New Yarns…is Spring Here Yet?

I have been super quiet I know. But, I have so much that must be written that I plan to post everyday for the next 10 days! That is my challenge (well, that and a few other things including getting in shape to run a long race early next year). Will you count with me? Here is post #1.

Quick note, Seattle needs a notice that it is April 15th! We still have cold weather, rain, wind and the weather guy is calling for snow later this week. Someone please notify the weather channel, we need some warm weather here. I will even take 50 degrees and up, I would not mind some serious sunshine either. To be fair, we did have a great Saturday but it was as though someone was teasing us…it was here and then it was gone. Sunday we were back to the same routine. Bet my tulips wish they could go back in.

Just in case you did not notice, we have a new yarn line in at the store, Universal Yarns. We tried to pick a few of their many yarn lines that would be interesting for us all. One of their yarns, Classic Worsted Tapestry, has been up at our webstore for a while as quite a few of our friends and customers requested it and we like this self-patterning worsted weight yarn that comes in big 100 gram skeins. Dizzy – I am sure most of you know who she is :) – has made socks with Classic Worsted Tapestry (as with quite a few of our customers), and she is now working on a top. This is a machine washable yarn that is soft and not itchy next to skin so it is also great for kids garments and accessories.

Classic Worsted Tapestry

Another new yarn from Universal Yarn is Poems. It is their take on Noro Kureyon. The yarn has approximately the same gauge but it is significantly softer and the colors are more subtle. I decided I would try this yarn especially given its price and the fact that it has a much softer hand than Kureyon. And then I requested one of my favorite yarn reviewers, Samantha, to take a skein home and to let me know her thoughts and this is what she said (thank you Samantha!):

Universal Yarns Poems

Universal Yarns Poems

I’ll admit, it wasn’t love at first sight. Not that I disliked it but, at first glance, the ball of Universal Yarns’ Poems in shades of brown seemed somewhat unassuming.

I remained unimpressed until I swatched it (4 1/2 stitches and 6 rows to the inch in stockinette on size 8 needles), but then oh my. I was absolutely captivated by the incredible softness, as well as the absolutely stunning shifts of color. Soft almond blending into the cocoa, espresso, and palest honey. The subtle blending from shade to shade, each one warmer and richer than the last. I was hooked.

I was also struck by how the movement of color reminded me a bit of some of Noro’s colorways. I dug around in my stash and produced a single skein of Kureyon and sure enough,the yarns had a lot in common. The balls were wound almost the same, as well as having the same yardage (~109 yards), same composition (100% wool), same recommended needle size (7 – 9), and even the same style of ball band. And, of course, long, gently shifting color runs. For fun, I decided to make a pair of fingerless mitts, one in each yarn, and see how they compared (I used the Dashing pattern from Knitty at www.knitty.com, in the smaller size. Gloves Made with Poems & Kureyon The pattern is knit on size 7 needles, so my gauge changed: 5 1/2 stitches and 7 rows to the inch in k4 p1 rib with the Wisdom; 5 stitches and 7 rows to the inch with the Noro). Here’s what I found out:

The immediate and most obvious difference is the softness. Poems is significantly softer than the Noro. It feels gentler on the hands while knitting, and the finished glove didn’t scratch or itch, even on the tender skin of the inside wrist. The Noro definitely felt rougher, and a bit scratchy on that same wrist area. Both yarns are thick-and-thin yarns, but there are differences there, too. Poems has subtler shifts in thickness, and they are less frequent. The thick areas are much less so than with the Noro, which frequently thickens so much that the yarn feels unspun and these areas show up obviously in the finished work, creating a rustic feel. Poems never gets this thick and the finished work is smooth without obvious texture changes.

Another difference between the two is the absence of vegetation and knots. If you’ve worked with Noro yarns, then you’ve almost certainly had the experience of pulling tiny bits of what appear to be dried grass out of the yarn, as well as areas that have broken and been re-knotted (not always at the right place in the colorway). Not so with Poems – I knitted almost the entire ball and found not a single foreign item or knot in it.

Poems seems to have a very slight halo to it, reminiscent of yarns like Lamb’s Pride or Mountain Creek , but less dramatic. Since it has no mohair, this is a bit of a surprise, but it adds to the softness and I didn’t find it to be a negative. This quality would tend to make it unsuitable for intricate cable work; however, for the large, simple cables of the mitt, it was perfect and showed off the detail just fine. The Noro lacks this fuzziness but the extremes of texture make it just as unsuitable for really fine cabling.

Overall, Poems is more pliable, drapes more nicely (at least when knit to this gauge) and knits up far more smoothly and evenly than the Noro. Researching colors, I found that it does have fewer colorways and the ones they have, while quite lovely, tend to be a bit less adventurous,none of the vivid and improbable combinations so familiar to Noro fans.

If you prefer a wilder knitting experience,extremes of texture, dramatic colors, a raw feeling to the fiber,you will likely be happiest with the Noro and find the Poems to be a bit tame. If, like me, you love the color gradations of Kureyon but prefer a softer yarn and smoother-looking product (with no plant life), Poems is the perfect solution,definitely a welcome addition to the stash.

4 thoughts on “New Yarns…is Spring Here Yet?

  1. Thanks so much for the in-depth review. I’ll definitely be trying the Poems after reading this… at first sight I did think the colors were a bit tame, but knit up, WOW!

  2. Oh my gosh, I’ve been watching the store all these weeks, and I am *totally* blown away by the new linen yarn! And the Cashwool, of course. Sadly, this quarter is much too busy to be visiting you guys every week, but I’ll definitely need to find time to come see you soon. After all, I still need to show you my shawl! :D

    Hopefully summer quarter will be less busy, so I can do weekly visits again. How have you guys been in this cold, cold weather?

  3. Hmmm. Thank you for the review, I’m intrigued. Do you think a sweater knit in Poems would stripe similarly to one knit in Noro? Also, how do you think it’ll stand up to washing? I’ve wanted to knit a sweater for my sister in brown-ish Noro of some sort, but if Poems is cheaper, softer and wears well, I think I’d want to give it a try.

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