mYak Story

@mYak

The changing seasons always have me thinking of exploration to distant lands, ideally with exotic fibers. One can’t always get out of town at the drop of a hat, though, and sometimes have to be content with a bit of armchair traveling – and few places on earth draw the imagination powerfully as the Tibetan highlands. Since Alexandra David-Néel’s journey to Lhasa in the 1920s, the first western female to visit the city, Tibet has been a magnet for adventurous females, and the story of mYak yarns epitomizes this sort of intrepidity.

 

@mYak

Co-founded by Paola Vanzo and Andrea Dominici, mYak demonstrates the best of a hybrid heritage – spinning together the natural fibers sourced from the nomadic herders of the Tibetan highlands with the founders’ native Italian attention to artistry. These two have spent years traveling in Tibet and working directly with herders, much in the same way the June Cashmere team does, with a deliberate focus on training and sustainability. This personal involvement in fiber sourcing and processing ensures that mYak yarns are ethically produced, eco-conscious, and fully traceable from the grasslands of Tibet to your project bag.

 

@mYak

mYak yarns, available in both worsted and lace weight, are made of 100% baby yak down. Due to the extreme cold temperatures of the Tibetan plateau, this down is exceptionally fine and warm – and exquisitely soft. The down is combed from the bellies of yak calves in the spring, before it is naturally shed for the summer, which means that the animals are not harmed in the process of collecting the fiber. This does mean that the supply of the yak down is limited, both because the number of suitable yaks in a herd is small, and because the process for collecting it labor-intensive. The down is sorted from the guard hairs in Tibet, then shipped to the town of Biella in northern Italy for processing and spinning.

 

@mYak

To enhance the sustainability and strength of their yarns, mYak chooses not to bleach the natural color from the fiber. Yaks are generally darker in color, and the down ranges from pale grey to nearly black. Dyeing the fiber unbleached gives depth to the colors of the yarn, as well as a rich heathered quality.

 

Where will your fiber travels take you this summer?

 

 

--Meaghan

 

 

May 29, 2017 by Guest Blogger

Shibui Knits Lunar | Yarn Review

© Knit Purl

Lunar - adj; of or relating to the moon.

It's no coincidence in my mind that Shibui chose to name the newest line in their collection "Lunar".  Just as one can easily spot the moon in the night sky, this lace weight gem also commands the eye's attention.  

© Knit Purl

My fingers have been itching to play with the latest from Shibui Knits since I first heard a whisper about it a few months ago.  So when the opportunity arose to cast on, my mind immediately went to the pullover pattern, Milan.  And so, without hesitation, (except for which of the 12 colors to choose!) I grabbed my needles and began to swatch.

Instantly I knew Lunar would become a favorite.  I'm absolutely enamored with the way this glides on the needles, and OH the fabric, made with 60% of the softest Merino wool and 40% silk, it drapes so gracefully with what I consider to be the perfect amount of sheen.  Let it be known that I am a BIG fan of yarns that you can dress up or dress down. 

© Knit Purl

Working with yarn that is versatile is a must for me, so imagine my delight when about half way through my Milan, which I would consider to be a more delicate piece, I remembered that Shibui yarns are designed to not only be beautiful on their own, but to be beautiful held together also! 

BEHOLD! The Siena cardigan.  

© Shibui Knits

Siena drew me right in, and looking at the specs, I quickly realized why... it's made of Reed, a 100% chain plied linen, held together with my new love, Lunar!  The fabric that these two yarns creates is absolutely swoon-worthy.  Knit on a size 10 needle, the cardigan enrobes you in a fabric that feels like a cool drink of water on a hot day.

© Shibui Knits

With a nod to the genius of designer Shellie Anderson, I had to cast on immediately.  This is the cardigan that my summer dreams are made of.  I love that Lunar adds a sheen to the sturdier Reed, making it perfect for throwing on before heading out to have all sorts of summer adventures.

