"Hi-Viz" Knitting with Reflective Yarn
As it happens, there is quite a bit of overlap between bicyclists and knitters. And so, on occasion, the subject of knitting makes an appearance on this blog. This time, however, it is particularly apt, as I am doing some "hi-viz" knitting. I am making a sweater out of reflective yarn and wanted to share my impressions with others curious about what working with it is like.
The existence of reflective yarns was brought to my attention some years ago. Unfortunately, all of these yarns were synthetic and I prefer to knit with natural fibers, so I was never tempted to give them a try. Then recently I stumbled upon this Rico Glühwürmchen yarn ("glow worms" in German) at the Row by Roe knitting shop in Limavady, Northern Ireland. Unlike the other reflective yarns I have come across, this one is a woolen blend. And so I decided try it out on a cable-knit jumper commissioned by a fellow cyclist.
The Glühwürmchen is a super chunky yet lightweight and airy yarn that is roughly 40% wool, 50% acrylic and 10% reflective glass fibre thread. It comes in a variety of colours, from vibrant hues of coral and turquoise to neutrals like gray and beige. Here I am using the navy, which is a nice inky dark blue. The reflective thread complements it nicely, I think - which is fortunate, as even without flash, its presence in the yarn s quite noticeable. The luminous thread has a silvery sparkle to it, not unlike tinsel. And to the touch it feels like tinsel as well, its texture and density a stark contrast to the soft fluffy wool it is interwoven with. When I first started to knit with it, this textural combination felt strange, and the needles would occasionally catch on the glass fibre thread. But I got used to it quickly and found it to be pretty smooth-going once I did. I should also add that the glass fiber thread is tough and durable, so that even if your needles catch on it, it is very difficult to snap.
Some describe reflective yarns as "glow in the dark," but as those familiar with reflective wear already know, that is not quite accurate. Rather, the reflective threads light up under direct light - such as a car's headlights, a camera flash, even bright sunlight. When illuminated, the yarn looks as shown above. You can see why the company calls it "glow worms!" - although personally, I could do without the worms imagery, and prefer to compare the look to a lurex disco top instead.
Being a chunky weight yarn, the Glühwürmchen wool knits up pretty quickly on size 8 needles. I have tried it in plain stocking stitch, but find that it looks especially nice with chunky cables, showing them off crisply. Unfortunately, the glow of the reflective thread does not follow the lines of the cables, so this aspect of the design is lost when the garment is illuminated.
Overall, I am finding reflective yarn fun to work with, and I look forward to seeing how the finished jumper performs in action. In the future though, I may go a different route and source the reflective glass fibre thread separately, then weave it into a 100% wool yarn of my choice myself. I could use a reflective hat for the dark winter months in the countryside!
If you are a knitter and have questions about reflective yarn before investing in some yourself, I would be happy to answer them. Likewise, if you have experience either using reflective yarns, or making your own, you are very welcome to share.