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A skein of XPress
XPress once knitted up

Yarn Profile: X-Press

First Impressions
At first glance, X-Press looks like a rather basic bulky yarn. And it is, except that each strand actually ripples from 14 two-ply strands that have been spun together.

If you touch it, you'll feel a plush thickness. Tug at it and you'll discover it's wonderfully elastic and almost impossible to break. Hold it in your hand and you'll feel how little it weighs.

In all respects this should be a perfect yarn for beginners or anyone looking for a fast project -- except for one problem, which I'll mention in a moment.

Knitting Up
I was nervous about this yarn's potential for snagging since it is composed of so many smaller strands. Perhaps it was the blunt tips on my needles, perhaps it was simply the larger gauge of the yarn, but I had no snagging problems whatsoever.

Stitches rose from my US 15 needles like fresh bread dough, expanding to take up all space and produce a lovely -- albeit very simple -- fabric.

As I progressed, however, the spin on the yarn got tighter and tighter until it was twisting up on itself. I found the twist to be greater when using the yarn from the center of the ball.

Blocking / Washing
My red swatches bled visibly during washing, although repeated washes produced less and less color. X-Press is superwash, but I'd still recommend giving it special treatment and washing it alone in the machine.

Here's where things turned bad. As my swatches dried (which took a long time), I noticed that the squares bounced into a peculiar shape when I lifted them off their towel. Instead of going straight up and down, the vertical rows of stitches all slanted to the left, producing a tilted square.

This is called a "bias," and it's what happens when you knit with yarn that is spun too tightly. Although you can force it back into the proper shape on the blocking board, past experience has shown that the fabric will bounce back into its biased shape as soon as you let it flow freely.

Wearing
I must confess I had a hard time getting beyond the bias problem and finishing the tests.

All those strands mean greater snagging potential, so be prepared to tug strands back into their stitches periodically. This is another reason I suspect Berroco recommends you wash X-Press items in a bag, so they won't snag against other garments in the wash.

The 40% acrylic content adds greater durability, combined with all those two-ply strands. You'll encounter fading and pilling long before you see any thin patches over high-wear areas.

Conclusion
Even the best yarn companies can have a bad day. I'd like to give Berroco the benefit of the doubt and assume I got a bad batch of X-Press.

I say this because in all other respects it's a lovely yarn. It knits up quickly and easily, has marvelous elasticity and texture, and gives you great loft without stifling weight. The acrylic gives greater durability, while the merino keeps the yarn soft to the touch.

My advice if you like the sound of X-Press (beyond the problem I've mentioned) is to verify your shop's return policy before you buy it. If you're in the store, you can test the yarn by pulling the end out from the skein by a few feet, bring the end back to the skein, let the extra yarn dangle, and see if it twists on itself. If it doesn't, then you should be safe.

Even if it does, you can still use it - you'll just have to pause frequently to unwind the yarn.

In return for your troubles, you'll have a fun, fast-knitting, and durable sweater in no time.

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Reader Comments

"i also had the problem of many things 'changing shape' when washed either by hand or in the machine, untill i started putting the items in the mesh laundry bags made for panty hose, etc. by doing so the items get washed but don't have the room to get streched out of shape. i also put them in the drier in the same bag. it may take a little more drying time, but tthey won't loose thier shape. if the item can't be put in the dryer, i then after squeezing as much of the water out, i use my sewing cutting board and a lot of stright pins and reshape the item and let it dry." k1p2, 8/10/2001

"About the yarn twisting, if you have some and shop won't let you return it, I've heard that if you use a rib stitch the swatch will the be straight. Personally haven't tried it but so many have done this and find the results pleasing." etrezise, 8/10/2001

"I found your review on X-press yarn very interesting. Especially the test for seeing if the yarn twists when pulling out a bit and letting it dangle. I'm definitely going to remember that little trick! Thanks!!" jangelo, 8/10/2001

"Since I am a spinner, I understand the bias problem here. Not only was the yarn probably spun too tightly, the real problem is that it is a 'singles' yarn. When a yarn is plied it is plied against the original spinning direction with another strand which counteracts the tendency for the yarn to bias. I NEVER knit with a singles yarn because of this fact. Even when the singles yarn is 'set' by the manufacturer, it will have a tendency to bias...some more than others." billieg, 8/10/2001

"The bias in X-Press might be rectified by alternating normal stockinette rows with rows of twisted stockinette--works in bead knitting (see Mary Thomas's Knitting Book)." JoyceP, 8/10/2001

"Bias in finished knitting: Could it be that because so many strands are involved, someone forgot to turn the spinning machine in the counter clock direction to ply the yarn? This is usualy the trouble with hand-spun yarns because the fibers have a memory and tend to head for the bias. There is an article in a spinners's magazine this summer that talks about twist. I over spin wools for finger weavers and put it in a tight ball where it will set and it stays there for a minimum of 3 months and up to 2 years. If I expose the yarn to humidity, it will lose the new look of fine yarn and go back to its usual shape. I wish MY memory was that good." Mickey, 8/9/2001

"I found express to be the yarn from hell. It can't be spliced and the balls are only long enough for a few inches. Even then, most of them had knots in the middle.Since there is no way to join ends neatly in the middle of a row on such thick yarn, you waste an awful lot trying to hide the joins at the seams,then have to darn in a million yarn ends. It might be ok for a small purse or baby sweater but I would never use it for a big project again." vaccarotrumpet, 8/9/2001