are no bad yarns, just bad uses of yarns. I know that picking on manufactured fibres (aka. acrylics) can be a popular sport, however they have their uses like for toys or for people who can't tolerate or afford natural fibres. And so to make highest and best use of our yarns, we need to know about what they are good for.
Looking specifically today at McCoy and Bayfield and learn about why you should choose one over the other for a specific project.
Let's start with the new kid on the block, McCoy, a treated (aka. superwashed) Merino yarn.
Generally, Merino is considered one of the softest sheep's wool on the planet. With a micron count of 18-22 this very fine, short fiber makes for incredibly soft yarn. Thanks to companies like SmartWool and Icebreaker, most people have been introduced to the wonders of superwash Merino. People who don't believe they can wear wool, thanks to hive-inducing flashbacks to Grandma's Christmas sweaters, can wear this wool. However, as I mentioned last time, with great softness comes pilling. The short, fine fibers have a tendency to work out of the ply and become pills. However, with some grooming, McCoy is a great choice for people with sensitive skin.
The other main quality of McCoy is that it has been treated, or superwashed, which means it can be machine washed and dryed without any shrinking or fulling/felting. This makes it a great choice for kids and adults who just can't keep their stuff clean. Also, great for socks.
However, with the treating process, which we will go over in future installments of this get to know you fibre series, means that the yarn loses some of its "sheepy-ness". These yarns need heat (generally obtained by a trip through the dryer) to help them return to their shape after getting the yarn, or finished object, wet. As well, they don't have quite the same structure to them which means that the items don't have the same ability to retain shape over time, and have a tendency to slip over the course of the day. This means that superwash can grow like a mofo, but this can make it really nice for lace, which is enhanced by drape.
The last feature of McCoy yarn is that the fleece of a Merino sheep comes out a much brighter white, which means that when the yarns are dyed, they are also brighter, and clearer. They are going to have more brightness and eveness than you will see on the Bayfield bases.
And now to Bayfield, formerly known as Hennessy (and Kilcoursie Fingering), an untreated, Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) yarn.
It is a wonderful companion to merino, a yin to merino's yang, if you will. With a larger fiber 21-24 microns, and a longer staple length, BFL is classified is as a medium wool. It is described by Carol Ekarius & Deborah Robson, writers of the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, as the Goldilocks of wool, not too long, not too short; not too fine, not too coarse; not too poke-y, not too pill-y.
This is a great wool for someone who is ready for something with a little bit heartier, BFL is to a rustic multi-grain farm bread, as Merino is to a French Baguette. It has a squish and a crunch that let's you experience a bit more of the sheep behind the yarn. Some may find it a little bit picky against their neck, or other sensitive skin, but for most it is wonderfully warm yarn that is soft enough for scarves, but abrasion resistant enough for mittens and socks.
The other big difference between the McCoy and the Bayfield is that nearly all of the Bayfield yarns are untreated, so not superwashed. Bayfield Sock is the exception to this, it is superwash & nylon and allows it to be used as a sock yarn that has great abrasion resistance and machine washability. For the rest of the Bayfield yarns, being untreated means that the yarn and items made from it can felt & full if put into . But this also means that the yarn hasn't been altered by the treating process, and the fibers are able to work in their natural state and allows a garment hold it's shape, without the help of a dryer. It also holds its blocking beautifully, making for wonderful shawls.
It's natural creamy fleece colour means that when dyed, the colours are rich and warm. There is a depth and shine to BFL, that is unmatched. So if you are looking to make a warm garment, colorwork, cabled or otherwise, this is your yarn. It will take a lots of wear without much pilling and will hold its shape through many wearings.
I haven't even started into the different spins, they are the same between the fibre blends, so McCoy Aran and Bayfield Aran have the same structure and virtually identical gauges (after blocking, of course). So, if you are looking to substitute between the bases (because you are making an item for someone who needs superwash, or someone who loves the feeling of wool), you can be confident in making that switch. However, Lace is only available in McCoy and Bulky is only in Bayfield, otherwise, you can mix and match to your hearts content.
So give them both a go and see which one suits your fancy, and your project, the best.