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A skein of Alchemy Haiku
Haiku yarn knit up
click each image to enlarge
Yarn Profile:
Alchemy Haiku

First Impressions
When I was teaching a class at Loop this spring, I was asked to name my favorite yarn. I panicked; this is like asking a mother which child is her favorite. I truly and dearly love them all.

That said, there is one yarn that always makes me happy: Haiku. This lace-weight brushed mohair and silk blend is not exactly practical—not like, say, a worsted-weight wool or cotton—but it's what I would pack first if I had to fill a suitcase for extended desert island stay.

Knitting Up
Each slender skein of Haiku contains a whopping 325 yards of yarn—which gives you some indication of just how fine this yarn is. But that doesn't mean you need to knit it on size 0000 hypodermic needles.

This is a brushed mohair yarn, and the halo of the brushed fibers has almost as much of a presence as the yarn itself. Which means you actually want to knit the yarn on larger needles and keep your fabric open and loose so that the brushed fibers can have room to bloom.

But even on larger needles, you may need a few rows to get used to knitting such a fine and inelastic yarn. There is no bounce or extreme elasticity to Haiku. I knit my first swatch on Swallow Casein needles but found them too slippery. I switched to a dull-tipped pair of bamboo needles and was able to knit much more comfortably.

As with any brushed mohair yarn, it really helps if you make slightly larger, more exaggerated movements in your knitting. This keeps you from snagging the stray wisps of neighboring stitches, which can result in an irregular and slightly puckered-looking fabric. Haiku only requires a little more attention than most, but it does need a little attention nonetheless.

This yarn begs to be knit into a lace, which is why I swatched in a simple leaf lace pattern. Extremely elaborate lace patterns with intricate detail, however, may lose a bit of their "wow" effect because of the fluffy halo. And the yarn's fineness and lack of elasticity make cabling or ribbing pretty much out of the question.

Blocking / Washing
My swatch surrendered easily to its watery bath, releasing a brief puff of pink to the water.

If you've ever seen a wet cat, you'll know the transformation that happens when poof is subdued and only the underlying structure is visible. That's what happens with this yarn in the wash. But it's only temporary.

I rinsed my waterlogged little swatch, spread it out on a towel, blotted it dry, and waited. Very soon, it was dry and ready for my favorite part of the process: "poofing." That's a highly un-technical term for the process of vigorously shaking knitted fabric so that any fibers that compacted during wash can stretch out and relax again.

If you have plans to knit this into any kind of lace item that you plan to block extensively, be sure to cast on and bind off as loosely as possible. While the rest of the fabric will have some give to it, your first and last rows will not.

Unless you have tremendous patience or access to a fine-gauge knitting machine, you probably won't be knitting yourself a standard sweater out of this yarn. Likewise, it's not a candidate for socks.

This means that you probably won't be as concerned about standard wearability issues like pilling and thin spots. You're more likely to knit flowing pieces of diaphanous fabric out of Haiku, and flowing pieces of thing fabric tend to get caught on things like splinters and loose nails. And that's your biggest wearability concern. While Haiku has no nylon binder (which strengthens but takes away from the all-natural concept), it does have a very strong silk core that should withstand all but the most vigorous snags.

In terms of touch, Haiku feels heavenly against your skin. The yarn weighs almost nothing, but the halo of brushed fibers holds enough air in place to give you the feeling of being blanketed in a soft cloud of warmth and comfort.

All Alchemy colors have a subtlety and nuance that are hard to describe in words and even more difficult to capture in photographs—but color is the single factor that makes Haiku one of my all-time favorites.

Alchemy colors all have a three-dimensional quality that you don't see in yarns that are simply dunk-dyed. Even non-knitters are likely to pick up a skein of Alchemy yarn and comment on its beauty.

The color artistry is a direct reflection of Alchemy owner Gina Wilde. She patiently applies layer upon layer of color to the fiber, producing a shifting landscape of hue and saturation that seems to change from moment to moment. Her yarns bring an element of magic to anything made from them.

The colors in Haiku are particularly breathtaking because they are reflected off two surfaces instead of one: the fluid and shimmery core and the slightly more matte halo of brushed fibers. The effect is rather like a stream in the fog.

In addition to its color qualities, Haiku is also an incredible bargain at $22 per 325-yard skein. Just one skein would make you a wonderful Lala Scarf (a super easy and fun scarf pattern by Kat Coyle and featured in Greetings from Knit Cafe) or one of Evelyn Clark's Flower Basket shawls. You'd need just 25 extra yards from a second skein to complete a Forest Canopy Shawl, and two full skeins would give you more than enough to complete Ene's Scarf from Scarf Style. If you really want to go wild, indulge in four skeins and make The Illusionist.

I even have several skeins of Haiku that I keep at the ready, rather like smelling salts. I don't need to knit with them to get the desired therapeutic results, either. I just pick a skein and hold it to the light.


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