We have decide to look at yarns particularly suitable for stranded colourwork in this issue and as a result the reviews are a little different than usual. They are longer because they contain more information, but we wanted to be thorough in our investigations.
All but the very last yarn in this review have been swatched using 3mm needles in order to see if they can easily be substituted for each other. As you can see in the photos, we have chosen to show you the full swatch, rather than a pretty close up. The swatches, are also unpinned, so you can see how the yarn behaves after blocking. Unfortunately this does mean you can see any discrepancies in our tension – knitting stranded colourwork in the round is much more forgiving because there are no purl rows. Any ‘pulling’ on the swatches is down to our poor technique rather than the yarns themselves. Some of the yarns, were more forgiving of this than others and this is one of the things we will look at in the future blog post.
Shade Pictured S301 Medium Blue & S010 Light Grey
Fibre Content 80% Norwegian Mohair/20% Norwegian Lambswool
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 300metres/328yards
Needle Size 2.5 – 4mm
Tension 22sts to 10cm
Established in 2008 the Telespinn is a small environmentally-friendly minispinnery located on a farm in Telemark, Norway, where they keep their own sheep and Angora goats. Telespinn is a lovely example of how a small idea can grow into something quite different to what was first thought of. The story began with Bjørg Minnesord Solheim’s desire to keep Angora goats in order to preserve and nurture the cultural landscape. Often farmed for their lovely soft mohair fibre it seemed only natural to utilise their wool. Unfortunately, having smaller amounts of wool processed locally wasn’t possible and the only alternative involved international shipping, which wouldn’t have been very environmentally friendly.
Out of this the idea to start a mini mill a spinnery was born and for the first four years, Telespinn manufactured their yarn from their barn, until 2012 when they were able to open their modern spinning mill and shop.
Symre, named after the Symre flowers, is one of several yarns Telespinn produce and is available in a vast array of colours (43 on the website currently). Unlike many well-known mohair yarns, Symre has not been brushed and is much smoother than you might expect. It retains the lovely soft halo you would expect and is super soft, with a silk-like shine that Angora is known for.
Knitting with the yarn is a lovely experience. It moves freely through your hands because it still retains a little of the spinning oil (it’s environmentally-friendly oil). It’s a very bouncy yarn, that didn’t stick to itself when the two strands became twisted, although our swatch was quite curled in on itself when finished. With washing, the swatch softened even more, some of the springiness settled, but it has held a lot of its memory and after blocking it drew in a little. Great for closing any gaps in your colourwork, not so helpful for producing a beautifully square colourwork swatch.
The contrast between the two shades we used could be stronger because the lovely mohair halo blurs it slightly, but the finished fabric is warm and luxurious. Soft enough for most people to wear next to their skin, Symre would make the most beautiful garments and accessories. Personally, I would love a large oversized shawl/wrap knitted in it. My only problem would be which colours to select.
Telespinn ship worldwide and their website includes an English version, just click on the tab in the top right-hand corner.
Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop
Wensleydale Longwool 4Ply
Shade Pictured 611 Storm & 644 Moonlight
Fibre Content 100% Pure Wensleydale Longwool
Ball Weight/Length 50g = 170 metres/186 yards
Needle Size 3.25mm
Tension 27sts x 36rows
The Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop was established in 1989 and commission spins Sheep Shop brand of the rare breed Wensleydale wool. The wool is processed entirely in Yorkshire by the master craftsmen of the woollen industry before being taken back to the shop which is in Wensleydale. In September 2016, following the retirement of the then owners, Kath and her husband took over the business and have relocated the shop to the centre of Leyburn in the heart of Wensleydale, and also opened an online store. They attend a dozen or so shows every year and are planning to expand the range of colours and products over time.
The ball band says, ‘Wensleydale Sheep produce the finest and most valuable lustre longwool in the world’ and it’s easy to see why. Each ball is luxury in yarn form, with a lustre you’d expect to see from yarn with a silk content. In this case though, the lustre comes from the long, silky curls of the Wensleydale Sheep.
