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A skein of Mountain Colors Merino Ribbon
Mountain Colors Merino Ribbon Knit Upup
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Mountain Colors Merino Ribbon

First Impressions
I credit Cat Bordhi with bringing this yarn to my attention. We were at the Winter TNNA trade show, and I'd seen so much yarn that my eyes were starting to go blurry. When we reached the Mountain Colors booth, her eyes lit up and she grabbed my arm. "Did you know they have a ribbon yarn that's made from wool?" She had my attention. "It makes the most incredible fabric. You've got to try it!" (If you've ever met Cat, you'll know how infectious her enthusiasms tend to be.)

And so we went into the Mountain Colors booth and I officially met the yarn they call Merino Ribbon. Which is exactly what this yarn is.

Ribbon yarns differ from spun yarns. Some are literally woven and cut into strips. This particular yarn is formed with stitches on either edge, between which run extremely fine strands of fiber—picture a four-stitch piece of stockinette fabric in which you've let the two middle stitches unravel to the base. With no real structure in the middle, the yarn instinctively wants to curl in on itself.

In theory this is what you'd call a "novelty yarn," but while novelty yarn has a reputation for being shiny, flashy stuff made entirely from synthetic fibers, this yarn has an extremely pleasant 80% Merino base to which 20% nylon has been added for strength. Not only is the wool Merino, but it is one of the finer grades (called Super Fine, with a likely micron average of 18.5 or so—cashmere averages 16 microns). Which means you get a fabric that is warm and extremely comfortable against your skin.

Knitting Up
I have two words for you: dull tips. The open structure along the center of the yarn invites, entices, lures, and otherwise draws the tips of your needles to it. The good news is that even if your tip does make an incursion into the yarn, it does not cause permanent damage. Just give the yarn a gentle tug and it'll bounce right back into shape.

The dull, smooth tips of my Addi Click needles behaved perfectly. If you don't like the feel of metal needles, or if you need a little more surface drag to your needles, I'd recommend the WEBS interchangeable needle set, whose blunt tips are particularly well-suited to this kind of yarn.

A common frustration with ribbon yarns is that they innately want to twist as you work them. My advice? Don't try to keep it flat. It's a losing battle and you'll just drive yourself nuts. Especially because this yarn also curls in on itself as you start to use it. Just let the yarn do what it does, un-twist any extraordinarily tight twist that may build up, but otherwise relax and enjoy knitting.

Because the ribbon likes to curl in on itself, your stitches take on a much rounder, squishier look and feel than you may expect. They can also look a little lumpy and irregular, if you study them up close. Again, this is a factor of the yarn, not the knitter. Just relax and enjoy it.

Blocking / Washing
My swatches behaved perfectly well in the wash. Mountain Colors suggests hand wash or dry clean, but I would strongly urge you to stick with hand washing and not subject these lovely fibers to harsh dry-cleaning solvents.

The swatches enjoyed their bath in warm soapy water, quickly relaxing while holding onto all their color—not even a wisp of green was left in the wash.

Once rinsed and blotted dry, the swatches blocked to perfect and cohesive squares. Some of the twisted funky stitches remained—they won't go away with the wash—but, again, that's par for the course with this kind of yarn.

There was no change in row or stitch gauge after washing.

Wearing
I was worried about all those fine, loose threads running from side to side along the center of the yarn. What would keep them from coming loose, pilling, and snapping?

Nylon, that's what. And this yarn has a hefty 20% nylon to help hold all the fibers and strands together.

Pilling wasn't really an issue with this yarn. Even after an undue amount of abrasion, the fabric surface remained intact. A little more fuzzy, perhaps, but still intact. Whenever my swatch started to lose its shape, a gentle tug to and fro seemed to pull everything back in line.

Conclusion
Not all novelty yarn is a four-letter word. This is a beautiful example of how natural fibers can be spun in unusual ways.

The fabric is plump and squishy, stretchy, comfortable, with lots of bounce and body. It'd go well for all sorts of things. I imagine a summer top or even a tank/cardi set, but it'd also make a scrumptious Clapotis, especially with the hand-dyed colorways. While the standard Clapotis pattern calls for 820 yards, you can make a smaller Clapotis with 3 skeins, or even shrink it to scarf size and use only one skein—which would keep the tab between $30 and $90.

Upon initial glance, $30 seems like a high price to pay for this yarn. But then I remember that each skein holds not 90 yards or even 125 yards, as many others do, but 245 yards. And it has been hand-painted in Montana, and any hand-dyeing process (especially hand-painting) takes time and adds to the overall cost as well. With those facts in mind, $30 doesn't seem as steep after all.

By virtue of its softness, body, and bounce, and because it's made from predominantly natural, soft wool fibers and adorned with gorgeous variegated hand-dyed colors, Merino Ribbon is a perfect yarn for next-to-skin wear—especially scarves and shawls.

 
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