Anybody who likes to knit with beads or sequins is going to ultimately come to these two companies, even though they’re both a bit pricey. I’ve worked with some of each over the last few weeks (Artyarns’ Beaded Silk & Sequins Light and two from Tilli Tomas, Beaded Lace and Beaded Plie) so I thought it would be helpful to post some observations to help out people who might be dithering between the two (or even debating using them at all).
First, let’s talk quantity of embellishments.
Artyarns definitely has the edge on sheer quantity of “things” in the yarn, at least in the yarns that are both beaded and sequined. As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, this particular yarn is very well-endowed with a large quantity of beads and sequins. Some knitters (myself included) often find that beads tend to default to the purl side of the work, which is usually a waste of beads, since the knit side is designed to show. Well, with the Artyarns, it totally doesn’t matter, because it’s so beaded that even if only half the beads & sequins show up on the front, it’s still a festival of glittery joy.
Tilli, by contrast, has a more meager, random beaded appearance when done. (See the red picture below.) But there are still enough beads to make an embellishment-loving knitter sit up and take notice. But if it’s “lots of bling” that you’re looking for, Artyarns wins.
Second: type of embellishment.
Artyarns, sadly, has a choice of either “gold beads and sequins” or “silver beads and sequins.” This is a bit dull. Even though they have a lot of colorways, these are your only two choices for the embellishments. I have seen some with gunmetal grey, but apparently those have been discontinued.
Tilli has many colorways also, and in a lot of cases, the beads are chosen to accent the yarn color, sometimes providing what I feel is a really nice high contrast. For example, right now I’m finishing a blackish-brown shawl with Beaded Plie, and the beads are amber, which is nice. I’m also knitting a teal hat with Beaded Plie and the beads are pastel-rainbow-coated (this might be called AB in bead terminology, for “aurora borealis,” but I’m not sure). So in that respect, I would say Tilli wins; you get a much wider range of options for the beads. Of course, Tilli does have some fail combos, like Granny Smith green with red beads, or red yarn with red beads (I really don’t get using same-color beads, because they pretty much disappear into the project), but when you want interesting color combos, Tilli is the way to go.
Next, let’s talk about the yarn itself. All of the yarns I mentioned in the first paragraph are 100% silk. All of them are created by having a strand of plain silk carried along with a strand of the beaded and/or sequined silk.
For some reason, Tilli’s bead strand advances faster than the main strand. This is unfortunate, because I, and some other people who have commented on Ravelry, experience a bad situation where the bead strand forms tiny little dangly loops every now and then on the right side of the fabric. This can be jarring (as it is on the hat I’m knitting). I can’t tell whether it happened on the blackish-brown shawl, because the fabric is too dark to tell. But it definitely looks a bit goofy on the hat. I’ll keep working on it, because the yarn is now un-returnable (and the beads are really awesome), but on the whole, this is a pretty big strike against Tilli. I did not experience this sort of thing with the Artyarns at all, even after working 550+ yards in that brown/green/yellow shawl I wrote about last week. Artyarns wins, there.
But the main reason that I even began this post was because of the yarn quality. They’re all silk, remember? Well, then why is it that the people at Tilli Tomas feel it’s acceptable to sell yarn where the bead strand is frayed, several times throughout a skein? I have a lot of little loose flappy ends in the shawl that I have to go back and weave in, because the bead strand was broken. And I’m not talking two or three. In the 8 skeins of Tilli I’ve used in the last two weeks, I’ve probably had about 60 frays in the bead strands. That’s a lot of bad-quality yarn. And again, Artyarns doesn’t have this problem. My skeins from Artyarns were all pristine, all the way through, and that makes me very, very happy.
Lastly, there is the universal leveler, price.
- Artyarns’ Beaded Silk & Sequins Light: $48 for 110 yards
- Tilli’s Beaded Lace: $29 for 165 yards
- Tilli’s Beaded Plie: $35 for 120 yards
It’s rather obvious that Tilli wins on price, either way. But then, you get what you pay for.
In summary, I’m not going to invest in Tilli Tomas yarns any more unless they come out with some absolutely to-die-for colorway. (Fuchsia, with a mix of red and orange beads? Y’all know I’m a sucker for red, fuchsia and orange together.) I can’t afford to knit with Artyarns 100% of the time, but it’s better to splurge once in a while on their yarns than to suffer the shabby yarn quality of the Tilli silk yarns.
I hope this post helps aspiring beaded yarn knitters to make an informed decision.
I also hope it doesn’t bore the non-knitters too much.
Click either of these pictures to enlarge and get a better idea of the embellishments.
Edit: I have come back to this post the next day to make some more observations, after working further with the two different Tilli Tomas projects, both with Beaded Plie. See below.
The teal blue is bleeding on my hands a little as I knit. Well, so, all right; technically I can deal with this. But I also just finished my blackish-brown shawl with amber beads and took it upstairs to soak it prior to blocking. And it is bleeding like mad. I have put it through twenty-two rinses and the water is still coming out dark, dark maroon. I don’t want to be bothering with that! When I knit the Artyarns shawl there was no bleeding at all. So, another thing to consider. Looks like I’m going to be rinsing this thing all day, in between laundry and cleaning the kitchen and whatever, and that’s not what knitting’s all about.
That was this morning. Tonight, I’m working on the teal blue project (the beaded hat). I’m working this double-stranded, and I started with three full skeins of the same dye lot. I began with the center-pull strand of skeins 1 & 2, and skein 1 ran out a full 20 yards before skein 2! I’m hoping, really hoping, that skein 2 was the anomaly, and that it was longer than standard, but if not, I’m stuck, because I need every last yard to complete this pattern, and if I’m short 20 yards, well, I don’t want to spend the money on yet another skein, just for 20 yards.
And of course even though they’re all marked as the same dye lot, they’re not. Skein 3, my last skein, which I added in when skein 1 ran out, is clearly darker than the other two.
I don’t know how this company stays in business. I suppose if every knitter buys a couple of skeins, then even if they don’t repeat-buy, there’s still a wave of income being generated, but eventually all the knitters are going to get wise to this crappy yarn and stop buying it. We’ll see how long they stay in business. They’re absolutely off my list forever, now, even if they come out with a fuchsia with orange and red beads!