Spun, dyed and balled in Yorkshire, England, Wensleydale Longwool has received the British Wool International Quality Award.
A worsted spun 3ply yarn, it has quite a high twist which relaxes a little as you knit. Before washing it was a little ‘crisp’ and the gaps between stitches were much more obvious. While washing, I did notice a teeny tiny amount of bleed, which could have even been dust, but it’s worth mentioning. After washing the fibres opened filling any gaps and the fabric softened dramatically, although some more sensitive skins might still notice a slight ‘catch’. The finished fabric is light and drapey and the lovely gentle halo is delicate enough to keep the colourwork sharp.
It is currently available in 17 shades including natural ecru and natural black with one-off ‘specials’ dyed by The Knitting Goddess. Wensleydale Longwool is also available in Dk and aran weight. Spinners will be delighted to learn that they can also purchase combed tops, raw fleece and washed fleece via the website too.
Shade Pictured Sand & Ocean
Fibre Content 100% Wool
Ball Weight/Length 50g = 275 metres/ 305 yards
Needle Size None Specified
Tension None Specified
Danish company Isager has been supplying patterns and quality yarns from natural fibres since the 1970s. The company is based on a small farm in Tversted, a village in the north of Jutland close to the North Sea, surrounded by beautiful countryside. The yarns and patterns are sold in selected shops in Denmark and internationally.
Made from 100% Peruvian wool, it is spun and dyed in Peru. There are currently 18 slightly heathered shades available. It is a light 4ply weight yarn that was the softest in this test prior to washing. Knitted up it produces a light fabric with a gentle lustre. Originally Isager Highand wool was spun in Scotland and I believe it was a little ‘toothier’ than the new Peruvian wool, which softened even more after washing and should be fine for most people to wear next to their skin. It’s a 2ply yarn and I think worsted spun (please correct me if you know differently).
Highland Wool wasn’t one of the stickiest yarns we tested but even with its lovely soft halo the stranded motif can be seen clearly. It was lovely to knit with and bloomed with washing to close any gaps, and despite curling up completely when wet, the swatch retained its shape after blocking.
Baa Ram Ewe
Shade Pictured Bantam & Brass Band
Fibre Content 100% British Wool
Ball Weight/Length 25g = 116metres/126yards
Needle Size 2.75 – 3mm
Tension None Specified
We had already contacted the yarn suppliers for the yarns featured in this issues review, when we’d spotted the timely release of Baa Ram Ewe’s Pip Colourwork and couldn’t resist the chance to include it.
Knitting to a standard 4ply weight, Pip is 100% British and spun in Yorkshire. There are currently 15 shades available from Baa Ram Ewe’s signature palette. The ones in our swatch (Bantam and Brass Band) are lovely and saturated, there was the barest smidge of colour run during washing. While knitting the swatch we found it to be one of the stickiest yarns in this test, with each stitch almost sucking up to those next to it. After washing, the fibres bloomed and the fabric has a bit of ‘bounce’ even across the motif, so it would be extremely comfortable to wear. Perhaps not next to skin as it’s quite a rustic yarn, and while it did soften a little with washing but there is still a bit of a ‘catch’ to it. The yarn has a gentle lustre and there is a soft fuzzy halo which still allows the stranded motif to pop.
Jamieson & Smith
2Ply Jumper Weight
Shade Pictured 202 & FC55
Fibre Content 100% Real Shetland Wool
Ball Weight/Length 25g = 115 metres/126 yards
Needle Size None Specified
Tension None Specified
Synonymous with Fair Isle knitting, Jamieson & Smith was founded in the 1930s by the Smith family of Berry Farm Scalloway on the East Coast of Shetland. The company relocated to its current premises overlooking the harbour in Lerwick in the 1960s. In 2004 the Smith family retired, and the company joined with Curtis Wool Direct in Yorkshire. Jamieson & Smith continues to be run by Shetlanders and the profits received from the sale of Real Shetland Wool and Real Shetland Wool products go back into the Shetland economy and are passed along to wool producers.
