My parents-in-law recently visited Peru and brought back some Alpaca yarn for me. Some on cones, some in skeins. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that cone yarn is used for machine knitting, and has to be washed or treated before using it for hand-knitting. Is this true? And can I use the yarn directly from the cones or do I have to wind it into balls?
NB : *not* sure on this, but here's what I think :
I've bought cones from a couple of different places, and some just use it as a method of storage, and for some it's for knitting machines. For the latter, they say it's fine to hand knit with, it's just lightly oiled for ease of use and so your finished piece should be handwashed before wearing. If you're not sure, I'd err on the safe side and wash it before wearing, but you don't need to do anything before knitting with it.
And I just knit straight from cones so no need to wind into balls if you don't want to.
When yarn is machine spun, it usually has spinning oil added in to reduce static electricity and frizziness. Yarns on cones usually still have the spinning oil still in them.
The easiest way to find out is wash a bit of yarn, either a skein or a swatch, in a small amount of water, and if the water turns milky then it has spinning oil in it.
I don't think the oil's harmful, I think it's just mineral oil. When you wash the yarn it will bloom a bit and become a little fuller. I would personally wind it into hanks with either a niddy noddy or the back of a chair and wash it first but you can knit it straight from the cone and just wash it after it's done. If you do that I'd recommend you swatch and wash the swatch to get an idea of how the knitted fabric will be after the spinning oil's washed off.