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A skein of Cashmere Canapa
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Yarn Profile: Lanaknits Designs Hemp for Knitting Cashmere Canapa

First Impressions
Cashmere and hemp in a yarn? That's just weird.

Could there be more polar opposites? Cashmere is one of the finest, softest, most luxurious fibers on the market, usually reserved for high-end garments. And then there's hemp, an extremely strong, sturdy, unyielding plant-based material that's often used for rope. Blending the two together is like baking a beautiful chocolate cake and then using a chainsaw to cut it.

Or is it?

Not necessarily, thanks to the third fiber partner in this blend: cotton. When you notice that the yarn actually has 60% cotton and only 10% hemp, things start to make a lot more sense.

Knitting Up
Canapa is made from eight fine strands of well-blended fibers that are loosely plied together. It has a round composition and the cool, powdery feel of cotton. Occasionally you'll find tiny little neps of fiber (I'm guessing cashmere) and longer flecks of hemp fiber sticking out, though not nearly as many as you may find in linen yarns.

Considering the dominance of inelastic plant fibers in this yarn, it still felt surprisingly supple on my needles—perhaps a factor of the 30% cashmere? It's truly hard to tell because the yarn doesn't scream "cashmere!" when you touch it. Nor does it scream, "Not cashmere!" If anything, it leaves you wondering.

The yarn slid back and forth comfortably from knits to purls, with just a few snags along the way. It performed equally well in stockinette, garter, and seed stitch, forming relatively even, well-defined stitches.

Blocking / Washing
My swatch survived both a dunk in the sink and a sloshing in the washing machine without any problems. The dominant cellulose-based fibers made blocking quite easy. Unlike springy animal fibers, such as Merino, which can bounce back to shape the minute you turn your back, these fibers willingly moved when and where I asked them to—and stayed put after dry.

The washed swatch definitely had more fluidity and cohesion to it, although there was no change in gauge. Some lingering irregularities did even out a bit, although not nearly as much as they would in a crimpier fiber.

From a touch perspective, this yarn behaves most like cotton, at least initially. It feels cool and dry, with only a hint of roughness from the occasional stray hemp fiber. The cotton and hemp have a built-in evaporative cooling system that is only slightly hindered by the intensely warm and insulating cashmere. Neither overpowers the other.

But the yarn also has a hint of luster thanks to the hemp, and that luster gets brighter with each washing and wearing. The yarn also gets dramatically softer with each washing.

While the hemp improves with wear, the short, fine cotton and cashmere fibers don't. After a brief period of abrasion, pills began to form along the fabric surface. The pills were easy to pluck off by hand. From a distance, only the most egregious pills were still visible. But they were still there. (Unwashed swatch at left, distressed swatch at right.)

I love yarns that make you stop and ponder, and I appreciate that Lana Hames had the bold idea of trying such an illogical blend in the first place. Hames is the founder of Lanaknits Designs Hemp for Knitting and a vocal advocate for hemp yarns. Find a hemp yarn at your LYS and chances are it came from her.

I'm just not sure the cashmere serves this yarn well.

The yarn's wear concerns me. While the overall fabric became strikingly softer over time, it also looked more worn. Some folks may love this look—after all, people pay how much for pre-distressed designer jeans? But if you're the kind of person who gets deeply annoyed by any degree of pilling, your yarn choices are already limited—and this yarn may not be on your list.

But if you're the kind of person who likes chili in your chocolate or pineapple on your pizza, you may take great delight in using a yarn that blends two such disparate materials—regardless of any knitterly indigestion that may occur with wear. And if you've been curious about bast fibers, of which hemp is one, this blend is a soft and supple introduction.

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