With over 90 different shades 2Ply Jumper Weight is the flagship yarn of Jamieson & Smith. A woollen spun, 2ply yarn, it knits as a standard 4ply. Perfect for stranded colourwork it is a rustic, sticky yarn, which even before washing hid any gaps between stitches. The swatch softened after washing, although perhaps not enough to wear next to skin for a lot of people. The stitches bloomed, and it has a lovely fuzzy halo which in no way obscures the stranded motif, which is lovely and clear. The fabric is warm, fairly dense, but light and our swatch held its shape when the blocking pins were removed.
Any of you following the Knitted Diary Lora is working on, will know that she is using this yarn knitted to a tighter tension. There is a good deal of ‘play’ possible with Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight yarn. Lora has plans to weave with it soon so keep an eye out for her updates.
Shade Pictured 607 Natural & 6090 Olive Green
Fibre Content 100% Norwegian Wool
Ball Weight/Length 110g = 315 metres/ 387 yards
Tension – 24sts x 32 rows
Needle Size – 3 – 3.5mm
With roots going back to 1898 Hillesvåg certainly has a great deal of experience when it comes to producing yarn. Family owned, for four generations, the mill is situated on the north side of the Oster fjord, about 35 km north of Bergen, Norway. Over the years the factory has been expanded and upgraded in order to keep up with current trends, however several of the machines still in use are over a hundred years old. Since 2013, visitors to the factory have been able to take a guided walk and experience the wool’s journey from fleece to finished yarn.
The majority of yarn produced at Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk, comes from 100% Norwegian wool and Ask (ash) is no exception. Ask is a crisp, rustic yarn which comes in skeins of woolly lusciousness. A woollen spun 2ply yarn, it is a heavier weight yarn, probably more akin to a sport weight rather than a 4ply. It is a sticky yarn and while knitting the swatch the colourwork popped as the stitches nestled close to each other. With washing, the fabric softened a tad, but there is still a little bit of a catch, which some people might find too much for next-to-skin wear.
The wool takes up the dye well which is accentuated by the subtle lustre, although there was no bleeding when I washed the swatch. The fabric sat flat after knitting and really didn’t need to be pinned for blocking. It has retained its shape perfectly since.
There is a fuzzy halo over the fabric, but the stranded motif is still clear and because the stitches have bloomed so well there are little or no gaps. This makes the fabric extremely insulating and warm.
Currently there are 102 different colours available, making all your colourwork dreams come true, but bare in mind that Ask is only available in 110g skeins or cones (not all shades). You can order directly from the webshop which is only in Norwegian at the moment (Google Translate, what did we do before it?) or you can pick it up from one of Hillesvåg’s retailers.
Shade Pictured 037 Allium & 046 Plum
Fibre Content 100% Wool
Ball Weight/Length 50g = 287 metres/314 yards
Needle Size 3 – 3.5mm
Tension 25 sts to 10cm
According to Helle, Holst Garn started out as a bit of a hobby. Founded in 2009, the company has grown over the years and is now a full-time job for Helle, her husband and eight employees. Having been taught to knit by her father when she was a little girl, Helle has always loved the process of working with yarn and needles and has been knitting ever since. She told us that ‘the magic of colours’ has always been a passion of hers which is why Holst offers such a wide range of colours.
Working with spinneries around the world, Supersoft, Coast, Noble and Tides are all made in Europe while Titicaca and Highland are produced in Peru. All the wool in Holst yarns are from non-mulesed sources. Mindful of the environment, all colours used in the dyeing process are non-toxic and the water is recycled at the mills.
Holst Garn Supersoft is one of those yarns that you often hear spoken about by podcasters or on knitting blogs. As a 100% wool yarn, its reputation as a light yarn seems, on the face of it, a little unbelievable. However, having now knitted with it, we can honestly say the stories are right!
