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Book Review

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Silky Little Knits: Luxurious Designs and Accessories in Mohair-Silk Yarns
by Alison Crowther-Smith

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Only a special yarn can carry an entire book of patterns. The yarn has to have widespread distribution, lots of fans, ample creative possibility, and a pretty stable history. The last thing a publisher wants is to invest in a book and have it become obsolete the minute a company discontinues one yarn—which can happen frequently.

Rowan Kidsilk Haze (or "crack-silk haze" as fans call it) is such a special yarn. To brushed silk/mohair fans what Mont Blanc is to pen aficionados, Kidsilk Haze has a loyal and passionate following. It has also inspired many equally strong imitators over the years, including Elann Silken Kydd, Alchemy Haiku, and ShibuiKnits Silk Cloud.

Kidsilk Haze sits on the Rowan shelf side by side with its heftier cousin, Kidsilk Aura. The latter yarn was introduced more recently, knitting up at a heavier gauge and featuring kid mohair instead of the finer super kid mohair that is used for Kidsilk Haze. Together, they make up quite a happy family for folks who like the brushed mohair effect.

Both yarns aren't your standard worsted-spun, multiple-ply wool blends that can be easily substituted. They get their fluffy halo by being roughed-up with sharp metal brushes during the final stage of spinning. Because their halo will happily occupy as much space as you give it, these yarns can be knit at a variety of gauges depending on the desired effect. The looser the gauge, the more translucent and ethereal the effects; the tighter the gauge, the firmer and fuzzier.

Not all brushed mohair yarns have a silk blend at the core, which is another thing that differentiates the Kidsilk family from other yarns. The extra silk gives more slink, softness, and shimmer to the finished results.

The Kidsilk Book
All of this explains why Alison Crowther-Smith was entirely justified in writing an entire book of patterns for the Kidsilk family. The publisher tried to tone down the book's brand focus by simply saying "mohair-silk yarns" in the subtitle—but if you've been around the yarn block a few times, you know that this is code for Kidsilk. (Although, as I already said, some worthy substitutes do exist.)

The book contains 20 patterns that use the Kidsilk family either alone, stranded together, or stranded with another Rowan yarn. While it'd be extremely easy to pack the book with page after page of lacy shawls, the author did a great job of breaking out and trying other types of projects too.

Of particular note are the Tweed and Mohair Mittens (fingerless mittens with a delicate ruffle at the top), the Frilled Bed Socks (a gloriously decadent and impractical indulgence), and a lush Split Cable Throw that would send any Kidsilk fan into paroxysms of glee.

To ignore the lace allure of Kidsilk would, of course, be foolish, and the author provides some ethereal shawls, scarves, and throws as well.

Skill Level
The patterns are all relatively easy, with a lot of stockinette, some colorwork (always easy stripes), and some textured stitchwork and cables. Kidsilk Haze lends itself particularly well to beaded knitting, and Alison has included several such projects.

If you've never knit with brushed mohair yarns before, you're in for a new experience. The author gives some information about how to handle the fuzzy nature of the yarn, especially the finer-gauge Kidsilk Haze.

Beginners would be well-advised to keep a how-to reference handy in case you need help with basic things like picking up stitches and working a crochet edging.

On the Shelf
Bottom line? I happen to be a huge fan of brushed mohair yarns, but I know not everybody is. Some think these yarns are too fuzzy, scratchy, chaotic, or hard to use—or they simply don't like the fuzzy aesthetic. But if you are a Kidsilk fan, or a fan of the brushed mohair-silk mystique, you'll want to add this book to your collection.

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