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What Is Soy Yarn?

A shirt made of a soy cotton blend.
Knitting needles and soy yarn.
Like any yarn, it is important to achieve the specified gauge, or stitches per inch, when working with soy yarn.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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Soy yarn is yarn produced with fibers derived from soy. Companies that make this yarn usually use byproducts of food manufacturing that would normally be discarded, putting the waste through an extrusion and wet spinning process to create fibers that can be spun into yarn. Many knitting stores sell soy yarn and it is also possible to buy raw soy fiber to spin at home, for people who are interested in making their own versions of this yarn.

Industrial manufacturing of soy fiber dates to the 1930s, and experienced a resurgence in the early 2000s as crafters became more interested in using natural fibers for their projects. Soy fiber can be used to make fabric, as well as yarn, and in addition to being used as a standalone, it can be integrated into fiber blends. Soy/wool and soy/cotton blends are both readily available, bringing out the best traits of both fibers.

Pure soy yarn is very strong and soft. It is also highly stretchy and can feel slippery or slick, much like silk yarns. It can be spun in a variety of weights and is also available in the form of novelty yarns, such as yarn tubes or ribbons. Like many other yarns made from plant fibers, soy yarn takes dyes very well. Knitters should be aware that it is not always colorfast through the first few washings and may bleed slightly, although the color of the yarn usually remains crisp and clear.

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Raw soy fiber for spinning is sometimes available at yarn and knitting stores. It can also be ordered directly from companies that make soy yarns. These companies also sell undyed yarns for people who would like to dye their own yarns. Dyes can be purchased from dye companies or made at home. Some dyes can cause the texture of the yarn to roughen slightly, an important consideration for yarn that will be used in knitted garments worn directly against the skin.

Working with soy yarn requires no special tools or skills. Knitters may find it helpful to make several test swatches first to get familiar with the yarn and the gauge. These swatches can also be washed to assess colorfastness. Unless the care directions say otherwise, products made with soy yarn can usually be washed in cool to warm water with gentle soaps. Handwashing may be recommended for hand knitted projects, and the piece should be blocked by laying it out flat after washing to help it retain shape.

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Discuss this Article

widget2010
Post 6

@sapphire12- There are also lots of recycling options for yarn. If you want something new, either to avoid wool or just try something new, there are lots of guides online for making t shirt yarn, out of strips of t shirt fabric, and lots of other ways to turn things like cotton, soy, and linen fabrics into yarn.

sapphire12
Post 5

For people with a wool allergy, a lot of brands make other types, even if you dislike soy or acrylic. Berroco yarn has a lot of different fibers now, like linen, bamboo, and mixes of different non-animal fibers. That's just one company too, a lot of others have everything from basic to really fancy yarn.

BambooForest
Post 4

@Monika- I have had that problem with some other alternative blends too. I have to admit, since I don't have a wool allergy, I prefer wool, or wool and acrylic, blends for sweaters. They hold together well and don't stretch a lot. There can be a problem of pilling if you buy a lot quality yarn, but that can be avoided if you're willing to spend a little more.

Azuza
Post 3

I know a lot of people like soy yarn because it is supposedly eco-friendly. However, I must admit that I am not a fan of soy yarn.

It is just so slippery to work with. Whenever I knit with it, I feel like my project is going to slide right off my needles at any second. And in fact, this actually happened to me once with a soy yarn project! Never again.

Monika
Post 2

@JaneAir - Sorry to hear about your wool allergy. Very unfortunate!

I'm a knitter too, and I just wanted to say that 100% soy yarn is better suited to scarves or shawls. After you knit it, it tends to stretch, a lot. This is extremely undesirable in a garment such as a sweater. Imagine knitting your sweater to fit you, and then having it stretch out. What a waste of effort.

However, soy yarn holds laces patterns well and has excellent "drape." This makes it perfect for a lace scarf!

JaneAir
Post 1

I actually knitted a shawl out of a soy/wool blend before I discovered my wool allergy. Actually, knitting that shawl was how I discovered my wool allergy.

Anyway, I had worked with wool once before. To me, the soy/wool blend was no different than working with 100% wool. The only difference was the novelty factor: "Hey, my yarn is made from soy!" I was a beginning knitter at the time though, so I'm not sure if I would feel differently now.

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