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A skein of Lana
Tahki Lanaknit up
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Yarn Profile: Tahki Lana

First Impressions
In the world of sheep's wool, Merino is among the finest fibers available. Other sheep can be bred to produce comparably soft fibers, but Merino has been widely bred to produce soft fibers on a large scale—which is why the finer mass-produced wool yarns tend to be made from Merino. The law of supply and demand dictates it.

Still, not all Merinos are alike. Some can be over-scoured to the point of feeling dry and lifeless, while others can be left in a nearly raw state rich with lanolin and bits of grass. Tahki Lana sits happily in the middle, its organic Merino fibers feeling plump and full of life, yet with nary a scent or twig.

The yarn is labeled "Organic Merino," which means that it comes from sheep that grazed on pesticide-free land and were never treated with pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones. The fibers are so thoroughly procesed that any traces of pesticide are usually long gone before we touch the yarn. But the real impact of choosing organic wool is on the land where the sheep graze, the groundwater where pesticides tend to end up, and the people who eventually drink that water. Which is why choosing organic wool can be a simple but powerful way to help maintain balance in the world.

But back to the yarn. Spun in Italy, it consists of three smooth strands that are plied together at a medium angle, producing an even yarn with a high degree of bounce. Tahki offers Lana in five natural colors ranging from white to deep charcoal and brown. For this review, I chose Light Grey (003).

Knitting Up
Lana is a breeze to knit. Its bulk makes it extremely easy to knit by touch alone, and its well-balanced cohesion nearly eliminates the risk of snagging—at least on the moderate-tipped bamboo needles I used.

The yarn clung comfortably to my hand, slipping through my fingers as needed to work stitches while maintaining an even tension. I quickly grew tired of plain stockinette and decided to test out Lana on a pair of Maine Morning Mitts. Progress was swift, with Lana eagerly accepting my every purl and knit stitch.

Blocking / Washing
The fabric surrendered instantly to its warm sudsy bath. Where the fabric was tight and bouncy on the needles, it became completely relaxed and fluid in the wash. The water remained relatively clear, which suggests that most of the lanolin had been removed during processing and that the skein, as you buy it at the store, is not too heavy with spinning oils.

The mitts I pulled out of the water were dramatically longer than what I'd put in, but I didn't panic. One of the nicest things about wool is its extraordinary elasticity. Lots of fibers stretch when wet, but wool not only stretches (up to 50%) when wet, but it returns to its original shape as it dries.

I blotted my enormous mitts on a towel and left them alone. Sure enough, they quickly dried back into a smoother, more cohesive version of what I'd originally knit. If there were any reduction in gauge, it was less than 1/8 of a stitch per inch.

An extraordinarily soft, spongy yarn, Lana is one of those perfect materials for scarves and sweaters you'd wear directly against your skin. In fact, it'd be a shame to wear anything under any Lana sweater because you'd be missing out on great tactile pleasure.

Such come-hither wearability has a more vulnerable side, though. For a fiber to be so fine that it is barely detectable against our skin, it needs to have an extraordinarily fine diameter. The finer the fiber's diameter, the more easily it'll snap under tension and abrasion.

The more I subjected my swatch to abrasion, the more blurry the fabric surface gradually became. It was quite some time before that blur gathered together into tangible pills, and they were easily removed with one swift and non-damaging tug.

Lana is an example of the lovely wool yarns you can find at your LYS without having to brave crowds at a fiber festival or maneuver your way around sheep droppings at a farm. Time spent at an Italian mill gives these wholesome, lively fibers a smooth, creamy finish.

The fact that the yarn is only available in five natural colors could, I suppose, be seen as a drawback for those who need color to stay inspired. But with the exception of the white, all the colors have a heathered quality that brings its own visual appeal to your stitches. And if you love the concept of Lana but really need color in your knitting, you can always wind off a few hanks and dye them yourself.

In terms of price, I was able to get a pair of Maine Morning Mitts out of one skein (a great holiday gift for only $8.95). Two skeins would get you a simple skinny scarf, and three skeins would give you enough yardage to have more fun playing with cables or ribbing—with a bill between $18 and $27.

If you want to indulge in a full-size garment, the price still remains on the reasonable side. A medium-sized women's version of the ornate cabled cardigan from Tahki uses 11 skeins, keeping the tab just shy of $100.

Not bad for succulent softness and cleaner drinking water.

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