I don’t usually do yarn reviews. But I was recently at my local Michaels store looking for some odds and ends, when I spotted this 100% Tencel yarn from Loops and Threads. My friend Sydney, I knew, uses Tencel yarn in her weaving (see her gorgeous work here), and I’ve heard that it’s eco-friendly. So I bought a couple of skeins and set about doing a bit of research. I have one or two secondhand garments in Tencel fabric, but have never knitted with it before.
According to the website Good On You, Tencel is a type of rayon that is made from responsibly-farmed eucalytptus, rather than old growth trees, and produced in a closed-loop system (where 99% of the chemicals used are recycled). It requires 30% less water than cotton fiber, and also less dye to achieve a desired color. So it has some things going for it in the sustainability department.
The downside, and this applies to any rayon-type fiber, is that is does require quite a bit of chemical processing to make fiber from wood pulp. (Though the same thing can be said for linen or hemp, if you’re using a modern chemical process to produce it, rather than the more labor-intensive traditional methods. And as I said above, the system used to produce Tencel is closed-loop, meaning close to 100% of the chemicals are recovered and reused in the process.) It also goes without saying that overproducing any fiber, as with fast fashion, will cause environmental harm, so we should always purchase carefully.
Anyway, I think this yarn could be an affordable alternative to linen for summer garments, so I put it to the swatch test. I cast on 36 stitches on a US 4 (3.5 mm) needle and knit in stockinette for a few inches, then bound off. The yarn is smooth and pleasant to work with. It has a bit of shine, like a mercerized cotton, which can be good or bad depending on your preferences. It’s slightly slippery, but less fatiguing on the hands than I find cotton or linen to be. Though the yarn itself has very little give, the knitted swatch has some memory, returning to it’s original shape when stretched. As you would expect for a plant fiber, the yarn also has some drape.
I soaked the swatch in my usual way, rolled it in a towel, and pinned it out without stretching. (I usually use a few pins just to keep the edges straight and prevent the swatch from rolling.) The swatch measured 5.5″ x 3.5″ before soaking and 5.875″ x 3.875″ after soaking and drying, so it grew just a bit in both directions. I noticed only a very slight biasing, if any, in the finished swatch.
I think I’m going to try making a summer tank from this yarn and see how I like wearing it. Have you knit with Tencel yarn? What was your experience?