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A skein of Sterling
Sterling knit up
click each image to enlarge
Yarn Profile:
Kraemer Sterling

First Impressions
Yarn manufacturers are working overtime to come up with new, unusual yarns to feed the eager sock-knitting market. They're putting all sorts of things in there. Corn, soy, bamboo, and even crushed crab shells. But I can honestly say that I've never seen a yarn company add a precious metal to sock yarn, at least not until now. And believe it or not, it works.

Sterling is brought to us by Kraemer Yarns, a Nazareth, Pennsylvania-based mill that has been in operation for more than 100 years. In addition to its own basic lines of yarns, Sterling is also making major inroads in the undyed yarn market, providing base yarns for many popular Internet hand-dyed yarn vendors.

The first thing you'll notice about Sterling is, of course, the silver. This is not flashy plastic novelty silver, this is actual physical silver presented in extremely fine, thin fibrous strands that are evenly blended throughout the other fibers. Those other fibers, though, are what seal the deal: 63% superwash Merino, 20% silk, and 15% nylon. It has all the makings of a classic, luxurious sock yarn—with just a dusting of bling to put it over the top.

Knitting Up
Sterling is pretty versatile in terms of gauge. It's a fingering-weight yarn that could, if you wanted it to, knit up at a sock-worthy 9 stitches per inch. But you could also let out the needle size significantly and use it to make a fantastic diaphanous piece of lace material. It really depends on what you like to knit.

Knitting with Sterling is straightforward and problem-free. The only peculiar thing I noticed almost immediately is that the ends of the nylon fibers tend to pop out from the yarn, rather like you'd expect angora or even alpaca to behave. It's OK for angora and even alpaca, but it's a little weird with nylon. Some people won't care a bit about this, but I found it disconcerting. Note: After this review was published, Kraemer fixed the nylon problem and sent me a new skein. I'm happy to report that the fibers are blended perfectly and you no longer see those dastardly nylon ends sticking out of the yarn.

My totally uneducated guess is that they didn't blend the fibers too thoroughly for fear of maiming the delicate silver fibers in the process. As a result, the unincorporated nylon fibers keep trying to pop out. It's only a guess, though. (I welcome the Kraemer folks to validate or debunk my suspicions and promise to share the answer here.)

Blocking / Washing
The 63% Merino content became even more apparent after I dunked my swatches in a warm, sudsy bath. The swatches emerged slightly relaxed and showing a marvelous cohesion and bloom. Looking more closely, I could see that those dastardly nylon fibers were still very much part of the halo. Up close, it almost looked hairy.

There was no change in gauge after washing. Because the yarn is undyed, I wasn't able to test for colorfastness. (Kraemer has plans to offer dyed versions of Sterling in the future.)

Overall the yarn has a soft, stretchy, and scratch-free Merino hand with just a hint of dryness from the nylon. That 15% nylon content gives you a fully functional sock yarn with enough strength and durability to withstand normal wear and tear. My swatches took quite a licking (metaphorically speaking, of course) before showing any signs of pilling. The surface grew blurrier and blurrier, but the pills were very slow to come.

The 20% silk content lends a discreet element of drape, warmth, and luster to your knitted fabric. While silk itself doesn't have the bounce and elasticity you may want in a sock yarn, you really only need to worry about this in blends of 50% or more. In the case of Sterling, it's enough to do the trick—and is even better if you're using the yarn to make a shawl.

I have a healthy level of skepticism for all the so-called new and "innovative" yarns coming out these days. Some are clearly more about novelty than function, but Sterling shows genuine attempts to bridge the gap between novelty and utility.

The silver effect is extremely subtle, not brassy. It rather reminds me of when sunlight hits grass after the first early frost. My only wish is that they could figure out a way to keep the nylon fibers from sticking out. Note: This has since been fixed.

The yarn is set to retail for $19.95 per hank, which sounds expensive until you remember that each hank holds a generous 420 yards. In terms of silver, you're only getting about 0.07 ounce of the stuff—by comparison, your basic raw silver is currently going for about $12.50 per Troy ounce (one Troy ounce equals 31.1034768 grams—just in case it comes up at your next trivia party!). But we're not knitting protective armor here, you really only need a dusting to do the trick.

One skein would get you a lovely pair of socks, and I can imagine what fun it'd be to dye that skein myself. Or you could dye two or three skeins and make a lovely shawl. The options are yours. But if you like working with natural materials but also like a little bling, this could be your yarn.


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