A 2ply worsted spun yarn, Supersoft is technically regarded as a 4ply/fingering weight yarn, but that label really doesn’t do it justice. Many knitters use Supersoft successfully at different gauges, from light 4ply to worsted and then you also have the option of doubling it up and using two threads held together.
The yarn comes unwashed, and by that we mean it still has the spinning oil on it. We’ve heard many a knitter say this spoils their enjoyment of using the yarn and while it does make the yarn ‘crisper’, we didn’t notice our hands becoming sore because of it. Prior to washing, the swatch was curling a little and there were definite gaps between my stitches. As soon as it went in the water though something magical happened. Once dry, the fabric transformed, all the stitches bloomed to fill any gaps, the wool softened remarkably, and the fabric developed a delicate, fuzzy halo.
While Supersoft isn’t the same squishy soft that we attribute to a Merino because it produces such a light fabric, many people would be able to wear it next to their skin or over a light top. When washed the swatch bled a little, probably from the saturated Plum shade (in truth we’re always a little mindful of reds and purples when it comes to dye bleed). The swatch relaxed so much after being in the water that it really didn’t need pinning and once dry, it held its shape.
If we counted correctly, there are currently 107 shades available in Supersoft on the Holst Garn website. Holst Garn ships internationally and the website is in Danish or English (top right-hand corner). There are international stockists of Holst Garn, and while currently there is no one selling it in Ireland, it is available in the UK.
Lora is on a yarn buying ban currently, but Holst Garn Supersoft may well be the yarn that has her falling off the wagon.
Shade Pictured 1414 Violet Heather & 0051 White
Fibre Content 100% Icelandic Wool
Ball Weight/Length 50g = 100 metres /109 yards
Needle Size – 4 – 5mm
Tension 18 stitches to 10cm/4 inches
Many a knitter and sweater wearer will know of the traditional Icelandic Sweater, the Lopapeysa. Believed to have originated in the early to mid 20th century, Lopapeysa became extremely popular in the 60s and 70s, gaining iconic status among the fashion conscious of that time.
Based in the town Mosfellsbær, Icelandic wool has been processed at the mill since 1896. Originally the company was called Álafoss, and in 1991 the Ístex company was formed and they took over the wool processing. Ístex stands for Íslenskur Textiliðnaður which translates into Icelandic Textile Industry.
Purchasing the wool directly from farmers, Ístex yarns are different to most other yarns because of the Icelandic wool. Icelandic sheep fleeces consist of two different types of fibre, there are the outer fibres (the wind hairs), which are long, glossy and repel water, and there are the inner fibres (the fleece) which are fine, soft and highly insulating. When spun together, this dual coat produces yarn that is lightweight, water repellent and breathable. In order to preserve the breed it is illegal to import sheep into Iceland (see here for further information).
Lopi is an unspun yarn and a single strand of it (Plötulopi) can be a little fragile to knit with. On first glance Léttlopi appears to be a singles yarn, but if you look closer you’ll discover that it’s actually a loosely plied, twisted yarn. This light twist gives the yarn more substance and makes it much easier to work with.
Léttlopi might best be described as a ‘coarse’ yarn. It’s pretty toothy and most people would find it a bit itchy to wear next to their skin. Years of knitting and wearing woolly wool means Lora has built up quite a resistance to it, but even she would struggle wearing a Lopi cardi without something on underneath it.
We loved knitting the colourwork swatch with Léttlopi; the yarn is literally made for it. The stitches nestled up perfectly next to each other and once the two different balls were kept separate to avoid them becoming tangled, there wasn’t any problem. Lopi yarn is known to produce beautiful felted wares, so washing with care is necessary. We washed it in cold water, squeezed out the excess and then rolled it in a towel. The swatch was fairly square prior to washing and afterwards it sat lovely and flat, not really needing to be pinned out. When dry, the stitches bloomed to fill any little gaps, resulting in a warm, insulating fabric that is incredibly durable. A sweater made in Léttlopi yarn will last for years and years if looked after.
Currently there are 57 shades of Léttlopi available and no shortage of designs for projects using it. It is stocked by retailers throughout the world.