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A skein of Rio de la Plata Sock yarn
Rio de la Plata Sock yarn
click each image to enlarge
Yarn Profile:
Rio de la Plata Sock

First Impressions
When you hand-spin sock yarn from hand-dyed fibers, you end up with hundreds upon hundreds of yards of a single ply that slowly shift from color to color. The truly patient will organize the fibers ahead of time so that each bobbin they fill with yarn contains the same color shifts in the same order. When plied together, the resulting yarn also shifts colors at the same time. The less patient and more adventurous spinners, on the other hand, usually end up plying together three strands of dissimilar colors. And that's exactly what this yarn looks like—really good handspun sock yarn from multicolored fiber.

Rio de la Plata actually offers this yarn in four different colorways. The multicolor is what you see here, and it consists of three plies of three different multicolored strands. You can also get the yarn in solid colors, which have a kettle-dyed Malabrigo appearance to them; a multi-solid, which is made of three plies of different solid colors; and artista, which has gentle two-tone coloring, often against a backdrop of bare undyed white fiber.

I've seen mention of a Merino version of Rio de la Plata Sock yarn, so please be aware that the yarn in this review is not labeled as Merino and behaves much more like a longer wool such as Peruvian Highland wool. By touch, it is definitely soft enough for socks, but with a longer staple length that makes it much more durable. I pulled out a few fibers that measured between four and five inches, which is perfect for socks.

News flash! I've just been notified by Rio de la Plata that the skein they sent me was, indeed, Merino. I stand corrected!

Knitting Up
The lively yarn has a plump fullness to it, along with a decent degree of bounce. Put-up is a generous 437 yards, which is more than enough for a nice pair of socks.

The yarn knits up very easily. It didn't snag or split or otherwise misbehave, and it hugged both the needles and my hand so I was able to maintain even tension almost effortlessly. I only encountered one knot in my skein.

One inevitable truth about intensely multicolored yarns, however, is that each color tends to lose its independence when knit up. What looks striking on the skein becomes quieter, more muted and blended in the knitted fabric. And that's exactly what happened with my skein and sample sock. The colors produced gentle stripes that will be wider and thinner on an adult-sized sock (the sample is much smaller in circumference, which impacts the color repeats).

Blocking / Washing
Some tightly knit sock yarns tend to stay a little firm and grumpy in the water, but this yarn did not. My swatches instantly relaxed and softened, but they did not stretch, bleed, or fade. While there wasn't a bloom to the fibers—this being a smooth, worsted-spun yarn—there definitely was a gentle and appealing "coming-together" of the fibers in the wash.

The label is very explicit that, although this is a superwash wool yarn, you must avoid washing it in water temperatures above 86F/30C. I put my little mini-sock in the washing machine with a load of towels and it survived fine in a cold wash and low dry cycle.

Wearing
As I mentioned earlier, there appears to have been a Merino version of Rio de la Plata Sock at some point—and I've heard differing opinions about how well that yarn survived regular wear and tear. The yarn I'm reviewing here was not labeled as Merino and did not behave like your average Merino, nor was the average fiber staple length comparable to what you normally see in Merino yarn. (Note: After I published this review I heard from Rio de la Plata that the fiber was, indeed, Merino.)

In terms of wear and tear, my swatch did gradually develop more of a halo along the fabric surface—especially after that trip through the washing machine. That halo grew and gradually gathered together in pill-like wisps, but only after quite a bit of sustained friction. If you tend to be rough on socks, I would recommend adding a fine strand of nylon to the heel and toe as you work it.

Conclusion
The most remarkable thing about this yarn has to be its price: $17.50 for a whopping 437 yards. I'd guess that much of the cost efficiency comes from the fact that the yarn is manufactured in Uruguay, where production costs tend to be lower—whereas Green Mountain Spinnery's Spinnery Sock Art Meadow, for example, is made in Vermont and costs a bit more.

In terms of what to do with this yarn, obviously socks are at the top of the list. If you planned your usage carefully, you could probably get a medium woman's sock and a child's sock out of one skein. Keep in mind that the multicolor and multisolids will quiet down when you knit them, giving a somewhat muted colorway that is ideal for men's socks.

I'd also love to experiment with knitted lace using one of the solid colors—the idea being that the kettle-dyed effect would benefit from having a larger surface on which it can play itself out. Because the yarn was somewhat quick to show its age under duress, I'd choose patterns that don't require months and months to complete, or more elaborate projects that won't be subject to vigorous wear.

 

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