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A skein of Kimono Angora
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Yarn Profile:
Kimono Angora

First Impressions
Poor angora. It's one of the most marvelous fibers on earth, but a few nasty yarns have caused most people to steer clear of it completely.

While it's true that some angoras do shed and itch mercilessly, others—if the fibers have been prepared and spun properly—can be pure heaven.

Knitwear designer Louisa Harding recently launched her own line of yarns, and this angora/wool/nylon blend is one of her flagship offerings. The colors are strong and stunning, and the yarn feels safe enough at first. In this review I set out to determine if Kimono Angora would only contribute to angora's nasty reputation, or if it would help me disprove it.

Knitting Up
You'll want to take your time with this yarn. Even with 25% wool and 5% nylon, the yarn has very little stretch to it, so it will slip around on your needles.

I chose a blunt-tipped pair of bamboo needles to give the fibers something to hold onto—and it definitely helped. But I still occasionally snagged only one of the two strands, especially on purl rows. Because I was knitting in semi-darkness, I even had to undo stitches and reknit a few rows below where a single strand was still hanging loose.

On the needles, my stitches appeared perfectly steady and even. The edges of my swatches curled in a tad, as stockinette is prone to do, but I knew that blocking would take care of this.

The colors shift every three inches or so, producing petal-like spots of color instead of the usual wider pooling you get with longer spans of color. This flickering color effect is a perfect match for the airy, lightweight angora fibers.

Speaking of airy lightweight fibers, the yarn shed only slightly as I was knitting with it. I tempted fate and wore black pants while knitting—a no-no with angora—and they were fine. So much for the sneeze factor.

Blocking / Washing
This yarn doesn't come with washing instructions, so I began with a lukewarm wash in mild soap. As with most angoras or other low-crimp fibers, my swatches widened to almost twice their original width in the wash. I carefully patted them back into shape on a towel and blotted them dry.

By the time the fibers were completely dry, the swatches had returned to their exact original width. There was no change in gauge whatsoever, and the intense dye didn't bleed a bit in the wash.

I do have a note about gauge, though. My label suggested 4 stitches per inch on US 7 needles, but I consistently got 5 stitches per inch. The distributor's Web site indicates 4.5 stitches per inch on US 6 needles, and I've seen the yarn listed elsewhere at 5 stitches per inch on US 6s. My recommendation: Swatch until you get what you like, then find a pattern that fits it. I wouldn't go looser than 4 stitches per inch, however, as you need a cohesive fabric to help hold the fibers in place.

Angora fibers benefit from being "shocked," which is the practice of submerging your yarn into very hot water, then cold water, then back and forth a few times more before whacking the skein of yarn against a hard surface a few times. This causes the fibers to both bloom and more firmly adhere to one another. But since Kimono Angora was already wound into a ball, I decided to torment my finished swatches instead.

I alternated between hot and cold water just six times, and I didn't whack the swatches against a hard surface because it would've distorted their shape too dramatically. But even then, my swatches were visibly fluffier. Best of all there was no change in gauge.

When I really want to test a yarn for softness, I'll do something a little... unorthodox. I slip one of my swatches down my shirt so that it sits directly over my chest.

Some angoras have a disproportionate amount of thick hairs in them and feel like a pin cushion against delicate skin—and this is the only real way to test for that.

So I slipped a swatch down my shirt, knit the next swatch, and then another, wrote some notes, and discovered I'd let my car's battery drain, waited for AAA to come and jump-start the car, stopped at the bank, tanked up my car, and met a friend for dinner.

Halfway through dessert she finally asked, "What's that thing sticking out of your shirt?"

Angora Kimono is that soft.

In her introduction to the Gathering Roses yarn collection, Louisa Harding mentions how she used to gather rose petals as a child, putting them in a large mixing bowl to admire their colors and textures. She's not just making a pretty public-relations pitch. I read this introduction after I began swatching this yarn, and I marveled at how closely Harding matched her memory with her yarns.

Kimono Angora, with its delicate angora bloom and rapidly changing colors, really does look like a bowl of soft rose petals when you knit it up.

On the skein, I thought the colors might be too brash. But once I started knitting and I saw how quickly they shifted from one to the next and how artfully they were combined, I changed my tune. This is a stunning yarn that deserves a second, third, and fourth look.

Angora is a very warm fiber, so a full-scale pullover out of this could be a bit much for some people. Likewise, it has very little elasticity to it. A good compromise is a vest—and a simple, medium-sized women's vest would require five skeins, costing $54.75. Or you could create a plush, unforgettably warm scarf out of two skeins.

Paradise for under $25? Count me in.

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