When I first heard about stainless steel yarn (or, more accurately, thread), I was intrigued. What would a stainless steel hat or scarf look like? What did it feel like? Was it heavy? Bulletproof ;-)? My Habu project is still in the works, so all these questions haven’t been answered, but I’m hoping you will find the following overview helpful.
First, where does it come from?
Habu is a company making stainless steel thread for knitters, crocheters, weavers and other fabric artisans (the company also makes yarns out of paper and silk). Lion Brand also offers a version of the stainless steel thread (online only). I wanted to see and feel this thread up close to make sure it was something I could work with, and finally found a collection of Habu at Knitting Temptations in Columbus, Ohio. I took the plunge and bought two cones. I also purchased some silk/wool fingering yarn to work with the stainless steel; I had heard that Habu was easier to work with if it was doubled up with another thread or yarn. If you are new to Habu or stainless steel thread, I highly recommend starting this way unless you have a high tolerance for frustration. Because it is a very fine wire covered in wool (this is the type I purchased), the characteristics of the wire shine through: it curls, it’s springy, it snarls easily (at least when crocheting), and it has a life of its own. Habu needs to be tamed, but not too much, otherwise you risk losing the qualities that make this thread so special.
So, what makes it special?
Project using copper-colored wool/stainless steel thread with silk and baby alpaca yarn.
- The thread has a beautiful sheen and “flexible” quality. The copper color I’ve beenworking with has a subtle sparkle to it that adds visual interest and depth depending on the lighting. The “flexible” nature of the thread is hard to describe. When worked with a softer yarn, the finished piece has a pleasing weight and body. Alone, the stainless steel reminds me of a heavy tulle or lace–a little stiff, but malleable. Because it is wire, it holds its shape to a degree if crumpled or scrunched. Although I haven’t read anything to this effect, I would be careful about creasing it–the wire might break. One knitter on Ravelry claimed the thread kept breaking while she knitted, but I’ve not experienced any problems while crocheting. I’m intrigued by the possibilities this thread offers both alone and with other yarns. It invites experimentation!
- It yields stunning textures. I am a crocheter, so I can only speak to what happens on the hook. Working in a single crochet with the I hook, I’ve achieved an airy, web-like fabric that can be shaped in different ways. I wanted to experiment more with surface textures and open spaces in my crochet, and Habu has worked beautifully.
- It can be felted. This was a surprise to me, but makes sense. Online reviews say that softly felting your finished piece makes the wool covering the wire softer. Before felting, try some Shibori (see note below) techniques. One reviewer said she preferred the look and texture of the Habu before felting. Let your own preferences be your guide.
The stainless steel threads are pretty affordable. I paid $11 for a cone of Habu containing 273 yards. The Lion Brand was slightly less expensive ($9.99) for 273 yards, but the shipping costs were a little steep. Start with one cone and work it with another yarn until you get the hang of it. You won’t be out a lot of money and you may end up with a stunning scarf or cowl.
Stainless steel threads can be frustrating to work with at first. Work slowly (it snarls easily). If you make a mistake and need to rip out, that did not seem to be much of a problem since this thread is not fuzzy. If you’ve created a knot or snarl (and it’s easy to do!) you’ll just have to do your best to hide it. I found the ones I made impossible to undo. Some Ravelry reviewers swore they would never make another project with this thread (they were using it alone) since it takes a very long time to make any progress. Boredom was a common complaint, especially if you are knitting. Others raved about their finished pieces and were looking forward to making another…after taking a break. If you’re intrigued, take the plunge!
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your comments–good and bad. Also, I would die from happiness if you would like my Facebook page–StorylineCreations–and follow me on Twitter (storylinecreate), Tumblr and Instagram (retired writer).
Note: Shibori is a Japanese word and loosely means a “shape resist textile.” Often dyes and rubber bands are used with fabrics (tie dye is a Shibori technique). When I practice Shibori, (photo right) I don’t uses dyes. Instead, I might crumple the fabric and tie it with string (rubber bands work, but are sometimes too tight) or stitch in ping-pong balls or rocks (to be removed later) before felting. I’ve also added pleats that are secured with a basting stitch using contrasting thread so it can be easily removed later. I’ve not felted Habu yet, but I’m guessing a gentle touch is important so the wire is not weakened or broken.