Adventures in Burn Testing

Right, so there is a good reason you should always do a burn test with unknown yarns. Because you could be completely wrong. Granted, I knew this before I even tested the yarn, because when I picked it up recently and felt it I was like, “WTF? This doesn’t feel like cotton! What were you smoking the day you bought this and insisted it must be cotton, Sarah?”

Anyways, on to the burn test. First, you need your tools and ingredients and such. There’s a special name for it all in science, but as the last time I wrote a lab report was when I was 17, I really don’t remember. Basically, you need the anonymous yarn, a lighter (or matches), a bowl to catch the burning yarn in, and a handy dandy clip to hold the burning yarn so you don’t burn off your little fingers (which I already did today in the oven, but that’s another story). Also, you need a burn test catalogue to compare your results with, like the lovely Burn Test Chart from Ditzy Prints.

Clamp a cut piece of yarn like this with your clip before lighting the sucker on fire. It’s important to hold it over the bowl so that in case you accidentally drop it, you don’t light your house, or kitchen table, on fire. Oh, right, and don’t play with fire in front of your computer on your computer desk with a used tea mug, like I did the first time I ever did a burn test.

Then you light it up, baby! Watch how it burns. If it doesn’t want to burn, and keeps extinguishing itself, that is not a bad thing, it means you’ve got animal fiber! Yey! Animal fiber hates burning. Good to know. Wear more wool, as you’ll be less likely to die in a fire … unless, of course, something explodes on you. Wool can’t help you there. If your pretty yarn finally catches fire, watch the way it burns. If the yarn tries to curl up and escape from the fire, that means … I forget what it means. But its important, yo!

Lastly, blow the yarn out and smell the burnt piece. Does it smell like woodsmoke? You’ve got something like cotton – a plant fiber. Does it smell like death? And make you gag? And remind you of burning flesh? Ah, that would be an animal fiber. Lucky you. Now go fumigate. Mine smelled like death with the lovely aftertaste of a chemical plant burning. I think that means I’ve got a wool/poly blend here, folks!

Now burn another piece of the yarn again, just for the fun of it.

After you’ve almost lit your plastic magnet clip on fire (note to self: use metal next time), take one of the burnt pieces of yarn and try to crumble a bit of ash off the end with your fingers. If the ash is white or gray, it’s plant fiber. If the ash is black and beady, it’s animal fiber. If it’s an acrylic of some sort, it won’t ash at all, but just melt together in a blob. As you can see in the photo below, mine melted and beadily ashed, confirming again (if my nose couldn’t smell the horror, for some reason), that it is a wool/poly blend.

I am an idiot, and couldn’t tell what is and is not cotton just by touching yarn. This yarn is a wool/poly blend, based on all of the burning I did. It also is a thread that has been knitted up in stockinette stitch so it curls up into itself, creating a curled tape yarn. It is moss-colored.

And our hypothesize ladies and gents? What brand do you think this yarn is? After much difficult research (browsing the stashes on Ravelry), I’ve determined that it is Lane Borgosesia Jacquard or ONline Linie 194 Solo, both of which are wool/acrylic blends of chainette yarns and are mostly used in making really ridiculous-looking ruffle scarves. Ta-da!

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