As I discover more and more of the magical properties of Lunar, I am excited to finish my two sweaters, but also to try a few other projects as well!  I had a sneaking suspicion that it would also be well suited for open lacework and my suspicions were confirmed when last Wednesday at our Knit Night, one of the gals pulled out her Lunar Starlight Wrap that she was knitting in the Imperial colorway, and needless to say, jaws hit the floor, it is working up stunningly!

The possibilities of Lunar seem endless!  Have you given it a try yet? What are you making?

May 08, 2017 by Em Hanna

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

GUEST BLOGGER: SHELLIE ANDERSON | SHIBUI KNITS REED

© Shibui Knits

 

Shibui Knits recently released a new 100% linen yarn, Reed. As a member of the team responsible for developing this new yarn, I’ve been asked to talk a little bit about it and let you know how it compares with our previous Linen.


For me the most noticeable difference is the softness of Reed. It has a much softer hand than our Linen. There are several factors that contribute to that difference, of which two are particularly significant: we are using a different mill that sources higher quality raw material, and we have also tightened the chainette, which contributes to the softness and adds extra strength. The higher quality of the linen fiber also contributes to more saturated colors, which more closely align with our other yarns. We are very happy to partner with this mill, both for their responsiveness and their impeccable quality control.

 

© Shibui Knits

 

In developing this yarn, we intentionally created Reed so that it would directly replace Linen. It has the same yardage and will produce the same gauge. You can substitute Reed for any of our patterns that call for Linen, including Etch, Square, and Aurora. Like Linen, Reed mixes very well with other Shibui Knits yarns, adding to a unique drape and depth of color to the fabric. I particularly like how it mixes with Shibui Knits Cima, Silk Cloud, and our newest yarn that will be available at the end of March with our SS17 Collection.


Although I personally liked Linen, I love Reed. I wasn’t a fan of knitting with Linen solo due to its crisp hand, but I could knit with Reed on its own for days. Shibui Knits has a couple pieces coming out in the SS17 Collection at the end of March using Reed held single and one with it held double and I enjoyed every minute of knitting those pieces.


If you loved Linen, you will instantly appreciate the changes we have made with Reed – and I think you will come to love it as I do.

 

Shellie Anderson

February 20, 2017 by Guest Blogger

Shibui Knits Maai

© Knit Purl

My knitting journal is filling up with the prettiest swatches in all different colors. This week I added Shibui Knits Maai to my journal and I’m enamored. It was the first time I’ve knit with a chained link yarn and the result was not what I expected. I’ve seen chained link yarns before, but I always stayed clear of them thinking that I would be disappointed knitting with them. Silly me. Once again I’ve been happily proven wrong.

Maai was a delight to knit with. The blend of superbaby alpaca and fine Merino wool is lofty and soft in the skein. In fabric form, the yarn has an added spring that makes the fabric bouncy and light. The snapback, bounce that the fabric has, makes this yarn great for sweaters, cardigans, and accessories. What I really want to knit out of Maai is a robe and a pair of socks. Those probably aren’t the best uses for Maai, but it’s so soft that I can’t help but want to wrap myself in it from head to toe.


Here are a few practical knitting ideas for Maai:

© Shibui Knits

FW15 | Motif - A simple wrap with a bit of texture. My mom has been eyeing this pattern for a while now so I decided to make a kit for her. I paired it with Maai in Blueprint.

© Eric Mueller

Minne Mitts - I love fingerless gloves. I used to sew fingerless gloves with a friend of mine out of recycled cashmere sweaters. I finally knit my first pair this year which turned me into a fingerless glove knitting machine. Now whenever I see a pair of fingerless gloves that I love, I want to drop everything and start knitting. Minne Mitts are one of those pairs of gloves that have me dropping everything. They are small, cute, simple, and just waiting to be worn. Minne Mitts would look chic in Bordeaux.

