One of the most valuable things I ever learned came from a workshop on group dynamics. This was an intensive class lasting many weekends over a two-year period. We looked at personality types and behaviors - and how different people handle conflict stress, how they show love, etc. But here is one thing that really stuck with me. "The thing you like most about someone, taken to its extreme, is the thing that drives you insane about that person." Think about that for a moment. Consider your spouse or your best friend - someone you've chosen to have in your life. What is it that drew you to this person? When you argue or become frustrated with that person, what is it typically about? Funny how that works, isn't it! In successful relationships, the partners understand each other's personalities and play to their strengths.
The same is true for yarn. Yarns have strong intrinsic tendencies - personalities, if you will. It's essential that you understand a fiber's personality when choosing a project - especially if the yarn has a strong personality. You need to know its strengths so you can choose a pattern that highlights what that yarn does best - making the yarn's personality an asset rather than a fault.
One yarn with a very strong personality is the gorgeous, silky, sparkly hand-dyed hank of wonderfulness, Rayon Metallic from Blue Heron. This yarn works up into a glorious drapey fabric that is deliciously silky and smooth - like a glimmering liquid against your skin. That drape and silkiness are this yarn's strengths. Its appeal is irresistible, and once you touch it, you're gone. Your only thought is, "Ohmygod, I LOVE this - what can I make with it?" This is where you need to be careful.
Trying to knit Rayon Metallic into a crisp, structured jacket would make you insane. No matter how you tried, you would never be able to create a structured fabric. You would forever be fighting with gauge, trying increasingly smaller needles and a variety of stitch patterns to force it into stability, and neither of you would be happy. But knit it into a silky shawl or wrap that calls for fluidity and drape, and you have a match made in heaven. Play to the yarn's strengths, and it will reward you with a fabric that looks amazing, feels absolutely luscious against your skin, and is a delight to knit and to wear.
So, get to know your yarn's strengths - swatch, ask your friendly yarn store staff, and look at projects worked up in the yarn. Careful selection of the right pattern for a beautiful yarn makes the knitting a joy and gives you a finished product that showcases both your workmanship and your fibers.