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What is Tencel Yarn? + 16 Patterns

Of all the synthetic yarn types, you may find Tencel is the most alluring. Check out what you can knit with it!

Updated August 18, 2020
What is Tencel Yarn

If you've spent as many weekends browsing all the nearby yarn stores as much as I have (much to your spouse's dismay), you've probably seen the word "Tencel" pop up once or twice and figured it was just another nylon-rayon-polyester-acrylic what-have-you. However, unlike with other synthetic yarn fibers you've noticed on yarn sleeves before, you're not sure you can pick out any clothing or other fabrics in your life that also use Tencel. So, what exactly is Tencel and what is it good for?

It's definitely not as common as some other fibers, and that's partially because Tencel itself isn't a kind of material, but rather a brand name for a combination of lyocell and modal. The former is a satin-like form of rayon made of wood-derived cellulose, and the latter is a lightweight and stretchy fiber made mostly of beech tree pulp. Basically, you can think of them as manmade substitutes for silk and cotton, respectively. As you can imagine, that makes Tencel incredibly soft and pleasant to wear.

Many synthetic fibers get a bad reputation for feeling cheap and stuffy, but Tencel borrows all the breathability of cotton and the drape of silk. However, unlike the cheap and widely available nature of, say, acrylic, Tencel yarn is much less ubiquitous and a bit more expensive per yard due to the higher cost to produce. You'll also find it's less stretchy than some other synthetic fibers, which can make it a bit less forgiving for wearables. However, if you're looking for a vegan, cruelty-free fiber that still feels somewhat luxurious, you'll find Tencel suits your needs perfectly. Check out some great patterns to make if you pick up Tencel yarn:

Knit Ponchos and Shawls

Patterns like shawls and ponchos which fall over your shoulders are a perfect use of Tencel yarn because of the fiber's lovely drape. If you're sensitive to the feel of fabric on your skin, you'll also love this as an option since it's soft and silky to the touch. Any shawl or poncho that you would make with silk yarn (so especially lighter-weight ones) will be just as impressive with Tencel.

Knit Tees and Sweaters

Tencel yarn is unique to other manmade fibers in that it does well to help you thermoregulate as it's quite breathable. That's because, although there's too much manpower involved in its creation to call it a natural fiber, it is mostly derived from natural sources. Plus, as mentioned in the section above, you just can't beat its softness with any other synthetic. Be warned, however, that Tencel fabric isn't very stretchy, so you must gauge swatch and be sure you're knitting a piece that is already the proper size for you or your loved one.

Knit Dishcloths and Other Home Knits

Bet you didn't expect that a synthetic would be good for dishcloths! Tencel is actually surprisingly absorbent, which makes it great for kitchenware as well as daily homegoods which may come into contact with sweat, spilled drinks, etc. such as pillows and rugs.

Knit Bags

Bags are one such type of knit that uses Tencel's lack of stretchiness to its advantage. There is little more disappointing in creating a purse with your own two hands than when it begins to stretch and sag, and Tencel is resistent to that. Plus, as mentioned above, Tencel's surprising absorbency helps make it a bit hardier than other synthetics for objects that will probably come in contact with liquid or otherwise get messy. And, of course, you can machine wash Tencel (just make sure you use the 'gentle' setting).

Up Next:

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The number with the knitting needles or the crochet hook is the size of needles or hook that are best with that particular size yarn. The yarn size is printed on a picture of yarn. 1 is fingering, 4 is DK or Aran or Worsted, 6 is super chunky. I don't think it goes any higher than 6.

Standard yarn weight system runs from 0-7, DK yarn is a #3 aran/worsted is a #4 weight yarn. The number with the needles/hooks is suggested, not best, one will always use the size that obtains gauge.

When looking at wool to knit with I always thought that the number with the knitting needles was the thickness of the wool. But then I was told the other day that the number means the size if needles to use... which of us are right as Im feeling very confused

The number is the needle size, the yarn size is typically not listed since there is a standard yarn weight system that numbers from 0-7 on the yarn weight scale, but one should always keep in mind that you should always use the needle that obtains gauge, the needle size on the package is a suggested size.

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