Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Yarn Review: Rowan Moordale

British wool is an increasingly popular choice for knitters who want to support local industries and minimise the environmental impact of shipping yarns from the other side of the world. Less widely available, but every bit as exciting, is British alpaca, and the newest addition to Rowan Yarns’ range combines these two fibres to produce an exquisite yarn. Moordale is spun in Yorkshire (the birth place and spiritual home of Rowan Yarns) by a local spinning mill, and really captures a lot of what is great about both of these fibres.

Composed of two plies loosely twisted together to form a yarn that sits on the fine end of DK weight, Moordale has a smooth, woolly feel, a lustre and faint halo. It softens when wound from a hank into a ball, and softens further when knitted up on a 4mm needle. The fabric it produces has a good drape and a slight fuzziness.

One of my favourite aspects of Moordale is the richness of the colours. The alpaca and Bluefaced Leicester fibres take dye differently to one another. This produces shades which, at first glance, look like solid colours but, upon closer inspection and especially after knitting, you can see a subtle mélange of darker and brighter fibres. The resulting fabric has a real warmth and depth of colour.

Buckler hat in Rowan Moordale shade 008 Blue Moor

I’ve been knitting the Buckler hat (in the smaller size) from the Moordale Collection, and one 100g hank is comfortably enough yarn to make this slouchy hat plus a pompom for the top. I’m using KnitPro Zings, and the yarn slides smoothly and quickly along the aluminium surface of the needle. After blocking, the fibres relax into a loose, comfortable fabric with a more pronounced halo. A hat like this is a great project for test-driving a new yarn before committing to a larger project like a sweater or cardigan and, after my Buckler, I think there will be a number of other Moordale projects joining my queue.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Fibre Focus: Alpaca

Alpaca fibre comes from alpacas, which are closely related to, but distinct from, llamas. They are adorably fluffy creatures native to South America, and have also been known to thrive in the Scottish climate! The yarn produced from these fibres is well known for its softness and its excellent warmth.

Alpaca fibre naturally contains two types of hair: the softer, shorter undercoat hair, and the longer, scratchier guard hairs. Usually, the guard hairs are removed during the spinning process but sometimes a few can slip through and give the yarn a prickly feel. If you find any of these while you’re working with the yarn, you can just pull them out and carry on!

Most alpaca yarns have a lovely drape to them, but no natural stretch. This means that they will produce a beautifully floppy, slightly heavy fabric perfect for loose fitting garments, scarves, blankets etc. The flip side of this, however, is that these same yarns often lack the elasticity required for items which are mostly ribbed, or which need to stay upright e.g. socks, skirts or the dreaded 2x2 ribbed boob tube. To introduce a greater measure of elasticity, some alpaca yarns have a chainette construction, which makes them more stretchy. Similarly, Rowan Alpaca Soft is blended with wool, which gives the yarn more bounce and makes it suitable for a huge range of projects.

Here are some of our favourite alpaca and alpaca-blend yarns:

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Fibre Focus: Merino

Merino is one of the most popular fibres on the market right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Here’s the super fine lowdown on this soft wool:

Merino comes from merino sheep, like the little guy pictured above. The fibre is graded according to how fine its diameter is, using a measurement called micron (or micrometer). The finest fibres have the lowest micron value. Once the fibre has been spun into yarn, the micron value determines whether the yarn should be classed as fine, extra fine or super fine. Super fine merino contains the finest fibres and will usually feel the softest next to your skin. This can sometimes cause a bit of confusion, as ‘extra fine’ merino could be 4 ply, DK, aran or chunky - the name is no indication of the yarn weight!

Merino is an incredibly soft fibre, which does mean that it is not the most hard-wearing. For items that are going to see a lot of use, such as socks or bags, this fibre will start to show the wear, so it may be best to go for a merino blend, or perhaps a different fibre altogether.

On the other hand, merino has a light and bouncy quality to it, and can be great for people who find other types of wool too rough. Most of our merino yarns have also been treated so that they are machine washable, so they are also an easy-care wool option. This means they are great for baby items, or items worn next to the skin, like luxurious scarves and cuddly snoods.

Here are some of our favourite merino yarns: