Woolfolk Luft | Yarn Review

© Knit Purl

You always wonder about these high-quality yarns – how durable are they? How long are they actually going to last? The first sight of a sample skein of Luft from Woolfolk immediately piqued our interest. Luft is Woolfolk’s signature Ovis XXI Ultimate Merino Wool, unspun and blown into an organic cotton “cage” – and the result is a lofty bulky weight yarn begging to be knit into three-season sweaters. The cotton cage gives the yarn a subtle glow, especially when paired with one of the darker colors. If you’re going to make sweaters to wear nine months out the year, though, you have to pay attention to the durability of the yarn – it has to be able to stand up to wear. As a service to our readers (and out of curiosity!) we put Luft through its paces with a simple stress test.


While nothing takes the place of years of everyday wear, we gave Luft some pretty harsh treatment. The cotton cage was up to the pressure, the threads remaining intact and unwarped. The merino stayed inside the cotton cage, and did not shed, even going through the dryer – though, as discussed below, the wool does felt.


© Knit Purl

 

For our stress test we took our sample skein and knit five swatches on size 10 needles, right in the middle of the suggested needle range. Swatch number one is unblocked at 16 sts and 24 rows per 4 inches; as you can see, it has a bit of personality before being washed. When you touch the swatch, the cotton cage adds a bit unexpected crispness to the wool halo, and the edges roll slightly despite a small garter selvedge.


Swatch number two is hand washed using wool shampoo, soaking for fifteen minutes. We set it flat to dry, unpinned. Even during a damp Portland winter, it dried overnight, the stitches becoming more cohesive, and the edges lying flat. Gauge changed slightly, as one would expect, condensing vertically to 14 sts and 27 rows per 4 inches. The cotton cage takes more of a backseat in the blocked swatch, the resulting fabric having more of the familiar Woolfolk softness.


© Knit Purl

Swatch number three was machine washed on the gentle cycle with other woollens (to add a bit of friction) using wool shampoo, then dried flat unpinned. Smaller than both the unblocked and hand-washed swatches, swatch three shrank slightly to 17 sts and 26 rows per 4 inches, but otherwise does not feel significantly different from the hand-washed swatch.


Things get interesting with swatches four and five – both were machine washed along with an ordinary load of laundry (for friction) on the perm press setting using standard laundry detergent. Swatch four was dried flat and swatch five was thrown into the dryer with the rest of the laundry. Putting these swatches in with a regular load of laundry did result in some felting – swatch four felted slightly and also biased a bit, while its gauge shrank to 17 sts and 30 rows per 4 inches. The result is not unpleasant, but it does lose most of the initial feel of the yarn. In swatch five, the merino felted completely, while remaining encased in the cotton cage. The gauge shrank to 18 sts and 30 rows per 4 inches – and the resulting fabric is dense and smooth – and might actually make an interesting sweater on its own account.


What factors are important to you when trying out or testing a new yarn?

 

-Meaghan

April 24, 2017 by Guest Blogger

The Story of June Cashmere

© Jared Heveron

June Cashmere yarn appeals to the heart and head as well as the hands. The yarn, available in both a DK and a heavy laceweight, comes to Knit Purl from the mountains of the Kyrgyz republic in Central Asia via Belgium (for scouring), Scotland (for spinning), and Maine (for dyeing). If a transparent supply chain were all that made these yarns special, though, we wouldn't bother telling you the story – it's the human element (paired with the extraordinary quality of the yarn!) we want to highlight.

 

© Jared Heveron

Cashmere is a fiber born from adversity: the extraordinarily soft fiber we know and love comes from the insulating down of cashmere goats, allowing them to withstand the brutally cold winters in Mongolia and the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China which are the sources for most of the finest cashmere in the world. Exceptionally harsh and/or snowy winters in 1999–2002, 2010, and 2016 – known in Mongolian as dzud – have decimated the herds in Mongolia, though, and limited the cashmere supply. Suppliers have been forced to look to other countries to meet the demand for the fiber, including Kyrgyzstan, nestled among other former Soviet ’Stans on the western border of China. Most buyers, sent from Chinese mills, buy cashmere by the kilogram at a low price, putting no emphasis on the quality of the fiber they are buying, with the result that many Kyrgyz herders sheared their goats to increase the yield, thus mixing the cashmere down with the tougher guard hairs: this is where June Cashmere makes a difference.

 

© Jared Heveron

Starting in 2013, Sy Belohlavek – the founder of June Cashmere – became interested in bringing Kyrgyz cashmere to western knitters. Rather than trying to purchase cashmere at the lowest price per kilo, he and his buyers told the nomadic herders he would pay higher prices – for higher quality, pre-sorted fibers. At first, they focused on the proportion of down to guard hairs, but after three years of training, Sy and his team are able to focus on the quality of the cashmere down itself during their annual spring buying trip, paying the herders higher prices for softer fiber. This provides the shepherds with a much needed source of income in a country suffering from chronic underemployment, allowing them to pay debts and invest for their future.

