The Tamalpais Hats (patterns in 4/28 entry) gave me a chance to dig into my stash to use some old favorites and try out some new yarns as well. Here are a few of my not-necessarily-systematic observations.
Louisa Harding’s Kimono Angora: 70% angora, 25% wool, 5% nylon, 124 yards per 25 gram ball. This yarn has that typical-of-angoras tendency to release little bits of fluff, so knitting with it can feel a bit like sitting in a field of dandilions on a breezy day (and the fluff is predominantly white, even though the yarn is variegated), but for me its softness definitely counterbalanced that shedding. I was a bit nervous about yardage, since the Louisa Harding Fauve I’ve used in the past seems significantly short of its stated yardage, but had no such problems. The ball band recommends size 6 needles; I actually used size 7 and had satisfactory results. Over time, I’m not sure how well garments knitted in this yarn will hold their shape. The angora definitely has less bounce than wool, so there’s no “rebound” to it. Once you stretch a piece out, it stays stretched. As you can see if you look at the hat I knit up, this yarn doesn’t show stitches well, both because of the variegation and the fuzziness. Would I knit with this yarn again? Yes, but I would choose a very simply project, with the colorway as a focus, rather than the stitches. I don’t know how well they would wear, but I could imagine a very simple, decadent pair of padding-about-the-house slipper-socks made from this yarn or perhaps wrist warmers (which would probably hold up better). At the moment Webs has it for $5.95 a ball (original price $10.95), which makes for a nice opportunity to play with luxury yarn without breaking the bank.
Rowanspun Aran: 100% wool, 219 yards per 100 gram ball. If this yarn were a breakfast cereal, it would be muesli. Despite being stranded, it has a cushy, one-strand feel to it (almost roving-like, if that makes any sense) and much more body that other wools of this weight, such as Knit Picks’s Wool of the Andes. This yarn really comes to life on the needles. The tweedy bits start to sparkle as a piece is knit up, and individual stitches stand out. With great yardage, this yarn deserves a place as a staple in any stash.
Debbie Bliss Merino DK: Heaven! This yarn is a revelation. Yes, it costs significantly more than, say, a DK-weight wool from Knit Picks, but the moment you touch it, you’ll know why. Soft, soft, soft. Soft like Malabrigo, but stranded and with a much more consistent gauge. I can’t remember where I got his yarn (I’m sure I picked it up because of the yellow-green color, which is a favorite of mine), but I know I’ll be buying more when I come across it again. If you look at the picture of the hat I knit in this yarn (Tamalpais v.3.0), which was comprised almost entirely of moss stitch, you’ll see the yarn’s wonderful stitch definition. This would be a great yarn for cables or textured stitchesâ€”and your fingers will love every minute of working with it. If you’re in the mood to do something nice for yourself, pick up a few skeins. You’ll have fun just petting them while you decide on the right project.
Knit Picks’ Wool of the Andes, Merino Style, and Shine Sport: These are my “doodling yarns.” I order then a dozen or so skeins at a time, two each of several colors. They’re cheap enough that I feel no guilt throwing out a truly disasterous experiment, which lets me pursue even my wilder ideas worry-free. And when an experiment lands somewhere between disaster and success, I can frog this yarn a few times and reknit it without the final project coming out too shabby. In theory, the Wool of the Andes and Merino Style shouldn’t work together in a single piece, as they’re different weights, but I didn’t have any problem switching from one to the other on the hat (Tamalpais v. 2.0). I would probably hesitate to work up a big project in Merino Style using size 7 needles, but the top of the hat isn’t noticeably looser than its body, despite the change of yarns. I love the silky feeling of Shine Sport (which also comes in a worsted weight). A lot of cotton yarns seem to have a dull or matte finish, but this yarn definitely deserves the “shine” in its name. It is harder to work with than a wool, as any cotton yarn is, so I do notice my hands growing tired when I work with it, and I take more frequent breaks. Bottom Line: If you like designing, these are great yarns for your “rough drafts” that let you save the really good stuff for a final project that’s knit up once you’ve worked out all the glitches.