© Julie Hoover

Cline Pullover - A dolman sweater with an oversize silhouette and three-quarter sleeves. This would be bouncy and airy knit in Maai. Have fun and knit Cline in a bright bold color like Poppy, or keep it classic and chic with Ivory.

© chickpeastudio

Erie Hat: A simple 1x1 ribbed, slouchy beanie. Perfect for a last minute gift and did I mention that the pattern is free?

December 23, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

North Light Fibers Atlantic Yarn

© Knit Purl

North Light Fibers Atlantic is a 3-ply worsted-weight yarn made out of Falkland Islands Superfine Merino Wool. Atlantic comes in an variety of solid colors, with sea-inspired names like Bull Kelp, and Teal Inlet. The yarn surely has an interesting story to tell, journeying from island to island as it is transformed from fleece to yarn. 

North Light Fibers, who we featured on the blog last year, is located on picturesque Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. The micro mill focuses on manufacturing minimally processed yarns. The wool for Atlantic originates from The Falkland Islands, a place quite famous for wool. 

Atlantic is soft, yet also feels quite sturdy. It doesn't feel as susceptible to pilling like a typical superfine Merino. Atlantic is a yarn that will wear well in both accessories and garments, for pieces that will hold up to the wear and tear of everyday life. It seems perfectly suited to creating fluid expanses of stockinette stitch, as well as for something with a little more texture. 

The colors are pretty. Atlantic is offered in neutrals along with some jewel tones to brighten up the palette. The colors probably mirror what is seen on a regular basis on Block Island. Teal Inlet is probably my favorite of the bunch. It's the perfect teal that strikes a nice balance between blue and green. I am also fond of Sea Lion. A gray with slightly brown undertones, a great neutral. 

Pattern suggestions:

Our Roku hat kit comes with one skein of the Atlantic in Teal Inlet. Knit in a 1x1 rib, the Roku Hat is a great match for the Atlantic yarn. The stitches are well-defined, and the yarn has a nice drape, making a good slouchy hat fabric.

Here are some other pattern ideas for the North Light Fibers Atlantic Yarn:

© Brooklyn Tweed

The Romney Kerchief by Brooklyn Tweed is a cute little kerchief pattern that would show off Atlantic's stitch definition and drape. 

 

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

The Shore Cardigan, designed by Carrie Bostick Hoge, would be a great garment for this yarn. It would result in a warm and soft cardigan that would be an excellent addition to any wardrobe. Scots Thistle, a pretty purple, would be a wonderful color for it. 

 

November 07, 2016 by Oleya Pearsall

Brooklyn Tweed Arbor

© Knit Purl

New, new, new. New yarn, new colors, and a new collection. This week, Brooklyn Tweed released their new yarn, Arbor. Keeping up with their Brooklyn Tweed tradition, Arbor is sourced, dyed, and spun within the USA. The purebred Targhee sheep come from beautiful Montana and South Dakota. These sheep have a distinctive fleece that resembles the softness of merino. Once the fleeces are collected they take a trip to Maine, where they get spun at the historic Jagger Brothers mill. Jagger Brothers have been producing high quality worsted spun yarns since the 1880’s. Lastly, the yarn takes a nice bath at the nearby organically certified, Saco River Dyehouse, where it’s transformed into a vibrant and lively custom color palette.


Arbor is a squishy, soft DK weight yarn that I was delighted to swatch with. Due to its worsted-spun construction, Arbor is denser and knits into a sturdier fabric. I didn’t have much yarn to experiment with so I made a super tiny swatch, and it was beyond pleasant to knit with. Unlike other Brooklyn Tweed yarn, it doesn’t have a rustic feel to it while you knit, and it has much more of a drape than Loft or Shelter. Arbor is a versatile yarn that will make great accessories and swoon-worthy sweaters.