 

© Jared Heveron

June Cashmere also engages in development work to support the welfare of the herders who produce the cashmere, installing heating in schools so children can pursue their education during the winter, as well as repairing water pipes so communities can have access to clean water. This is an essential business goal for the company, as Kanat Anarbaev, the Kyrgyz general manager, discusses in an interview on the June Cashmere blog. In addition to these infrastructure projects, the company also invests in community training, spending time and money to teach the herders not only how to sort fibers themselves, but how to train other shepherds to do so as well. The company is not interested in keeping these small, independent producers dependent on June Cashmere for income, but wants to see them – and Kyrgyz cashmere – become a real player in the global fiber community.

 

© Jared Heveron

What you really want to hear about, though, is the yarn. Both the DK and the laceweight yarns are plied, with five and three plies, respectively. Although both yarns bloom when washed, they do not have the tender halo of most cashmere yarns on the market, such as Cardiff Cashmere, making June Cashmere well-suited to gender-neutral patterns. Both yarns are a pleasure to knit with, having a dry, almost cottony hand, without much bounce, but with very good stitch definition; they are probably best knit at a tighter gauge, which will give the finished product greater resilience and elasticity. In working with the yarn, our tester had occasion to rip out and reknit, and the yarn softened up beautifully, but did not pill or become ragged. Be careful, though when combining colors: the samples we blocked did bleed, so at this stage in the development of these yarns you might want to focus on single-color projects. With this caveat in mind, though, we feel confident in saying that these yarns will only get better with time – and they are already pretty extraordinary!

 

© Jared Heveron

It’s important to think about where your yarn is coming from, as well as how it is produced. June Cashmere yarns are an interesting example of how it is possible for globalization to make a positive impact on the those living in emerging economies, while also bringing a very special pair of yarns to your needles. What's the story behind your favorite yarn?

 

-Meaghan

April 03, 2017 by Guest Blogger

Knitting from the North | Book Review

© Knit Purl

Knitting from the North by Hilary Grant is a beautiful collection of modern patterns that were inspired by traditional nordic and fair isle knitting, as well as the landscape these traditions (and the designer) originate from. Featuring 30 patterns that are bold, graphic and fun, this collection is a modern take on traditional stranded colorwork. The patterns are mostly chilly weather accessories, with a few sweaters. The accessories range from hats, headbands, scarves, cowls, mitts, mittens, cuffs, to mock turtlenecks. All of the patterns are knit in fingering weight yarn.

© Caro Weiss

I love the bold, geometric and graphic quality of the colorwork motifs combined with a palette that includes high contrast, ombres and bright pops of color. These knits are cozy and cheerful, sure to get you through the tail end of winter. This book would also be a great introduction to knitting with color.

© Hilary Grant/Kyle Books


The Arrow Circle Scarf is a wide, long cowl that is knit flat and grafted. I think it looks amazing in black in white. It would be lovely knit in Brooklyn Tweed Loft or Woolfolk Tynd. It would also be interesting to reimagine the pattern as a cowl that is half the length but knit as a tube in the round so the floats are hidden, adding an extra layer of warmth.

 

© Caro Weiss

The Beacon Pom hat is a simple slouchy, ribbed hat with a pom pom. Grant’s choice of color makes it a standout. It would be fun knit up in one of the brighter Ambrosia MCN colors, like Verdigris or Pink Flambe.


© Caro Weiss

I also think the Barley Twist headband is really cute and would look great in Isager Alpaca 2.


If you are interested in colorwork we highly recommend Knitting from the North. Grab your copy here.

 

 

March 20, 2017 by Kira Sassano

Amirisu: Iceland Winter 2017 | Magazine Review

© Amirisu

I have long been fascinated with Iceland, from the music, to the terrain, to the culture, and gorgeous lopi sweaters. There is an article on pages 11-12 about the role of lineage and the history of knitting in Icelandic culture that I really enjoyed reading. I am glad to see that the editors of Amirisu feel inspired by Iceland too.

 

© Amirisu

My favorite pattern in this issue is Gullfoss by Rie. Gullfoss is a lovely cabled pullover that has an interesting construction. The combination of cables and lace creates a beautiful yoke that is first knit sideways, then folded in half, with stitches picked up to join in the round. Gullfoss is named after a waterfall in Iceland and the cables and lace are meant to emulate the flow of water. This pattern would be lovely knit up in Brooklyn Tweed’s Arbor or Luxe B DK.

 

© Amirisu

Another pattern that I like is Vidro by Melynda Barnardi. The pattern is a hat and cowl set knit in stranded colorwork. I love colorwork for accessories because the wrong side floats make a thicker and warmer fabric. The hat comes in two sizes and the cowl is long so you can wrap it around your neck twice. This pattern would be great in Woolfolk Tynd or Isager Alpaca 2.

 

 

March 06, 2017 by Kira Sassano
Tags: Review