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A skein of Silky Wool
Silky Wool once knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Elsebeth Lavold Designer's Choice Silky Wool

First Impressions
Knitwear designers often must compromise their vision for the sake of available yarns and colors and the whim of whoever happens to be paying them for their work. They can only dream of creating their ideal medium from scratch, choosing the precise spin, texture, consistency, fiber blend, and colorways for their yarns.

Although few designers have been afforded such luxury, U.S. yarn distributor KFI (Knitting Fever Inc.) appears to be changing this. KFI has produced custom-label yarns for several prominent designers including Debbie Bliss and Jo Sharp. Most recently, KFI turned its eye to Scandinavian designer Elsebeth Lavold, and this yarn is the result.

Lavold has chosen to begin with 10 simple colors that—although her designs are mostly monochromatic—all work well together.

Knitting Up
Silky Wool comes in hank form, making an umbrella swift, ball winder, and/or an extra pair of hands potentially helpful. From afar, loose flecks of silk make the yarn appear slubby and irregular. But once you begin working, you'll see that the yarn is overall very evenly spun, smooth, and consistent. It has a brief bounce to it and easily snaps apart when tugged firmly.

The somewhat finer gauge requires a little more patience than your usual instant-gratification yarn, but you'll be rewarded with a beautiful flowing fabric that shows off any contour or surface stitchwork. Best of all, any irregular stitches are concealed by the yarn's slightly mottled surface.

Casting-on was smooth and snag-free. The yarn slid easily through my fingers and hugged the needles without any unwanted stickiness.

I noticed a higher than average amount of vegetable matter in the yarn, which can be easily rectified by taking the time to pull out pieces as you encounter them. I'm guessing that Lavold chose to keep the wool soft by avoiding the carbonization process, which normally removes such vegetation but can make fiber harsh.

Blocking / Washing
In Book One of her Viking Knits Collection, which introduces patterns for Silky Wool, Lavold gives more detailed instructions on caring for this yarn. She advises that you turn your Silky Wool garment inside-out before you wash it, and that you use a mild detergent in lukewarm water. She also suggests you add a teaspoon of vinegar to your last rinse to revitalize the wool and silk.

My swatches didn't bleed in lukewarm or warmer water. They washed and rinsed beautifully, drying into perfect shape and becoming a soft, fuzzy, cohesive fabric.

The silk offsets the innate fiber memory of wool, which means you'll want to give extra care to reshape your garment before letting it dry.

Wearing
This is a truly soft yarn without any hint of abrasiveness against the skin. The silk adds a powdery sheen that balances the matte wool beautifully. And the drape is flattering no matter what your body type.

I do not consider this a sturdy everyday yarn, although it will fare fine for most people. If you're prone to active elbow-leaning, you may find those spots wearing thin over time. The same goes for high-friction areas (underarms, for example), which will pill and grow thin faster than other spots on your garment.

Conclusion
I always love to see designers work in their chosen medium. So much can be lost when we're forced to adapt to someone else's standards. The synchronicity between Lavold's design style and her yarn is nearly perfect.

The release of this yarn coincides with the publication of Lavold's new book, Viking Knits Collection, which takes up where her previous Viking Patterns for Knitting left off.

The book uses her new yarn exclusively, and she provides a little more background about the yarn's history. She explains, "I wanted a yarn with a structure to create an interesting surface in itself, and at the same time show cables and other stitch patterns well. I wanted it to be inviting to the touch and soft enough to be worn directly on the body."

This yarn embodies all her goals beautifully. I also appreciate the fact that the price point has been maintained at a reasonable level. A medium-sized women's sweater (following Lavold's own patterns) calls for approximately 9 skeins, each of which retails for approximately $6.95. This brings the bill for a beautiful designer sweater to less than $65, which—in this day and age—is a bargain.

Lavold makes it clear that this is the first yarn in what she plans to be a series. I look forward to watching her creative dreams unfold.

 
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