The new color palette is probably my favorite out of the Brooklyn Tweed family. Usually, within a color palette, there are maybe a handful of colors I can imagine creating something with, but that is not the case here. I’m inspired by all 30 color choices. I love the fierceness of Firebrush and the tranquility of Sashiko. I swatched with Dorado, which is the most enticing, understated green that will make a gorgeous pullover. It won’t be hard to find a color for your project, but it will be near impossible to not try to take all of them home.


To go along with Arbor, Brooklyn Tweed also released a collection of patterns for this lovely yarn. Here are a few of my favorites:

© Brooklyn Tweed

High Pines : A high textured cowl mirroring the shape of pine trees. This is a great project for an advanced-beginner knitter that wants to try something a little bit more difficult, but isn’t ready to take the dive into sweater making yet.

© Brooklyn Tweed

Foundry: I love reversible pieces, and Foundry is beautiful from all sides. Foundry is a cabled scarf with three button closures that can be worn as a cowl or a wrap. I’m seeing mega scarves everywhere and I think I might have to add a bit more length to Foundry so I can have my own mega scarf.

© Brooklyn Tweed

Hirombe: Hirombe is a reversible hat with a branching motif of half-twisted rib. The pattern reminds me of vines crawling up a wall that have been manicured for max wow factor.

October 21, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Woolfolk Tov Yarn

© Knit Purl

This past week, I had the delightful pleasure of swatching with the cushy, cozy Tov yarn, the newest from Woolfolk. I chose color 02, a perfect gray. While taking notes for the blog, I wrote "squishy" in big letters. It was so fun to knit with!

There are so many things to love about Tov. For one thing, the stitch definition is simply amazing! I swatched garter, stockinette, and seed stitch. Cables would be magnificent in it. This yarn seems to like texture, and lots of it. 

The Tov Collection is full of lovely knitwear. I want to knit all of the pieces! I am dreaming of Tov knit up in big, squishy fat cables, like a good old fisherman's sweater, with a modern twist. Kristin Ford's Vidje cardigan seems to fit the bill. See what I mean about that stitch definition? Incredible!

© Woolfolk

Tov is an aran weight yarn, making it a good match for quick fall and winter projects I have on my mind. It would make amazing gift knits, too.

© Alicia Plummer

The Bridgton hat by Alicia Plummer would make a great holiday gift knit (or gift for yourself!). It really shows off Tov's great stitch definition. It offers a great mix of knit-purl texture and cables, making for a really enjoyable knit. 

While thinking about what else to make with Tov, Chaleur came to mind. The herringbone stitches would be so well defined! And it would be so warm and soft - I'd want to live in it!

© Julie Hoover

There are so many projects that would be wonderful in Tov. With its soft hand, and beautiful neutral palette, I think I might have to get a skein in every color. 

October 10, 2016 by Oleya Pearsall

Shibui Knits Drift

© Knit Purl

 

Shibui Knits Drift is the newest yarn offering from Shibui, and it’s quite delightful.

I had a pleasant experience swatching with this cozy, fluffy yarn, imagining it for all sorts of fall and winter projects. The worsted weight makes it an excellent match for anything from cowls to sweaters. Its fiber content is 85% Extra Fine Merino, and 15% Cashmere. As you can imagine, it’s pretty amazingly soft. 

Here are some projects that I think would be wonderful in Drift:

© Tin Can Knits

Barley by Tin Can Knits. One skein is enough to make up to the child size of this adorable hat. Drift's drape would work really well in the slouchy version of the hat, too. This is a really good beginner project, using both stockinette and garter stitch. 

© Veera Välimäki

Smooth Edge by Veera Välimäki. I've admired this project for a while. I love the herringbone stitch pattern, and it would look so nice in Drift, with a light halo from the cashmere. I'm imagining it in Ash, light enough to show off the color. 

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

Lila by Carrie Bostick Hoge. This is the ultimate Sunday lounge-about-the-house sweater. It would be lovely in Drift – so soft and cozy! Drift would give it a nice drape, and feel warm and comforting. 

September 26, 2016 by Oleya Pearsall