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A skein of Sea Wool
Sea Woolknitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Fleece Artist Sea Wool

First Impressions
Several years ago, Hand Maiden caused quite a stir when it released a new yarn with seaweed in it. Knitters around the globe exclaimed, "No way!" but rushed out to try a skein. Called Sea Silk, that yarn quickly became phenomenally popular for lace projects—and it remains so today.

Hand Maiden is the luxury fiber arm of Canadian hand-dyer Fleece Artist. And Fleece Artist soon followed suit with a wool-centric version called Sea Wool. Since then, a very similar version of this base yarn has been made available to other hand-dyers as well.

A plump two-ply yarn that comes in giant hanks that invite squeezing, Sea Wool is made up of 70% Merino wool and 30% SeaCell®. And here's where the mystery gets revealed: SeaCell® is a base of 95% lyocell fiber (lyocell is manufactured from the cellulose in wood pulp and sold in the U.S. under the trademark name Tencel) that has been "activated" with 5% seaweed. Zimmer AG, the German company that makes SeaCell®, claims that the seaweed contains trace elements of minerals and vitamins that are naturally released onto the skin of the wearer, and that these trace elements remain in the fabric even after repeat washings.

From a fiber perspective, the Merino gives the yarn a decent foundation of bounce and warmth, while the Seacell® adds an extraordinarily glossy sheen to the yarn. The overall effect is one of shimmery, somewhat dense but still lofty yarn.

Knitting Up
Knitting was reasonably swift, and I had no snagging issues with the yarn's two plies. I did, however, notice that my working yarn quickly became over-twisted. I knit a stockinette swatch and didn't do anything to un-twist the yarn, and it ended up with a fairly visible left-leaning bias. In the next swatch, I did stop to un-twist periodically and there was no bias.

This is really only an issue if you're using this yarn to knit large pieces of stockinette fabric. Sea Wool is very popular among sock knitters, where bias isn't as visible a concern. Introduce any stitch pattern that alternates knit and purl stitches in the same row and you'll beat back the bias just right. Also keep in mind that how you hold the yarn may impact the yarn's tendency to twist on itself. I hold the yarn in my left hand, which may very well have contributed to the overtwisting.

As with every other SeaCell®-based yarn I've swatched (with the exception of Fibra Natura Mermaid), I routinely encountered little white or off-white neps intermingled with the dyed yarn. I plucked most of them out, but they were fairly persistent. The real visual intrigue with this yarn, however, is in its vivid and moody coloring—something Fleece Artist does extremely well.

Blocking / Washing
My swatches released peach clouds of color into their warm-water bath. One rinse showed just a hint more color, but on the second rinse the water ran clear. I could feel the fibers relax just a little, but the swatches overall maintained their cohesion.

The most intriguing part of this process was when I looked at my wash water after it cooled and settled. Little colonies of what looked like fibers had come together in wisps of darker color. But when I tried to separate the fibers—first with my finger, then with a fine-pronged fork—they disintegrated and dissolved back into the water. More interesting yet, the water was filled with tiny shimmering opaque flecks of some material—I'm guessing the seaweed? I don't know, but I haven't seen this happen to the wash water before.

Wearing
A lot of folks use this yarn for socks, and the results are soft, glossy, and beautiful—especially when you factor in the hand-dyed colorways. Because it's a two-ply yarn and the angle of ply twist is moderate, I'd advise you to keep your gauge fairly tight in order to help the sock resist abrasion.

From a touch perspective, Sea Wool is extremely soft and comfortable against the skin. It has no prickle factor whatsoever. Extremely sensitive folks may notice that it has a slightly cool feel, which is a gift of the Tencel fibers in the SeaCell®. Despite that initial cool hand, the fabric holds warmth well.

In knitted fabric, Sea Wool holds up well to abrasion. After a reasonable amount of friction, my swatches developed a very low-lying halo accompanied by barely visible deep-rooted pills. From a respectable distance, my swatch appeared slightly fuzzy but otherwise in great shape.

Conclusion
The seaweed in this yarn is somewhat like the corn syrup you'd find in, say, bread. You don't actually see or feel anything remotely resembling the original product. We're talking about a material that has been reduced to its core elements and then repurposed in a dramatically different context. Had I not seen all those translucent flecks in my wash water, I wouldn't have believed that the seaweed was really a component of this yarn—but it most definitely is. And if you believe in the healing powers of this material and its ability to endure beyond multiple washes, then you'll love this yarn.

But even if you don't have an attraction to seaweed, this yarn still has appeal. It is both soft and shimmery, and it comes in a staggering array of richly alluring Fleece Artist colors. Yardage is generous, with each skein holding 355 yards—enough for a pair of socks. Two skeins would give you a stunning Clapotis. Yet, despite the additional time and care required to dye each skein so beautifully by hand, Sea Wool still retails for only $22.95 per skein—making it quite a good deal.

 
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